We can all admit the Wii U has not had a great time this generation. Being somewhat less powerful than its counterparts and having a much smaller game pool has knackered what promise the console had. That’s not to say there aren’t any good games on there. Windwaker HD, Smash Bros. and Mario Kart to name but a few.
And then we get to Rodea the Sky Soldier. A game with a muddied development, being slated for 2010 in the Wii then being held back until now and released on the Wii U (reviewed version,) 3DS and the Wii likely making it the last game with a Wii release. This game evokes such promises but seems to have fallen a bit short due to rather simplistic problems.
Let us not beat around. Rodea is a rather typical JRPG at heart. You play as titular Rodea, a robot tasked with saving the land from the evil Naga Empire due to it being the only thing you remember thanks to your amnesia. The twist? You have an actual human heart so you’re not a soulless machine. The heart however appears superfluous as you never see blood spurting out of wounds and his limbs are entirely mechanical. But let’s not ruin this trope. The narrative for this game is somewhat typical: Stubborn hero; cute sidekick; annoying kid; villain who seems to live on Weetabix and steroids; old person, the usual suspects. The narrative is overly cheesy because of this however to make the experience more bearable choose the Japanese audio option with relevant subtitles.
Rodea’s hook is the semi-open-ended flying gameplay reminiscent of Nights into Dreams meets Saints Row 4. Much of your movement in the environments will be done by flying around between targets to attack, collect coins or move between platforms. The mechanic finds a nice middle ground between locking you down hard like some of the Sonic games and letting you too far off the rails. Given about 15 minutes or so you’ll have this down and be zipping around will little effort and letting the automation take over most of the legwork.
This open ended design would be OK if the rest of the game kept up. But it doesn’t. The open-ended gameplay is limited by the game’s poor draw distance and iffy graphics, ranging between detailed characters and poor-textured environments, which makes me suspect a quick Wii or 3DS port was done here. This also seems to explain also why the expanses seem bland and a little empty. The music is quite wonderful saving the game some graces harking back to the pop-like soundtracks of the original Spyro games.
The bigger issue with this game is the shoehorning of other mechanics in. Combat feels strange between the simply B button boost attack in the air which is foolproof to gunplay which is thrown at you in a two second tutorial and is no fun at all.
This accumulates into the biggest problem of the game. It feels outdated on its release. The controls feel a bit dated, the Wii U doesn’t use the pad screen unless you transfer to it and the graphics flick between gorgeous character models to PS1 era scenery. It seems like the game did little growing or modifying in the five years between its announcement and release. The fact it comes with a Wii version is simply another piece of evidence in the pile of ‘suspicious port from older generation version with minimal modifying.’
If you like the game you’re in luck. The game is a surprisingly long adventure: 25 levels; plenty of upgrades to acquire and if you look hard you can find a secret shop with additional game modes to play. This all adds up to make the game a decent 30+ hour affair. This is a surprisingly long length for a modern game not seen without any DLC and will redeem the game for people who can see through its flaws.
If you desire this game get the Wii U version, it seems to run the most smoothly. The game has good promise if you can look through some of the poor mechanics and some poor porting tainting the gameplay. There are moments of great fun and for that I give this a 3.5. But don’t expect this game to live to the big ambitions of other flying games.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.