Rodea the Sky Soldier Review (Wii U)
Although, Rodea the Sky Soldier is the latest title from Yuji Naka, famed creator of Sonic the Hedgehog. It was actually completed in 2011 for the Wii with no firm release date set. The fate of the game was left up in the air until it was announced that the game was not cancelled and was in fact in development for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS in 2013. Now it is finally getting released and the question of whether it was worth the wait needs answering.
You play as Rodea, a robotic soldier suffering from amnesia after being repaired by a chirpy engineer by the name of Ion. All he initially remembers is an order to protect the land that he is currently in called Garuda. Together he and Ion set out on a journey to defeat the evil Naga Empire which is hell-bent on claiming Garuda as its own, while rediscovering who he is.
The story is quite simplistic and will be very familiar to those who play action games and RPGs. Rodea manages to add a little charm to the proceedings with the beautifully drawn in-game cut scenes which intersect with the action. In contrast, the graphics of the game itself look very dated, with many of the locations looking quite washed out and muddy.
Rodea is a very likable protagonist, who goes from being an emotionless robot to an all top human character who you have no trouble relating to. There were various situations in the game where Rodea’s quips and exasperation mirrored my thoughts at that moment. Ion on the other hand got quite irritating quickly as she makes comments while you are playing. Unfortunately she does not have many different soundbites. There were only so many times I could take hearing “Go Rodea!” or “So fast!” after jumping or taking flight, before I wanted to mute the game entirely. Ion would also scold me if I dared to walk for a few steps, “You’re not going to fly Rodea?” Luckily, you can tone down the frequency of these quips in the options.
While Rodea has forgotten his memories, thankfully he has remembered his skill set and is very adept at fighting. He can move around on foot and use his gun to pick enemies off, but his real abilities come into play once you take to the sky. Once airborne, Rodea can hover and choose a direction to fly in with the flight targeting reticule. Once on the move, he can change direction by aiming at another location and pressing the jump button to go there. He also has a homing boost attack which sends him hurtling towards enemies at high-speed. However, Rodea can only remain airborne for so long so you must plan your moves wisely.
Although the 25 levels start quite basic with lots of floating islands to save you, later levels have added dangers such as blizzards that will blow you away, or volcanos filled with lava and blistering hot walls. You will quickly need to master your abilities to navigate through them. Ion is on hand to help you with upgrades to your weaponry and armour as well as new skills that you acquire throughout the game. The game is at its best when it is free-flowing and you are zipping through the sky with little respite. There are various mundane tasks that mar the experience however, such as the scenarios that slow down the gameplay by, for example, forcing you to find objects in order to progress. These sections add little enjoyment to the game and only seem to work against the fast paced nature of the sections that come before.
There were many points while playing where the design of the game felt at odds with the control scheme. Although the functionality has been ported to the right stick of the Wii U gamepad, and works quite well, it is quite telling that the game was built with the Wiimote in mind. Flying never quite feels as intuitive as it should. It is worth a mention that the Wii version of the game uses the original control scheme and is said to be much more intuitive. I have only played the Wii U so cannot confirm if this is the case.
I also encountered no greater enemy than the camera itself. This is very apparent in some of the boss battles where the camera zooms out to give you a scale of the enemy you are fighting. Rodea ends up as a tiny speck, which made navigation very difficult.
All-in-all, Rodea is refreshing and frustrating in equal measure. The points when it is revelling in its fast paced nature, echoing Sonic as you zip through the levels, is exhilarating. When the action slows down and you are forced to look at the dated graphics and fight with the frustrating camera it seems like a completely different, less interesting game.
6 repeated quips from Ion out of 10