There’s no question that Yuji Naka has done a great deal for this industry, introducing us to such marvels as Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS over the years. But he’s also stumbled a little bit outside the Sega era, and hoped to re-catch some of his footing with his latest project, Rodea the Sky Soldier.
But here’s the thing – the game has been in development circles for what seems like years. His team at Prope put the finishing touches on it years ago for the original Wii, but it never released – until now, that is, in the form of retouched Wii U and 3DS releases.
The story revolves around Rodea, a hero who protects Princess Cecilia with a passion after the Emperor Geardo attempts to overtake the sky kingdom of Garuda with the help of his Naga Empire. Even though Geardo is eventually stopped, Cecilia steals an artifact in the process, and Rodea shuts down. Fast forward a thousand years, and he finds himself awakened by a kind inventor, only to be thrust back into the heat of battle when the forces of Naga attempt to take over Garuda yet again.
While the tale sound a bit endearing, the way it’s told isn’t really that magical, as you never really get any sort of feelings for the characters in the game. Of course, that’s the least of the game’s troubles, as NIS America has fiddled with the gameplay so much that it barely resembles the Wii classic that Naka and his team envisioned. In fact, that’s probably the sole reason to get the Wii U version, if at all – and even then, you’re out $50.
The main concern here is that the gameplay, well, is inaccurate. You’ll use the Wii U controller to aim Rodea and then propel him at objects, either to get anywhere or hit enemies. The problem is, they’re frustratingly bad, as aiming can take a great deal of time to get used to, and even then, you’re not always guaranteed success. It took a good half hour to get used to movement and it STILL didn’t work properly for me. Worse yet, the game doesn’t feature any sort of option to use the original Wii controller. Oh, the Wii version does, but it doesn’t make any sense that this one doesn’t.
What’s worse is that the game doesn’t really have proper structure. Sure, you get guns a bit later on, and there are some interesting boss battles that have some moments, but they’re all wrapped around gameplay that you just can’t get your head around. Plus, the world itself isn’t really worth exploring, as it’s lacking the kind of creative touch you expect from Naka and his team. It’s just…there. And never really shines.
On top of that, the presentation, at best, is muddy. The visuals don’t really look any better than what was presented in the Wii game years ago, as the levels come across as drab and the animations stutter way too much. On top of that, there are glitches all over the place, indicating that this is the work of a “quickie” portover – and not the kind of effort we expect from Naka and Prope. The audio’s just as bad, with forgettable music and sound effects that fail to inspire Rodea in any way.
In the end, Rodea the Sky Soldier probably should’ve just come out years ago, in its original form. The controls, we’re willing to bet, are way better with the Wii remote, as they simply feel like garbage the way they stand now. Plus, the presentation doesn’t really do the Wii U any favors, of any kind, making for another forgettable third-party experience. I certainly hope Naka and his team bounce back from his mess, because it deserved a greater fate than this.
And to think, the only redeeming value is the work of Naka himself. C’mon, NIS, what are you thinking?