Take to the skies in Rodea: The Sky Soldier.
Rodea: The Sky Soldier has been a long time coming. Originally revealed in 2010, and destined for the Wii, the game seemed to disappear for a few years, with the occasional tease that the game was still on the way, until it finally arrived, courtesy of NIS in Europe, for the Wii U and 3DS some five years later. Was it worth the wait?
Players take control of the titular Rodea, a soldier tasked with fighting back the Naga Empire for the sky kingdom of Garuda. In an epic twist of fate, Rodea is knocked out and left unconscious for 1,000 years, only to be awakened to find that he doesn’t remember much and the Naga Empire is still causing trouble. All things considered, it is quite a compelling story that is packed with revelations and is enjoyable to play through. That is, once the player gets past the controls.
The first area, part of the prologue, is where the player will learn how to control Rodea. It is also incredibly bland and really doesn’t sell the game well to a new player. Get through the first area and things do pick up substantially in both the way the areas look, with floating lumps of land in the sky, and what the player can do. But still, the player will need to work through the prologue just to get a grip of the controls, and that is not as easy task.
Controlling Rodea, a flying humanoid, is surprisingly difficult. Rather than just directing Rodea through the air, the player instead has to move an aiming reticule to their desired destination with the circle pad, and then press A to launch Rodea in that direction. Changing direction involves moving the reticule again and then pressing the A button again. It really does take a lot longer to get used to than it should, and will likely be the most difficult barrier to overcome for those who want to play this game.
Attacking enemies in the air will involve first flying towards them, and then pressing the B button to initiate an attack, which will then result in Rodea bouncing in a different direction. There are also objects in the air that Rodea can collect, usually lined up together so the flying hero can grab them all in one go to form a chain. It takes a lot of practice to become proficient with these controls, but there is one aspect that makes it even worse.
The camera in Rodea: The Sky Soldier is an absolute catastrophe. There is no freedom to move the camera, with it instead jumping around by itself, usually in the most frustrating manner. The L and R buttons can rotate the camera, but even this is done to a set amount rather than being free, so rarely leaves the camera pointing in the direction that the player wants. The camera adds a whole level of annoyance to the game, often leaving the player with a game over while they stare at a rock face.
However, once you get through the prologue, master the controls and make peace with the camera, Rodea: The Sky Soldier is quite enjoyable. There are plenty of levels to play through, and with the open nature of the levels and ample things to collect, there is a surprising amount of content here. Regular boss battles challenge the player, and a lite RPG system where the player improves their skills and equipment as they level up, or equip and unlock new weapons or skills, all add to the appeal of the game.
Visually, once you get through the prologue area, the game looks very nice on the 3DS screen. The same can be said for the soundtrack, which is very pleasant. However, the voice work in the game is perhaps not to the same standard, with some voices being downright annoying.
Rodea: The Sky Soldier is a satisfying game when things work out how they should. However, the difficult to master controls and the wonky camera do make the game more difficult than it should be, and the prologue section is in no way inviting. All in all, there is fun to be had here, but the player will have to overlook a lot of problems to find it.