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The Ten: Updated Wednesdays-Fridays-Sundays

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Rodea the Sky Soldier (Wii)

Shadow of the Colossus, by Yuji Naka.
It's hard being wrong.

Sometimes, you enjoy something that someone makes, and you really want to believe in them. But ultimately, the next great creation they present falls flat. And sometimes you have to wait a really long time before that next great creation is presented. Like, three or four years. And it still disappoints you.

I'm talking about Rodea the Sky Soldier, in case you didn't know.


-Do you like flying around pretty much anywhere without stopping, defeating giant bosses and aquatic-themed robots where ever you go? Rodea the Sky Soldier is the game for you!

- Do you like being able to play a game with only one hand? Rodea the Sky Soldier is the game for you!

-Do you like combing every inch of a massive skyworlds for collectables, attempting mini challenges, and trying to beat record times? Rodea the Sky Soldier is the game for YOU.


-The camera is unfortunately a bit too stiff and unresponsive for some of the truly fast-paced action in the game.

-The difficulty is very low up until the final moments.

-Literally, the final moments. The last phase of the final boss is ridiculous.


Now, when I say Rodea the Sky Soldier is disappointing, I don't want you to get me wrong- it's exactly what I hoped it would be, with a few surprising differences that are sometimes welcome and other times not really welcome at all. I would say that Yuji Naka is predictable, but this is really the only example of that. See, Rodea plays very much like a combination of NiGHTs and Sonic the Hedgehog in his early Dreamcast/Game Cube days- slippery and on-rails, yes, but there's also a very distinct feeling of precision, as well. If you master the mechanics and really pay attention to the level design, you might just be able to pull off that S Rank at the end of the stage. And yes, the level design is a bunch of floating islands, some of which are really quite large.

Rodea uses only the Wii Remote as a means of control, and though its a bit awkward at first, it clicks very quickly and the whole thing works well enough. I feel that the nunchuk would have been better suited for ground movement, but since the game really only has three inputs, I suppose the decision for using the remote alone makes sense. Rodea can lock on to any object (yes, any object) within a certain distance with the press of one button, and the other button will send him flying off in the direction of said object. If you shake the Wii remote in a certain direction as you lock on, Rodea will fly towards the object on the trajectory of a parabolic arc, which is actually crucial for approaching certain enemies and obstacles later in the game. There is a very nice power-up system in which you become faster at flying, fire a gun, perform a light-dash, and finally lock on to multiple targets, but the last two are utilized mostly in specific segments of levels and show up less frequently. Holding down the "flight" button causes Rodea to perform a spin-attack as he approaches his target, which is how you defeat most enemies and bosses. That's pretty much it.

The d-pad walking is quite negligible since the point of the game is to be on the ground as little as possible, however the unresponsive camera sensitivity is not as forgivable. For a game that centers around fast-paced action, you would hope the camera would be suited for that sort of thing. Not so, and unfortunately, Prope has done nothing to gift the players with any sort of choice in the matter. This never results in any terribly broken moments but there are a number of annoying examples where you might wish the camera were a bit more agreeable. I enjoyed the power-up system because losing all of your power means you truly suck, but Rodea also loses the ability to attack and also cannot fly perpetually without resetting his target in his weakest form, and since power-ups are granted from pedestals that reset after a certain amount of time, you will usuallly die very quickly after losing everything. This is, again, an infrequent issue, but its a major reason why several boss fights can be aggravating and require numerous replays.

I'd like to only state the facts of the game, because going any further and expressing my opinion on the overall experience is hard to do. Rodea is a novel idea and when it is working, it feels fun and exciting. But it also feels like the games I mentioned earlier, in that nothing really seems all that different or even necessary. You get virtually the same experience, ridiculous plot and storytelling included, and that's pretty much it. You can explore the deceptively large stages of the game for collectible trinkets, but it slows down the pace of the game a bit and turns the seven-to-eight minute levels into fourteen-to-sixteen minute experiences, which can sometimes feel draining. Its boss fights are thrilling, when the bosses are throwing obstacles and projectiles in your way. Too many of them are far too easy and rarely do you have to think much harder than the basics of the control scheme. While its all well-conceptualized, it's not incredible, which is really what I was hoping for. Instead, it's just passable, which was not what I was hoping to play. There's other, better games with similar mechanics you could be playing. There's other games that are just as good, but came out before this one did. Ultimately, it's a game that might have enjoyed the success and popularity of the Wii had it released in time, when the console was still relevant. Sadly, it is not, and there is no reason you should go out of your way to pick up a terrible game (the Wii U version) just to play a mediocre game.

Verdict: Rodea the Sky Soldier is decent fun, but nothing really all that special. It has interesting ideas and sprawling worlds, but the unresponsive camera and low difficulty make the game feel more on-rails than some of its predecessors. It is a saving grace if buying the retail copy of the Wii U title, but not enough to warrant even the full price.

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