Every 1000 years, the land of Garuda comes close enough for those on the world of below to reach. Garuda holds some valuable resources that the land below are in desperate need of. Rodea’s mission is to make sure that Garuda stays safe, despite being from the land below himself.
After 1000 years of sleep, Rodea has been at last repaired. After a struggle to find the princess in the prologue, Rodea was broken. You see, he’s a robot. He’s finally been repaired, although he has no memory beyond his name and his mission. Unfortunately, there’s not much time for him to retrieve his memory, as the Naga Empire has once again begun to attack Garuda, hoping to gain access to their resources. Rodea sets off to try and stop them once again.
Rodea: The Sky Soldier follows the story of the flying robot, Rodea. As you traverse through the 25 levels that the game features, you’ll encounter a wide variety of robotic enemies, traps, and puzzles. The main feature of Rodea is his flight – you’ll be setting off, flying through these levels, trying to make it to the end alive.
Unfortunately, this is nowhere near as easy as it might sound. The basic concept is simple – press A to jump, and then press it again to prepare to fly. After that you can either head for a specified point, or charge at an enemy. Doing this gets severely hindered due to how the control scheme, namely the camera, work out.
The camera in Rodea: The Sky Soldier is, well, pretty garbage. You can only turn the camera at 90 degree angles, something that proves to be a giant hinderance in a 3D game. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to just slightly turn the camera, only for it to jerk 90 degrees in the specified direction, often meaning I couldn’t easily see the place I had wanted to go.
The troubles don’t end just with trying to turn the camera like that. In order for you to aim where you want Rodea to go, you need to aim with the analogue stick (note: I was playing the 3DS version but I’ve read that the Wii U version is the same). This aiming felt incredibly slow, especially considering you can only really “aim” when you’re actually preparing to fly and you have a time limit before Rodea just starts flying on his own. Attempting to make minor corrections often turned into a nightmare, and Rodea has a fondness for the underside of islands and bridges. Getting out from these places is terrible and may even lead you to falling to your death.
Rodea does have a limited amount of time he can remain in flight. This time gets refreshed if he lands on a wall, or if he enters a graviton core collection chain. The flight time will sometimes also refresh upon hitting/defeating an enemy, although I didn’t see it that much. Your charging attack – on of the faster ways to move, as otherwise the flight speed feels incredibly slow – will drain your flight time fairly fast. You’ll need to use this attack a lot too so that you can take out the numerous enemies in each level.
As you progress through the game, you’ll meet different types of enemies. While your charge attack proves useful for taking down most, there are those that will likely just kill you should you try to fight them that way. It’s at these points where your machine gun will come in handy. Once equipped and charged, you can use it to stand on a safe platform and just snipe down these enemies. Well, I say snipe, but they’ll still take quite a few hits to actually die.
Another item you gain access to is the Dash Boots. I hardly ever used these, as when I tried to use them, I just wound up smacking head first into an enemy, often resulting in me dying.
To upgrade Rodea, you’ll need to collect items from enemies. While on the world map you have the option to enter the upgrade area. When you have enough components, you can choose from the various upgrades here to help Rodea become even stronger. These upgrades add in a fair bit of replay value in the levels as you hunt down some of the rarer components.
Something else that adds in replay value into the game are the medals and records. Medals are hidden throughout the levels, ranging from bronze up to gold. While sometimes they’ll just be sitting out in the open, others – especially the gold ones – actually wind up hidden within secret areas that you’ll need to hunt down. The records in the levels will show how well you did, and will push you to do even better.
Finally, there’s the boss fights. While some boss fights are simply avoid attacks and rush at the boss, others will take a bit more coordination. One boss in particular is a Shadow of the Colossus style boss. It’s many times larger than the screen and becomes a gigantic headache to actually fight. You need to first get to a spot on his head, avoiding his giant swipe hand attack that is near impossible to actually see. After that, you have to find 5 spots on his body. This proves to be a nightmare as the camera does not like to cooperate at all, and neither does Rodea. There was one point during the fight that I seemingly got stuck within his arm and had to work my way out. The camera was freaking out in the same way it does when you’re trying to get out from under a ledge.
While Rodea: The Sky Soldier shows great promise with the story, the camera and controls absolutely butcher the experience. What’s sad is that while I was looking at footage of the original Wii version (which is included with the Wii U version of the game), the game looked incredibly smooth to play. Somewhere in the transition to 3DS (and Wii U), the controls just got completely destroyed, leaving behind a hard to control experience. For those who have a New 3DS or the add-on for the original 3DS, you don’t even get a break on the camera there – it’s still bound to the same method, forcing you to live with 90 degree camera changes. I had high hopes going into Rodea, and unfortunately those hopes were quickly shot into the ground as I ran into the completely frustrating experience. Unless you can get ahold of the Wii version, it’s in your best interests to just give this game a pass.
Rodea: The Sky Soldier Review Score
I would like to note that I frequently suffer with motion sickness in certain games (to the extent that I can’t even play games such as Gravity Rush). I have tried to leave out this personal issue as much as I could within this review, however some may have come through. While Rodea never made me feel motion sick in the way that Gravity Rush did, it did cause me to experience frequent headaches which lead to me being unable to fully complete the game, mainly from the camera. You have been warned.
I would like to thank NIS America for providing me with a 3DS copy for review.