NIS America – Kadokawa Games – Wii U (also available on 3DS – 1 Player – Out Now
After several years stuck in development, Rodea The Sky Soldier finally surfaces on the Wii U after much anticipation. Originally intended to be released on the Wii, it has finally been released with an HD polish, but no longer has Wiimote compatibility (unless you go for the special edition which comes with the Wii version). Rodea The Sky Soldier is directed by former Sonic Team member Yuji Naka, and this has Sonic Team’s DNA running right through it. After minutes of getting to grips with the game, there are shades of the famous blue hedgehog (even some of the pickups are straight outta Green Hill) as well as the popular Saturn game, Nights into Dreams. In fact the whole game feels like it should have been a Dreamcast title. From the music to the gameplay and the voice overs, it all feels like it’s come straight from that era, with that wonderful Sega aesthetic. As with the games style, it also inherits the Dreamcast games controls as well, which wasn’t always that great. The controls do take some getting used to, and despite there being a tutorial, it’ll take a good few levels to figure everything out, and even then it can be quite tricky. The controls feel quite restrictive in flight mode, and unless you have your cursor aimed at a target, there’s nothing in way of freedom of movement, and if your flight metre runs out, you fall straight down, not being able to direct Rodea to a safe landing.
It’s stages all take place in the sky, with floating islands as the stage areas. It’s quite good to look at considering it’s pretty much a HD port of a Wii game, with an animated pencil drawn design to the stages, although things like explosions and blocky terrain give away the fact it’s been built for the previous generation. The dialogue and plot are detailed through either 2D hand drawn style character interactions, or the occasional 3D cut scene. Although it seems completely random as to when and why the cut scenes take place. There’s upgrades available for Rodea, which should make things a bit easier, like the ability to cling to walls, this allows you to recharge your flight gauge without dropping all the way to the floor, or worse, your death. In the options there’s a selection for how much npc dialogue you hear from your partner during the game, meaning you can here more banter between the characters or very little, which in some cases, the very little option is the preferred choice. There’s also an option for those who prefer their entertainment subbed, not dubbed, and have the audio in Japanese rather than your cliche American anime voice overs. The music is as you’d expect from a game like this, very arcade like and quite upbeat, although with the frantic action going on in some of the levels, it sometimes gets lost in an onslaught of noise, making things much more chaotic.
Once you’re past the first world, the difficulty really spikes. Coupled with the awkward controls, things get really frantic when enemies become tougher and more agile, and terrain is not as fly friendly. The levels feel like they get longer, but perhaps it’s just because the difficulty ramps right up. It appears the game wants you to learn from your mistakes and you’ll find yourself repeating many sections of each stage if you get complacent. You have limited lives, and when it’s game over you have to start the level from the beginning, which can lead to spending longer on a level than necessary. Don’t be surprised if you spend at least half an hour trying to navigate your way through levels that should only take 10 minutes. In some cases it’s easy to avoid enemies and go straight to the end, but defeating enemies will reward you with items that are required to upgrade Rodea, and the further through the game you get, the more upgrading Rodea will need, although it’s not always noticeable as the difficulty gets tougher and tougher as the game progresses. It’s a good idea to revisit earlier levels in order to pick up more parts to upgrade for the harder levels.
There is story in there as well, featuring mechanical soldiers caught up in a war spanning 1000 years, but the amount of time it takes to eventually get through each stage, it’s easy to forget that there is a plot to all this. The game has the look, feel and sound of a Dreamcast game, even down to the iffy controls. But like the Dreamcast, it has an endearing charm which you can’t help but fall for. For those looking for a challenge, this might be for you, but when some of the challenge is a result of horrendously unintuitive controls and unfair difficulty spikes, it does become more of a frustration. This is an old school Sega game in last gen clothing and will no doubt amass a cult following.