Sunday, January 17, 2016

Impressions: Rodea the Sky Soldier for the Wii (not Wii U)

I've been busy the past few weeks and will continue to be so. Therefore, I do not know when I'll be able to write a full review after beating Rodea the Sky Soldier. However, since I do have time today, I can write most of my impressions for the Wii version. The consensus I have found online is that this is the best version even though it's only available in the Wii U for the first run. Can you still find it? I say most likely since I was able to get it as well even it's been weeks after the release. I believe that until the publisher says something about the game, there won't be a second run. The shame is that the Wii version is a neat game even with my critiques.

Rodea is an important game for a number of reasons. First, it was announced at the end of the Wii's time and the beginning of the 3DS lifecycle; a time where there were no real support for either. Second, it was by the man behind Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS. When you realize who the developer was, it isn't surprising to see the influences from those two series. Now I haven't played NiGHTS, but I hear it's good and the images I've seen of gameplay show the influences it has on this game.

The basic summary of gameplay is you flying to reach a destination. You collect things called gravitons and when you hit a chain at a specific angle, your flight is guided to complete the chain. Collect 100 and you get a 1-Up. Special stages require certain amounts of gravitons with the goal being to collect a shiny object. You can find item boxes with extra gravitons, 1-Ups, and even a barrier to protect you from 1 hit. Guided paths can be speedy loops, launch points, grinding experiences, speed boost panels. Enemies consist of machines trying to attack living organisms. To attack foes, you perform an homing spin attack which also acts as your boost to reach your destination faster. Sound familiar?

Wii U version screenshot since I can't find official Wii ones
That being said, the gameplay actually works nicely and tries a few new ideas. The game is played with just the Wiimote without the nunchuck. You use the wiimote to point to your destination and then press B to fly. If you just press B, you'll fly in a small but fairly straight arc, but if you swing a bit, the arc will grow. This allows you to attack from the sides or change directions without having to change the camera angle. The latter being useful for gravitron chains. I do advise that you take breaks every stage or two to let your wrist relax from the pointing position.

The damage system is close to Sonic's but not as mean. Each level starts with you able to take 2 hits before death, but you generally can find a flight upgrade which are fairly generously placed throughout the level. The upgrade not only grants you one more hit, but doubles your attack power and distance you can fly with one press. Add the barrier and you can take up to 4 hits at a time. Also, weapon upgrades count as flight upgrades, so you'll almost always be at maximum power. However, once you are down to 1 hit, you are in danger since your flight ability is very weak and you cannot attack anything.

Remember that I said the primary gameplay is when you are flying? When you are in the air, things are fairly smooth and neat. However, once you land, the gameplay feels slow. You move Rodea by using the d-pad on the wiimote while moving the camera by pointing the wiimote at the borders of the screen. This camera movement is incredibly slow and there's no option to speed it up. You also control the camera the same way in the air, but generally the game does a good job in getting it close enough to the right angle for smooth gameplay. That being said, I feel like the game would greatly improve if the d-pad could quickly control the camera when you're in the air, especially during boss battles.

When you are fighting a lot of foes, sometimes it is best to completely give up controlling the camera and switch to automatic view. By pressing the (-) button on the wiimote, you lock on to the nearest enemy and switches when it's defeated until there are no enemies close enough anymore. This is helpful because the camera will shift fast, allowing you to more effectively chain and attack. There is one power up that allows you to quickly lock to multiple foes and attack quickly but I found it slightly hard to master. Luckily, you only need it for a few sections and there you have plenty of time to use it.
It's the Saiyan Scanner thing
Speaking of time, you generally don't have to worry about it, unless you are allowed only to play for 15 minutes at a time. Levels are fairly long which is why I suggest you take breaks. Keeping your wrist at the point position for a long time will make it hurt. There are unfortunately a few sections where you have to race the clock or you lose a life. On the bright side, you generally have a lot of lives and checkpoints are fairly well placed. So far, there's only one time where I had to start back further than I wanted to and I'm on section 22 or 24.

Perhaps the most annoying feature besides the camera is the voice acting. However, NIS America was gracious enough to include 4 languages, including the original Japanese. Once I switched to Japanese, I can totally stand the story now and practice my Nihongo. From the amount of knowledge I have, they pretty much translated everything literally, which is good. Also, if you want more Sonic similarities, I see the same attitude vibe from Rodea every now and then.

Multiplayer is included in the Wii version, but the stages need to be unlocked and are pretty much standard Sonic competition. In other words, they aren't so great. It's a split screen experience and can be played with up to 4 players, but you may want a big TV if you want to try. My TV is pretty small so it's no good for me to get 3 of my friends to even attempt.

So what's my recommendation? I like it so far and do want to play it more often than I have. However, I'm quite busy and when I have free time, the TV is in use. Luckily I can use the Wii U gamepad as my "TV" and play it that way when I really want to, assuming it has a charge and my sister isn't playing Splatoon. If you like Sonic the Hedgehog or NiGHTS, give the game a try if you can find the Wii version. I picked up the game brand new on Amazon for about $32 or $37 and I consider it worth it. If you are worried about the fact that Rodea looks like a Devil, I haven't seen any reference to that yet. The story is that Rodea is a machine who thinks he has a heart and wants to stop the evil robot empire. Anyways. Happy flying!

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