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• Solatorobo: Red the Hunter

developed by CyberConnect2/published by Xseed Games
1-4 players/Nintendo DS/2011.09.27

Solatorobo (lit. Sky and Robot)  is said to be a dream project for the developers, who had been fleshing out various aspects of the game’s world for many years.  It is the spiritual sequel to their breakout title Tail Concerto (originally released in 1998 for the PlayStation).  The series is known for its anthropomorphic animal people who pilot robots and airships between floating island cities.

As a bounty hunter, Red takes on odd jobs for cash and along the way becomes entangled in a plot to unleash a power that can destroy the world.  Fans of Tail Concerto can expect a number of cameos, but the main story and characters are completely new.

Hunting For Quests

Players travel from one floating island city to the next, taking on quests that are advertised by the locals.  You’ll defend a cargo ship from air pirates in one moment, and in the next you’ll be rescuing miners trapped underground.  There are dozens of quests, and some introduce entirely unique game play mechanics, such as the air races which serve as the game’s multiplayer mode.

You don’t have to complete every quest in the game, but completing them whenever they’re available is a good idea.  You’ll earn money and find treasure along the way, which can be used to upgrade Red’s robot Dahak.  Tetris-like upgrades can be fitted into the robot, which will improve its defense, attack power, mobility, and hydraulics.

Red and his Robot

Red fights using his robot, which he pilots most of the time.  The robot isn’t equipped with weapons, but can grab and lift enemies and objects (this is where the hydraulics come into play).  Once you’ve hoisted an enemy above your head (repeatedly tapping a button to lift it) you can toss them to inflict damage.  If you’ve upgraded your robot’s hydraulics, lifting enemies is much faster and easier to do.

Likewise, you can catch enemy missiles and throw them back at your attacker.  Most enemies can’t be grabbed and lifted unless they are temporarily resting after an attack, or have their backs turned to you.  This gives the fighting a little bit of strategy, but overall fighting is pretty simple and won’t present much of a challenge.

Red can also get off of his robot whenever necessary.  While riding the robot, Red can’t climb ladders, flip switches, or examine hidden treasures, so he’ll have to dismount to do so.  When running around on foot, Red can only stun enemies temporarily, so he’s much more vulnerable.

 
 

Presentation

Solatorobo displays exceptional art direction in virtually every area.  The island cities and cinematic scenes use a unique combination of hand-drawn artwork and 3D polygons that really pushes the DS to new territory.  The attention to detail really shines through in the variety of locations and characters.

The game features two high quality animated introductions (by animation studio MadHouse), and comes with a bonus soundtrack CD.  It’s right up there with the best available on the DS.

 
 

Difficulty & Length

If there’s one problem with this game, it’s that it is too easy.  The combat and puzzles are extremely simple, which lowers one’s sense of accomplishment.  That’s not to say there aren’t some hard parts here and there, but generally speaking the game is a cakewalk.  The trade-off is that almost everyone should be able to complete the game.

Solatorobo is divided into two parts, each with its own complete story arc.  It’s practically like getting two games in one, and there is even more to do after that!  Players can easily spend more than 20 hours seeing everything the game has to offer.

Conclusion

From start to finish it’s evident that the developers at CyberConnect2 truly cared about the game they were making.  The storyline moves along at a good clip, regularly introducing new areas and game play concepts.  The main problem is that it is too easy; if the combat and puzzles were a bit more involved, it would be nothing short of a masterpiece.  Still, as it is Solatorobo is one of the most polished and memorable games available on the Nintendo DS.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Two stories to complete (16+ hours)
  • Lavish production values
  • Good variety in action (racing, fishing, etc)
  • Cute characters & story
  • Side-quests given more attention than usual

CONs:

  • Generally too easy (simple puzzles)
  • Combat lacks depth
  • Anthropomorphic animals may turn some off

One Sentence Review: An incredible package and the perfect swan song for the Nintendo DS.
One Word Review: Incroyable!

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