Rodea The Sky Sol­dier

Wii U, 3DS

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher NIS Amer­ica De­vel­oper Kadokawa Games, Prope For­mat 3DS, Wii U (version tested) Release Out now

First im­pres­sions of Rodea aren’t promis­ing. Boot it up and a mu­si­cal sting plays; too short for the ini­tial load, it loops back around only to cut out al­most im­me­di­ately. Some­how, what fol­lows is of­ten much worse. If you thought Devil’s Third was as bad as it was go­ing to get for Wii U this year, NIS Amer­ica has an un­pleas­ant sur­prise in store.

But where to start? The cam­era is un­fit for pur­pose, lurch­ing as it labours to keep up with the epony­mous lead. It fre­quently gets stuck on the float­ing is­lands that make up each stage, hid­ing be­hind rocks, trees and en­e­mies. Rodea’s glid­ing speed is pa­tience-sap­pingly slow, seem­ingly to en­cour­age you to hurry things along by hit­ting B for a boost, though this makes him much harder to con­trol while de­plet­ing his en­ergy far quicker. And so, as trails of col­lectibles and enemy po­si­tions seem de­signed to keep you air­borne, half the time you spend soaring with arms out­stretched is ac­com­pa­nied by a per­sis­tent bleep telling you it’s time to land.

Touch down, how­ever, and your col­league Ion will re­mind you that walk­ing isn’t the fastest way to get around, and to drive the point home she’s will­ing to re­peat the sug­ges­tion ev­ery few sec­onds. This isn’t even the most ir­ri­tat­ing sound – that’s a close call be­tween Boss bat­tles man­age the rare feat of be­ing both laugh­ably easy and frus­trat­ingly clunky, chiefly thanks to the capri­cious tar­get­ing. Still, it’s good to see Team Ico’s third colos­sus in gain­ful em­ploy­ment once again the in­tol­er­a­ble per­for­mance of the voice ac­tor play­ing Ion’s grand­fa­ther, or the pierc­ing noise that alerts you to the in­com­ing pro­jec­tiles that the cam­era likes to hide from view. Auto-tar­get­ing, mean­while, is a not-at-all-amus­ing joke, the ret­i­cle as likely to pick out a piece of empty turf or a spent powerup cap­sule as the near­est foe, and that’s be­fore the ones with pro­tec­tive shields and re­tract­ing spikes show up, which leads to your GamePad be­ing launched un­grace­fully across the room.

What’s all the more galling is that many of Rodea’s prob­lems didn’t ex­ist in its orig­i­nal form. The Wii version was fin­ished four years ago, but was held back by its pub­lisher so Kadokawa Games could port the game to 3DS and Wii U. Built around pointer con­trols, which not only al­lowed for su­pe­rior ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity dur­ing flight but more ac­cu­rate tar­get­ing, Prope’s orig­i­nal hasn’t been so much con­verted as butchered. As­ton­ish­ingly, the game looks and per­forms markedly worse on Wii U than on older hard­ware, a mud­dier colour pal­ette sap­ping away its for­mer vi­brancy, while the fram­er­ate has been halved from 60 to 30fps – and even the lat­ter is be­yond Kadokawa at times.

Prope’s vi­sion may not have been a clas­sic, but this feels al­most like a wil­ful act of sab­o­tage. Like a fledg­ling with two bro­ken wings, it would surely have been more hu­mane to put the thing out of its mis­ery than let it limp on in this pa­thetic state.

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