Review: Rodea the Sky Soldier (Wii U)

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Rodea_WiiU_USA_RPDeveloper: Kadokawa Games/PROPE
Publisher: NIS America
Price: $59.99
Platform: (Wii U) also on 3DS and Wii via Wii U special edition
Release Date: November 13, 2015

Yuji Naka has played a pivitol role in bringing us amazing games such as Sonic the Hedgehog tiltes on the Genesis and the Sega Saturn classic Nights Into Dreams. In 2006 he left Sega to form his own studio known as Prope. Rodea The Sky Soilder, orginally to be a Wii title, has been through some changes and is now seeing a release on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. We will be looking at the Wii U version of this game. Rodea is looking to do to Nights Into Dreams as Inafune was wanting to do with Mighty No 9. Can Rodea the Sky Soldier make us feel the way Nights did back in 1997?

Story:
A young princess and her robot guardian with a heart, Rodea are on the run from her father the emperor as he is attempting to gain access to a key that will bring great destruction. She splits the key in half and teleports him far away and he doesn’t wake up for another 1000 years. Talk about one heck of a power nap. He awakens to be discovered by a girl who is good with machines and her and Rodea must stop the Emperor Geardo from once again trying to take over the land. Oh did I mention he has robot amnesia? But don’t let that little plot point scare you as the story is quiet entertaining. Its a light hearted story with some funny moments. This is the kind of story that I feel anyone of any age can enjoy.

Gameplay:
What Nights into Dreams successor would be complete without a main character that can fly? Where in Nights  you fly and fly until you fall and loose your powers, Rodea has you building momentum to push you through the air. Give your self a good high and very awkward jump to start your assent. Unlike most games where jumping and pushing you forward gives you momentum, here it feels like he can only jump straight up, which means you got to get use to it or wind up crashing and sometimes burning. Using the environment, grabbing golden cogs, or bouncing off enemies with a familiar spin attack to boost yourself through the skies. If you loose momentum simple drop your self quickly to the ground and recover your “hang time” as I call it. You cannot boost yourself in the air forever make sure your touching land or enemies to help prolong your flight. Failure to do so will send our hero falling like a tank off a cliff. If that tank had the ability to slowly descend.

1

You do have other maneuvers that I don’t see being too much use, such as the ground roll, other than to get to move on the ground quicker. World map will guide you through the chapter by chapter episodes and not only will this serve to get you from point A to point B but will have some shops for you to visit. There are tons of collectibles in the game and you can also upgrade Rodea’s abilities such as his speed, armor, flying and so on. You can also play the game and collect objects in the environment to unlock abilities, music and so forth.
Level environments take full advantage of his flying abilities and can be challenging though quite a few times for the wrong reasons. Although, when it works it can be satisfying. Like in nights, if you follow a chain of these golden objects, you can follow them quickly through though a path if you nail it right. Unlike Nights into Dreams where it just automatically takes you through, in Rodea if your camera is off well you maybe flying to a place you may not want to go.

Graphics:
Rodea does have a very unique art-style and feels like you’re in a fantastical world of creatures and fantasy. Love the designs of the cast of characters, though most basic enemy designs do leave a lot to be desired. 2D character potraits appear in some dialogue conversations and the 2D artwork is absolutely gorgeous. Lots of love and care went into these and you can tell. However what doesn’t fair well is the games graphics themselves. This game did orignally start its life as a Wii title and looking at the textures make me feel that’s what I’m looking at. They try to add this subtle pencil like effect but doesn’t really do much for the environments. For a world so full of life these, textures do nothing to help. Even the character models look primitive compared to lots of niche titles.

Sound:
For those who can’t choose between English and Japanese dubs, Rodea features both, so no matter what you prefer you will be very pleased. English voice acting is pretty good for the most part. Only a few lines of dialogue come off kind of awkward but overall I enjoyed the cast. The music won’t make your ears bleed, but they won’t be stuck in your head. It is very charming and fits with the world and moments in the game.

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Downside:
The controls and camera are the biggest offenders in this game. As mentioned above, jumping is very awkward and and can mess up your descent and cause you to eat dirt or go off the side of a cliff. Most of the time you can lock on to a near by ledge by pointing at it. That is if you can get the camera to work the way you need it. This game feels like it would be played best with a Wii Mote and Nunchuck. It feels very much like this started out as a Wii title as pointing a redical on the screen would be much more intuitive that using a stick. Not for sure if the issue is that the motion on the right stick is not good because of the feel of the gamepad or if the game isn’t optimized for quicker movement.
If you’re just the right distance and you lock on your target perfectly, it works great. It’s much harder to correct yourself if you mess up. There were these giant spinning sand worms who roll at you like a a midnight train and if you miss you may have to aim the camera back up, which is slow. Then have to aim it up then jump then re-position yourself.
You may have to jump to a tree or rock to re-position yourself then fly down to try to hope you don’t miss the target again. It doesn’t feel fun it is much more frustrating than it should be. I honestly wish they got rid of the upgrade system and just made him play better at the start, you will have to do lots of backtracking to get gold and other items to unlock new abilities. With controls this frustrating I really don’t want to.

Extras:
No extra game modes

5

Overall:
I really wanted to like Rodea the Sky Soldier and there is definitely lots of love that went into creating its world and characters. However, it feels like a project that could have been better if it was scrapped and went back to the drawing board with its gameplay and just redesigned graphics for the Wii U. If you can put up with the gameplay there is a fun enjoyable story however its hard to recommend someone grind through this. I really hope that this isn’t the last of Yuji as he has contributed greatly to lots of the games we know and love. I do hope that whatever he does next that it will truly take off.

Pros:

  • Charming Story
  • Great Voice Action with English and Japanese VO available
  • Imaginative world and characters

Cons:

  • Clunky controls doesn’t feel like game was designed for a regular controller
  • Camera gets in the way of the action and causes fustration
  • Poor graphics and textures
  • Unlockables you will have to grind for

(Code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.)