As someone who covers Sonic news and previews for Sonic Stadium, this has been one of the worst E3’s ever for Sonic news. Despite Sonic Boom : Fire and Ice and Mario and Sonic at the 2016 Rio Olympics coming soon, neither of them were on the show floor. The closest things to Sonic games at E3 are Freedom Planet (a preview is available for a limited time on the Nintendo E-Shop) and Rodea the Sky Soldier. A game designed by Yuji Naka and published by NIS America.
Rodea the Sky Soldier is an action platform game that heavily involves flying. You play as Rodea, a cyborg, cat-like boy who has woken up from being asleep for 1,000 years only to find the enemy he destroyed centuries ago has returned. The game play itself is very reminiscent of NiGHTS and a little bit of Sonic Adventure which I will get into momentarily. In the game, Rodea has an arsenal of different moves at his command. The main one being a targeting lock-on that let’s Rodea fly to enemies and locals. You can also hit the “B” button to fast attack targets such as large, hovering robots.
If you remember that in Sonic Adventure, Sonic can get special shoes that allow him to quickly grab a trail of rings that are in the air. That aspect is in Sky Soldier as well. You can target a line of yellow crystals and fly to them. This often acts as a trail to quickly get to the next floating island or set piece. When done properly, it gives the game a sort of speed-run feeling. You also use this targeting system to target enemies and boost to them for an attack or find a piece of island to land on before your flight meter runs out. Flying around these crystals, enemies and such gives the game a bit of a “NiGHTS” feeling while still being pretty original. However…
The Wii U controls are very difficult to get a good handle on. I tried the demo on two different occasions and during both times I found myself target the wrong spot and flying either into a wall or on the underside of an island before falling to my death fairly often. Both moving your character and targeting are on the same stick while the camera control is on the right, but you can’t use the camera controls if locked onto a target. It made it so I was having difficulty getting through even some of the earlier stages. Even after learning what does what and playing the game for over half an hour, I still couldn’t master it. Perhaps it’s the regular button/dual stick combo that is the problem. This game was originally meant as a Wii game only and I can see Wiimote/Nunchuck controls actually being a benefit as it feels like targeting would be much more effective by aiming with the Wiimote thus allowing your character to move while targeting. Sadly, I found out from the gentleman showing off the game that only the Wii version (which comes with the Wii U version of the game) has those kind of controls.
One other minor negative is that the graphics haven’t really gotten much of an HD upgrade from the Wii version. It’s definitely a higher resolution, but the low polygon count and bland textures remain. Even the CGI cutscenes are still fairly low res. The biggest highlight here is the 2-D artwork looks very high-res and sharp on the Wii U version. However, since the graphics aren’t a major upgrade, it may give me a good reason to stick with the Wii version included.
Which is a shame since this game shows a ton of potential and originality. It’s the most…”Yuji Naka” of Yuji Naka’s Prope Studio games. It feels fresh while still having feature reminiscent of NiGHTS and Sonic Adventure. However, it also feels like a game from those times as well. It’s controls are archaic and the game itself seems about ten years behind the times. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing more on Rodea the Sky Soldier and hoping the full version proves my fears wrong.
Rodea the Sky Soldier will release on Wii U (with Wii version included) and 3DS in North America on October 13th and in Europe on October 16th.