Huge thank you to NIS America for providing us a review code for the WiiU version of Rodea the Sky Soldier!
**DISCLAIMER: THIS REVIEW COVERS ONLY THE WIIU VERSION OF THE GAME.
Rodea History: 101
Rodea the Sky Soldier had a rather rough development. The original Wii title, developed by a Japanese studio called Prope, was completed back in 2011, but was waiting on Kadokawa Games to publish it. At this time, XSeed also showed interest in a Western release for the title. In 2012, there was still no sign of a release with either; one of the producers, Yuji Naka, stated in a interview with Polygon that he wasn’t sure what was going to happen with the title…
One year later, Kadokawa games announced that the Nintendo 3DS version of the game was 70% complete and that the Wii and 3DS Rodea games were still going to be released. A year after that (2014, if you are keeping track), it was announced that the title, now under the new Kadokawa trademarked name–Rodea the Sky Soldier–was switching from Wii to WiiU with a Spring 2015 release window. Luckily, it managed to make the Japanese release on April 2nd of 2015, and NIS America was handed the localization for release on September 22nd.
Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, it had to be delayed not once, but twice! Finally, the WiiU title made it to U.S. shores on November 10th (the 13th in Europe). As a nice gesture, the original Wii version of the game was included with boxed copies of the WiiU for no additional charge.
You may be wondering why you just went through a lecture on”Rodea the Sky Soldier: History 101″. Well, it is because it will give some insight into the fact that this game had to struggle simply to just be released. And that hard life led to a rather rough and buggy gameplay experience…
A Tale as Old as Time
Rodea opens with an impressive cutscene of Rodea, a robot with a heart, fending off waves of enemies in order to save a princess in distress. Unfortunately, his struggle is in vain; while he manages to get to the princess, they are quickly surrounded. In order for the mission to succeed, Rodea has to survive. The princess saves him the only way she knows how…by sending forward in time! 1,000 years later, precisely. What follows is a bout of amnesia, the appearance of a sidekick (one that looks suspiciously like the princess), and the return of the evil empire that Rodea fought against in his own time. Throw in some color-coded towers that you need to destroy and you have yourself a typical video game story. There are some twists here and there, as well as a few interesting characters, but overall, it is a fairly straightforward, predictable tale.
A Look From the Past
In terms of the appearance, Rodea is exactly what you would expect from a 2011 Wii title. But considering it was released on the WiiU at the end of 2015, that doesn’t exactly drop any jaws or explode anyone’s eyeballs. Aesthetically, Rodea is a title that you could easily fit in alongside the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog. While decent, it plays things safe with your typical robots designs; some resemble animals and common mechanical weaponry (spider-like walker robots, giant robots, bomber planes, etc). Rodea’s design isn’t too bad–with a repaired robotic arm, he very much looks the part of main hero, with his sidekick and friend Ion looking the part as well. However, a number of the bosses also share designs similar to Rodea, with some small changes and their own color scheme.
The environments contain a variety of locations to visit, from cities and islands in the sky to the deserts and caves. Textures are a bit bland and occasionally blurry, though.
From the moment I turned on this game, it reminded me a lot of the old 3D Sonic the Hedgehog titles. Rodea feels like it is a game where the developer decided he really liked the homing attack and wanted to make an entire game around that feature. In a rather strange choice, the WiiU title is more of a port of the 3DS version of the game than the Wii version. While the graphics are higher resolution from the Wii, the controls, as well as some of the game mechanics, are taken from the 3DS version and not the Wii. Examples of this include the use of using the joystick to move a cursor to select where you will dash to and the addition of a fuel gauge that was not present in the original Wii version.
There is a learning curve to the controls in this game. In an odd mission, you are not able to select the Wii control scheme for use in the WiiU version, even though the WiiU is fully compatible with Wii controllers. Unfortunately, the controls are hindered dramatically with the finicky and problematic camera that seems to like to put itself in strange places and get caught. This becomes a large annoyance when you consider that in order to attack or navigate, you not only have to rotate the camera with one joystick, but also move the cursor with another in order to target enemies, bodies of land, or interaction points needed to continue on. Once the camera behaves and you have a handle on the controls, the flying through the air and destroying enemies can be quite the thrill and good time. It is just upsetting that the camera will get in the way, causing you to break combos because you couldn’t rotate the camera-cursor combo fast enough. Or you get hit from something off screen. From my research into the Wii version’s controls, that setup makes a lot more sense and would be more natural.
There is a good amount of customization and RPG-like elements though in Rodea the Sky Soldier that let’s you customize Rodea as you see fit. In order to do so, you will need to collect items scattered throughout levels and from defeating enemies. These can then be used in between levels to boost Rodea’s stats, add abilities, and more. As you unlock new tools and abilities, each of those also have their own growth trees that you can invest in.
The gamepad doesn’t really offer any real features. There are two settings for it. You can either have it be be a image of Ion, Rodea’s mechanic/sidekick in her ship, or you can play the game off of it. What’s weird, though, is if you set your gamepad to be the screen, the image will be mirrored on the television but all audio is muted on the TV and instead all comes out from the gamepad. While it’s perfect for off-TV play, the fact that ALL the audio on the TV is shifted to the gamepad while the video remains is an odd choice.
It’s a Big Sky
There is good amount of content that will keep players busy in Rodea. With 20+ levels, unlockable challenge stages, special hidden coins, maxing out abilities, and retrying levels to get all S Ranks, there is a lot to keep you busy. Each level has a number of bronze, silver, and gold coins hidden throughout that can be traded in for new outfits, levels, and other goodies. Many of them are real challenges to find, so you will really have to keep your eyes open and explore each level.
The Sky Still Stands
Rodea has a glitchy annoying camera, it looks dated, there are bugs, and you may find yourself dying when you shouldn’t…but after all that, I still feel that there is something here. Hey, I’d even say I’d like to see a sequel. I think that if the formula is refined and characters fleshed out a bit more, that this series could really make it. I very much want to try the original Wii version, as I think the controls in that version will fit the style of this game better than the scheme put in place for the WiiU version. When the camera worked, I had a enjoyable time with it (I just wish it had worked well more often). I think Rodea could really excel at being a speed running title, with its precision boosts and maneuvering. I do hope that this isn’t the last we see of Rodea, but this robot will need some serious tune-ups if there is a next time.
- Customization Options
- Unlockable Content
- Awful, Buggy Camera
- Annoying Side Kick
- Forgettable Story
- Frustrating Controls