My Full Review:
Yuji Naka’s original vision is untouched on the Wii as you fly through majestic skies
Rodea the Sky Soldier was originally developed for the Nintendo Wii. Yuji Naka’s development studio Prope had almost completely finished the game when a 3DS and Wii U version was planned by Kadokawa Games. I must recommend to stay away from these versions, as the Wii version retains all of Yuji Naka’s original “high flying, go anywhere, action-in-the-sky vision!” The Wii U version’s restriction on flight ruins the experience.
The first print of the Wii U version actually comes with a physical copy of the Wii version.You can even turn the case insert art around, since the back side of the game insert has the Wii version case art!
The Wii versions graphics are much more vivid and colorful compared to the drab, dry, and dull color pallet found in the Wii U version. And let me say: the stages are very large! Rodea has plenty of space to fly around in and that’s what makes it fun!
While I don’t dislike the graphics or have any major concerns, if I had to compare this to NiGHTS Into Dreams on the Saturn; even that game has more aesthetic charm, but I can see why there might not be enough room for inch upon inch of eye candy with such massive stages; so I can understand that and let it slide.
They’ve made nice use of the existing color pallet, such as: cloudy indigo skies full of floating islands with gleaming waterfalls, broken crumbling ruins, swirling desert sands, to majestic winter snow fields full of giant ice crystals.
What matters the most here is the gameplay and this is why I was able to let the 5 year old Wii graphics slide! All you need is the Wii-mote. What you basically do is point the in game reticle anywhere in the environment, whether it be 8 to 10 stories high, 3 feet in front of you, or 30 yards ahead of you. Once you point where you want to go you lock in that point and Rodea will zoom forwards. (basically, zooming and jumping on and off of things like a mad man!) You can zoom even faster with one of the many power ups. It’s especially satisfying when you can target and destroy individual engines on enemy planes; knocking them out of the sky! (just make sure to lock on to them with the - button!)
I really can’t believe the Wii U version doesn’t even let you stay in the air for long; forcing you to drop down to the ground. It’s quintessential and the original game was built upon this mechanic! I can see why Yuji Naka in a recent blog told fans to please play the Wii version!
Moving on, one highlight of the game for me was In the snow level. There was a long, thin, flowing waterfall which lead strait up into the sky. I had to figure out how to get up to the land mass it was attached to. It became obvious I had to freeze it. Once I did, this is one of the moments where the flying mechanic shined: Imagine flying/climbing upwards, jumping on and off of a giant frozen waterfall; leading up into an endless sky!
The game contains various power-ups which gives Rodea special abilities. The first power-up lets Rodea zoom forwards while in flight (if you are targeting an enemy you can slam into it a few times to destroy it). If you get this same power up again Rodea’s hair turns green and you will destroy enemies with one hit. Next, there is a gun pwer-up which lets Rodea shoot enemies (very fun to do while flying or dropping down!). Another power-up lets you lock onto and destroy multiple enemies. The last I’ve seen so far, are the boost shoes, which let you run along boost pads like Sonic the Hedgehog (and not just on the ground but also up and around walls too! My favorite!) The boost pads add another dynamic of speed to the game along side the fast paced, go-anywhere-free-flight game mechanic. Oh, and on a side note, there are also bonus stages too where you collect medals!
I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the games soundtrack! After the first stage the themes kept getting more and more energetic and lively, There are even some light vocals found in a few tracks! The music also changes as you advance through a particular area .There are about 3 to 4 different music variations for each level or theme, such as: the Sky Ruins, Desert, Snow level etc. So on a high note () it’s not the same track repeating for very long as the music will change eventually as you advance through the subsequent levels.
The story isn’t going to win any awards, and is mostly there to move the game along. Rodea is basically trying to protect a kingdom from an evil empire called Naga. I can say this though: the many character conversations and interactions make up for it in my opinion.
Don’t be turned off by the voice acting at first; Rodea starts off cold and emotionless because he is damaged! By the 2nd or 3rd chapter he regains his upbeat personality and some of his memories. I also like the bond and relationship that forms between Rodea and Ion. The dialogue has its lighthearted quirky moments as they argue and poke fun at each other (it doesn’t feel forced and feels pretty natural)!
It seems like the creators were very much influenced by Shadow of the Colossus. Not to say that’s a bad thing; far from it! You fight massive robots, desperately trying to navigate around their enormous bodies while seeking out their week points. For instance: I fought a giant flying eel and bird not too dissimilar to the ones found in Shadow of the Colossus. The battles feel like they have a larger scale though as Rodea looks like a tiny fly in comparison.
Imagine this: a gigantic flying eel charging at you while you’re floating in mid-air; growing in size until you’re reduced to an insignificant insect. The action slows down to a crawl as the camera zooms in closer while everything is reduced to slow-motion. A gigantic gaping mouth opens up, about to seemingly engulf you whole! Inside the creatures mouth, you see a shining weak point at the very last second! You proceed to zoom forward with blazing speed as the action returns to normal; crashing into the weak point and pushing the colossal creature back. Very satisfying!
I must say though; this game isn’t perfect and I have one major concern about the game. It’s the awkward camera. You see, you can move Rodea with the D-pad, but to turn the camera 360 degrees around you, you have to point the cursor either all the way to the far edge of the right or left of your tv screen, until the camera moves. Also, the camera just doesn’t turn fast enough and more often than not, when you are at the edge of the screen the cursor deactivates and the camera movement stops. This has been an ongoing problem for me as my sensor bar doesn’t always register and respond to this action 100 percent of the time. While not a deal breaker for most people, it is definitely a problem…There is at least one work around though, and that is to press the - button on the Wii-mote which allows you to stay locked onto the nearest enemy. Of all places, this problem rears it’s ugly head during the final boss fight! You need to be very precise with your character movement during this battle and most times the Wii sensor bar goes haywire when you move the cursor too far to the left or right of the screen.
I don’t understand why the developers didn’t just let you use the nun-chuck analog stick to move the camera left or right. That’s how I initially went into the game thinking and at start up it told me to unplug it lol! But I’ll take this minor hindrance over playing the Wii U version…
I think Rodea the Sky Soldier is a very fun enjoyable game which is very reminiscent to that feeling we had flying around in NiGHTS Into Dreams on the Sega Saturn (and in a new engaging dynamic way!) as well as just a hint of Sonic thrown into the mix with a bit of speed and power-ups! While not perfect, It’s not everyday we get games like this that try something new and unique! The score could go down just a point lower though, depending on how you feel about the camera…
I’ll give it a solid 8 out of 10.
-A fresh new experience letting you fly high, moving from object to object
-The Large levels are full of power-ups and fun to navigate/explore
-Good character chemistry and interaction
-Epic/Massive boss battles
-Horrible camera controls can make it hard to see where you’re going at times
-Final boss battle while great, is incredibly difficult due to the bad camera
-Game might freeze at the end of the credits (mine froze but saved my progress anyway)