Saturday, 9 January 2016

Rodea The Sky Soldier

Shigeru Miyamoto (the creator of Mario, in case you don't know what videogames are) is still at Nintendo today and, although he's climbed through the ranks until he's almost at the very top, he still gets his hands dirty helping to make games wherever possible and is still regarded as an electronic god by people both within and without the industry. But what of Yuji Naka, the man behind Sonic the Hedgehog? After leaving Sega, his studio Prope toddled along under the radar throwing out the odd poorly-promoted game or two. Ivy The Kiwi? was a wonderful little game. Rodea The Sky Soldier, out now for Wii U and 3DS and developed by Prope and Kadokawa Games, isn't quite so wonderful.

The relationship between the different versions of this game is strange and a little complicated, trying to get a handle on it making you feel like Wayne Rooney slowly realising who that monkey in the mirror is. Rodea was originally developed as a Wii exclusive, and this version of the game was completed (but unreleased) back in 2011. Kadokawa Games got involved to publish it and, long story short, in late 2015 the game – now re-purposed as a Wii U title with a 3DS version alongside it – finally got released. The Wii version is included on a separate disc in the Wii U box; initially at least. But why am I telling you this?

Because the Wii U version is completely f*cking shit.

Naka himself pleaded with people on Twitter to play the Wii game. If you pick up a secondhand copy of the Wii U version then, by all that is holy, make sure that the Wii disc is in there. Even (especially?) if the Wii U disc is not. What happened, it would seem, is that Kadokawa Games took something designed very specifically to be played with the Wii remote and – the geniuses – they then removed Wii remote compatibility. Apparently deciding that this had not fucked the game up sufficiently, they then forced in a completely inappropriate upgrade system to artificially ramp up the difficulty (already increased by the obnoxious camera) and removed the local multiplayer mode completely. They couldn't even leave the campaign levels alone, removing and redesigning bits and pieces here and there; always to the detriment of the experience.

The 3DS version I haven't played, but it's apparently a match for the original Wii version (though without multiplayer). Now that my blood pressure has subsided somewhat because we've come to the proper version of the game, we can talk about the actual experience. Surprisingly perhaps, it's the first Sonicesque game that Prope have made (though with all the flying, it's perhaps closer to Nights Into Dreams). Watching footage of it being played can tell you most of what you need to know; aim an on-screen reticule to where you want to go or what you want to attack, and hit the appropriate button. You don't move particularly fast unless you've hit a boost pad or you're following a trail of pickups – but, given the fact that even in this version the camera can work against you, that's for the best. Most of the bosses are huge, as in Shadow of the Colossus huge. These battles are nowhere near as epic or breathtaking as those in Team Ico's masterpiece, but they're interesting encounters nonetheless with few comparable moments in other games.

That's Rodea all over, sadly; 'interesting'. As the very poor graphics and storytelling hint at, this is a game which (ironically) doesn't reach very high. It's... nice. Okay. Interesting; but nothing to kick off that 'one more go' factor. If you want to see first-hand what Sonic's daddy is doing nowadays, give it a go – it's certainly not a bad game. Unless we're talking about the Wii U version, which should have been aborted in the board room.

Make sure you get the Wii disc, else they've soldier a lemon. 3/5


Luke Kemp

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