Rodea The Sky Soldier
Wii U, 3DS
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.