Nintendo

Rodea: The Sky Soldier (Wii)

rodeawii

Despite immediate indifference to a world populated with pitchy-voiced anime characters, Rodea’s Pinocchio story (a robot comes to understand the realities of being human) is surrounded by everything lovely.

Elegant, Rodea’s world is freeing despite linear and guided pathways. The sense of freedom provided by the unorthodox motion control set-up gifts the Yuji Naka-born sky adventure with plentiful sensation. The fuzzy resolution of the Wii projects a dream-like quality.

It took the better part of a decade to figure out the Wii. Nintendo had their successes; Rodea has become their king. Soft and affable in a world of merging greens and blues, Rodea jets between floating platforms as Mario wished he could in Mario Galaxy. Inventiveness is abound – Rodea clumsily walks with an eight way d-pad in a 360 degree 3D world, but skims and soars effortlessly when in flight. There’s no reason to touch the ground except for a flash of orientation. Like Sony’s Gravity Rush, but better.

Rodea is what happens when high (literally) fantasy greets the gameplay expectations of the often snicker-worthy Wiimote. Gained is a world flushed with ambition and scope, coupled with generous design intelligence. Rodea’s motion feels uninhibited. Waving the Wiimote is less a derided waggle than it is a natural extension of the images and movement on screen. Rodea would make VR dizzying.

Given time and distance, Rodea will come to represent what the Wii should have been – new series and franchises developed for the console as opposed to old series and franchises adapted. The latter was a broken process, and while the former was just as often infuriating (swarming mini-game collections), blame the lack of consideration. Profiteering from a fad came first. Rodea avoids the pitfalls of pointing. The controller is intrinsically conjoined to the action, swift and precise. A world where all Wii games were so thoughtful in their designs would be one with a console burdened by luxury.

Underneath lies a slightly derivative, aged Japanese philosophy. Rodea collects spinning power-ups cocooned inside the jars from Sonic the Hedgehog. Yuji Naka’s influence on Sega is evident, or maybe it’s Sega’s influence on Naka. The former, certainly.

The constant hunt to make Rodea increasingly maneuverable is bothersome. So too is the introduction of a gun – an assault rifle no less – showing an uncertainty that Rodea’s leaping and soaring gameplay devices will function as intended (in addition to souring the playfulness of this world). Rodea only needs to fly, and fly beautifully it will.

4/5

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