Rodea The Sky Soldier is, as of today, available on Wii U, 3DS, and Wii (!) in the UK thanks to NIS America. A flying action game, it was originally developed by Prope with the intention of being released on the Nintendo Wii around 2011. Yuji Naka, the designer, revealed in 2011 that the Wii version of the title was finished and needed Kadokawa Games to publish it. In 2012, Naka stated that he was unsure what was to happen wih the game. However, in July of 2013, it was revealed that the 3DS version was aroud 70% complete and that the game was not cancelled. The game was announced to have been moved to the Wii U, rather than the Wii, and would be released in 2015. The most interesting announcement was that initial printings of the Wii U version would include the original Wii version of the game as a bonus. Thankfully, NIS America chose to mimic this release strategy in the West. I opted to play the 3DS version for this review, rather than Wii U, in order to allow myself to get stuck into the game more readily.
The prologue is set 1000 years prior to the main story, in the midst of a severe energy crisis. As the Naga Empire nears its demise, Emperor Geardo discovers a new energy source in the floating continent of Garuda. He intends to use the Key of Time in order to connect the two continents for an invasion. Princess Celia learns of the plan and flees with her royal guard, the titular Rodea, and the Key of Time. They almost make it to Garuda, but are found by Geardo’s forces; to try and save Garuda, Celia gives half of the key to Rodea and sends him onwards. 1000 years later, a girl named Ion finds Rodea, damaged, in a desert and repairs him. Rodea still has his mission, but it seems unnecessary, being that the Naga Empire has long since fallen. Sadly, the Naga Empire do attack, utilising a gate that links the two time periods, and Rodea chooses to follow his orders and protect Garuda.
The controls are easy to grasp, being mostly just aiming with the joystick and pressing B to fly towards it, or A to boost attack. You need to focus your aim on a solid object in order to fly further, and the ring around the reticule shows how much longer you can fly before falling. When attempting to fly long distances with no enemies or objects around in the sky, it can sometimes be difficult to gage how far you can travel. Though, you can usually find a suitable place to land and recover. Special abilities, such as Dolphin Maneuver and Tail Clip, utilise the same controls as flying. Dolphin Maneuver, effected by sliding the circle pad after pressing A to fly, allows you to fly in an arc to ensure stronger boost attacks. Tail clip allows you to regenerate flight energy by clinging to an object when you collide by holding A. Different gears that you unlock as you progress through the story are activated by pressing down on the D-pad to highlight the appropriate gear, and pressing X. The Machine Gun Gear is an example of such gears. Defeating an enemy yields a mech piece, used to upgrade Rodea and his abilities.
It’s a shame the Wii version was not an option for reviewing, as it apparently features better controls than 3DS or Wii U, making use of the Wii remote. The Wii version is included with first print copies of the Wii U version of Rodea The Sky Soldier, which are available now. Thankfully, the controls aren’t too bad, and the game itself makes up for the shortcomings.
Graphically, the game is admirable, though the cut scenes are rather disappointing in comparison; I assume this is due to them being low quality encodes of the cut scenes fromt he home console version of the game. The Wii U version will likely have no issues with cut scene quality, and gameplay will be graphically superior to the 3DS version. The game includes both the original Japanese language track, and an English track. Surprisingly, the English track manages to be as good as the Japanese, which was a pleasant shock. Whichever track you choose, the VAs bring the characters to life equally; though beware, you’ll tire of Ion’s talking quickly, especially if you up her chattiness to max. The soundtrack has a pleasant focus on acoustic guitar, never overpowering the character voices or sound effects.
The world map is how the story is navigated; a basic overworld with the story split into chapters. The menu provides access to five areas; Status, Upgrade Area, Play Log, Unlock Area, and Options. Status provides an overview of Rodea’s base specifications, alongside those of the Gear upgrades, and any special abilities that are active. The Upgrade Area is where you exchange mech pieces to upgrade Rodea’s armor, power, speed, special abilities and Gears. Mech pieces are used up after each upgrade, but you can replay chapters at your leisure to get more. The Play Log outlines your rankings in various areas for each chapter. The Unlock Area is the place to spend medals, which are hidden throughout chapters of the story, on unlocking features for the game. To unlock a feature, a prerequisite must be met and the appropriate number of medals collected. Meeting the prerequisites is usually easy, with many being simply to clear a specific chapter, but finding medals requires more effort and exploration. For the most part, options is just your average volume controls; though, you can adjust Ion’s chattiness here, which is accompanied by a warning about the maximum setting.
The game is an enjoyable experience, with the focus on flying action being a welcome change from the usual Japanese games we get to enjoy in the West. It would have been an improvement if the touch screen was utilised for the flying controls in some way though, rather than just aiming with the circle pad.
I played on 3DS, which is a decent option, but I recommend you try the game on Wii if possible, in order to make use of the control scheme initially intended by the original developer.