|Dog with a gunblade. You have my attention.|
Case in point- Solatorobo: Red the Hunter.
A spiritual successor to Tail Concerto, Solatorobo is a rare example of a game that doesn't necessarily have good gameplay, but is still quite a good video game. Taking place in the magical, floating kingdom of Shepherd, Red and his friends attempt thwart the plans of the corrupt Kurvaz when the titan Lares rises from the sky sea. Well, that's part one, anyway. The player takes control of Red and his mighty Dahak, a humanoid mech that can lift things... really, really well. In fact, lifting comprises most of the game's puzzles and combat, which means you can expect to be mashing the A button a whole lot.
I picked up Solatorobo because I was intrigued by the concept and had heard a lot of high praise about the game, but not necessarily its gameplay mechanics. In playing the game, I see exactly why this was the case- Solatorobo has an extremely compelling and vibrant story, with many pretty and fascinating locales and character dialogue that is immensely charming, as well as a slew of content accessible to diehard collectors and those who explore the corners of the game. While it's a bit of a drag that you have to find the majority of the collectibles and purchase the remainder, the game gives you plenty of money to invest in these items and most areas in the game are very straightforward.
It's the wonderful art direction, cutscene presentation, and peppy music that sell this game. Its story is cute, if anything. Though it eventually takes a bit of a sinister turn, even in its final moments, Solatorobo is a lighthearted romp, with characters rarely having to cope with true loss (there is one shockingly intense moment, however). The vast amount of lift-related sidequests the game throws at you will keep you playing for much longer, and the quest chains, and their eventual conclusions, are fun and quirky. As I type this, It almost feels strange to admit I enjoyed Solatorobo, since so little of the game is truly challenging. But it is more than the challenge that makes us play games, and Solatorobo's strange and mystical world is a perfect example of this.
Is it the prettiest game? No, but it does make use of some gorgeous 2D art to portray the kingdom of Shepherd. Is the music fantastic? Not really, but it does have a lilt and charm that is uniquely its own. The characters are what you come here for, and though they are overly optimistic and shallow at times, at others, they exhibit just enough depth and oddity that you can't help but love them. And of course, there's plenty to do in the world of Shepherd- fishing, fighting, flying, hovering, drilling, smashing, and collecting unlocks more and more of the mythos that truly has dedication and love oozing from it.
See, now that I've reached the end of this review, I can clearly state what I enjoyed about Solatorobo- it had a whole lot of work put into it. As I reached the halfway point of the game, almost disappointed at the length, hoping that the story wouldn't end there- and lo, Red and company came back for more, and I was ready to join them. It's almost as if the development team knew that I wouldn't be able to resist more adventuring- and they were right. Solatorobo's infectious enthusiasm permeates from every aspect, and that's something to be admired- when game developers put so much passion into designing a game that it becomes unforgettable even with its flaws.
Final Verdict: While its core combat mechanic is a bit bland and repetitive, the sheer amount of content and the mesmerizing world of Shepherd make Solatorobo a unique and rare experience- a portable RPG with a fully fleshed-out universe that is quite impressive to behold. Though the DS is no technical powerhouse, the scope of Solatorobo is undeniable, and that makes it stand out as a game with true quality.