Rodea the Sky Soldier Review

Rodea Title

Title: Rodea the Sky Soldier
Developer: Kadokawa Games, NIS America
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: 
Digital

EU Availability: Digital
Block Usage:  10500

Rodea the Sky Soldier is a game that has been around a lot of confusion.  There are two main aspects that have been confusing people.  The first is the systems that it was developed for.  Rodea was originally developed to be a Wii game.  Then, while in development, it was also made for the Wii U.  Then later on, it was also developed for the 3DS.  It was a Wii game made past the Wii’s time, and it ended up being a multi-platform release even though the Wii version was developed by a different company than the other versions.

The second is fan interest and reception for the game.  Before its release in the West under NIS America, the internet was hyped for the game like crazy.  It was before I expanded, and even I had interest in the game from the 3DS emails I’d been getting from my NIS Press contact.  Then it released and it’s almost like it dropped off the face of the planet.  Very little of it is talked about and most of it is negative.  Particularly towards the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game.

So, here we are.  I saw and grabbed the 3DS version from Amazon US for a measly $22.  Considering how scarce 3DS games drop in price, I went for it.  So, after playing around with the game as well as doing research in the online world, we are at the point where we are.  Is the 3DS version of the game really that bad?  Is the game in general bad enough that it would be hyped and then just drop off the radar?  Let’s find out.  Here is my official review of Rodea the Sky Soldier for the Nintendo 3DS!

Story

Rodea Story

Our story takes place in Garuda, a continent-based kingdom that floats in the sky.  Rodea, a robot soldier given a human heart, fights to protect Garuda as the neighboring kingdom attempts to invade.  He ends up fighting off their army of robots with the help of Princess Cecilia.

1,000 years later, Rodea awakens having been repaired by a young traveling inventor.  At the same time, the 1,000-year peace he had helped create is disrupted when the robot army returns, once again making an attempt at conquering Garuda.  Rodea then takes to the skies to fight off the army and protect Garuda once again.

The story of the game is something I somewhat enjoyed, but certainly wouldn’t be up in my Top Stories of the Year list.  It’s enjoyable during the experience, but it’s not something fans will be hounding the developers to continue in a sequel.

Gameplay

Rodea Map

Rodea is a 3D action game with platforming and flying elements thrown into the mix.  Despite being published by an RPG company, this has very light RPG/Upgrade elements.  More or less, it’s a 3D action game where you fly around and platform as you go across each stage.

First of all is the big question many people ask, and that is how different each version of the game is.  Our main question is how the 3DS version stacks up against the console versions.  The answer is that it looks surprisingly just like the console games.  The 3DS version is basically a straight port of the Wii U version but with downgraded visuals.  No altered camera perspective.  No cut content.  It’s the Wii U version, but not as pretty and on a handheld.

Progressing through the game has you going between stages and a world map.  In stages, you’re flying and fighting enemies and going through check-points and whatnot.  But the World Map is just like a 2D World Map where you can select an area to move into as well as using gears and other items you collect during stages to upgrade Rodea, be it adding new weapons and skills or increasing his base stats.

During missions/stages, you are set in 3D environments as you explore to get to the end of the stage.  This involves platforming, fighting enemies, collecting items, and flying as you hear dialogue being sent to you at certain points of the stage. The dialogue just proceeds as you go along, like how it does in games like LEGO Jurassic World or Tomb Raider: Legend.  This pertains to actual story but also pertains to areas and acts as tutorials of sorts for types of rooms.

Rodea Flying

Flying is the main driving point of the game.  It is called Rodea the “Sky” Solider, after all.  Vita fans should be a little familiar with these mechanics as they gave me a bit of a “Gravity Rush” feel.  To fly you jump and then hit the flight button.  To determine where you fly, you have to actually aim your HUD in the general direction.  I would directly compare this to going from the floating state to the moving/falling state in Gravity Rush.

Flight can proceed in a few different ways.  In some areas, there are routes that you can fly into that act as rails.  Once you hit them in mid-flight, you are taken to where they are, around corners, curves, etc.  These take the control away from you and give it to the rails.  You also can fly into various objects and doors to take you to other areas, though the main flying sequences will be flying in straight lines to get to the next areas or fighting enemies by targets them in mid-flight.

Flying is not endless, though.  You have an energy meter that depletes as you fly.  Just like how you have to collect Gravity Energy or land to recharge in Gravity Rush, you have to collect energy or land in this game to recharge your flight gauge in order to start up again.

The last part of gameplay I should mention are the most fun; Boss Battles.  Rodea sports some pretty huge bosses as you play the game that you must use your flight capabilities to tackle.  While normal flight can be fun in and of itself, the boss fights are really where the game’s fun factor goes up.

As far as length goes, Rodea lasts around 8-9 hours, maybe 10 if you don’t progress very quickly.  Most of the stages aren’t very long, with the first few only lasting around 8-10 minutes a piece.  For an action game, it’s not a bad amount of length.

Controls

The control scheme is what makes people talk badly about the 3DS version of the game.  Actually, many of the folks over at r/3DS told me not to buy the game at all when I posted a sale over there because of the controls and how much superior everyone makes the Wii version out to be.  Obviously, it didn’t sway me, but you will see a lot of that across the net.  And the 3DS’ controls are the main complaint.

Once you start to play the game, you can really see why.  But I’ll complain about that in the next paragraph.  To move Rodea around, you use the Circle Pad and moving the camera is done with the L and R triggers.  The ZL, ZR, and C Stick buttons are not used for the camera controls, or anything for that matter.  The A button is used for jumping and flight targeting and B is used for attacking.  X and Y are used for other skills like a super jump and power-ups.

So what makes this so bad?  The first problem is the camera controls.  While C Stick camera options in 3DS games do work the best, L and R camera controls have been working well since the DS era.  However, when you hit L or R in this game, the game rotates the game in fixed locations.  You tap L or R and the camera does a 90-degree flip.  You cannot move the camera in any other way.  It’s the kind of clunky camera controls that makes you wonder what the developers were thinking.  This is a PSX level of camera controls.

The flying controls are pretty clunky as well, but the biggest issue with controls is the system’s random lack of responsiveness.  When I did the tutorial level, the jump button wouldn’t do a thing unless I hit it three or four times.  Once I got through that, it was fine for most of the game.  Every so often, though, it acts up and won’t do anything unless I hit it a few times.

Presentation

Rodea Graphics

To add onto the issues with controls, the presentation took a pretty substantial hit on its trip from the Wii U to the 3DS.  Even considering the standards of the 3DS, this doesn’t look good.  Most of the environments don’t have much detail in them, most of the backgrounds are static images, the list goes on.

My first thought on the presentation being taken down was that they did it to help the game run well on the 3DS since it is the entire console game in a portable package.  Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out, either.  The frame-rate is pretty shakey for the majority of the game and some areas have some pretty substantial drops, especially when the game tries to have interactive backgrounds past the islands you go through.  In short, the game does not run well.

On the flip side, load times are pretty short.  Most loading sequences are only about 4-5 seconds long.  Not that it makes up for the other issues the game has.

Summary

Rodea the Sky Soldier at its heart is a fun action game that has flying elements strikingly similar to Gravity Rush on the PS Vita.  While it is fun to fly around and fight huge bosses, the game is held back by quite a few technical issues as well as a very clunky control scheme that feels like it was taken from the 1990s. 

6/10

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