When games take seemingly random elements of other games and blend them all together into one, the results are usually less than stellar. However, XSEED's latest release, the localized version of CyberConnect2's "Solatorobo: Red The Hunter," manages to mix mechs, RPGs, puzzles, action, and anthropomorphic dogs and cats into one game, and somehow pulls it off.
The story of "Solatorobo" begins with Red, the game's main character, infiltrating a huge airship, looking for a confidential file. All is well until he happens upon a mysterious medallion, and a stowaway passenger, Elh, the first of which causes a giant monster to appear and attack the ship. Red and Elh escape, only to spend the remainder of the game investigating the Shepherd Republic with Red's sister, Chocolat, in toe, looking for the true meaning behind the medallion, and their existence. The remainder of this adventure plays out like an action-based RPG that relies heavily on its story and characters, as it's driving force. In addition to the main story, the game also includes a multiplayer GP mode that basically plays out like "Mario Kart" for the game's airships.
Looking Good On A Little Screen
With the DS' life quickly coming to an end, developers like CyberConnect2 are using the tried and true platform to make some beautiful looking games, and "Solatorobo" is one of them (the screenshots don't do it justice). Everything looks great in this game: the in-game animation is smooth, the cutscenes are well-produced animations, and the characters are all amazingly detailed sprites. "Solatorobo" is a pleasure for the eyes from beginning to end.
Headphones Not Included
To go along with the impressive visuals is a soundtrack that can hang with the best of them. The music is not your standard JRPG fair, and is a little lighter seemingly more fitting for the game's setting. One of the best parts about the music is that each copy of the game comes packaged with a CD soundtrack, so if you really enjoy the game's tunes, you can take them with you.
Customize Your Ride
Our lead character, Red, is a hunter, which affords him access to some amazing technology in the form of his personalized, customizable Robo, Dahak, which he uses as a form of transportation throughout the world. Dahak has been created to allows Red to pick up and move large objects, partake in battles, and even fly (the Robo has multiple different upgradable states). Dahak also offers some of the deepest customization options in "Solatorbo," as you can tweak its abilities by buying "parts" and fitting them into its system in a puzzle like submenu.
Sssssssooooooooooo Much Story
As with most RPGs, "Solatorobo" is heavily story driven, and that's to be expected. However, whereas some games toe the line that keeps a healthy balance between action and exposition, "Red The Hunter" crosses it, and firmly ends up in the later category. While countless scenes of dialog do help establish a rich back story, there's just so much of it that it gets in the way of the enjoyable gameplay, leaving you to just want the characters to shut up after a while. On the plus side, there's so much story it makes you appreciate the gameplay more when it actually goes down.
X Or Y?
"Solatorobo" has got a lot going for it, unfortunately one of those things aren't the controls. While combat is simple (it's a lot of A button mashing), getting around Shepherd Republic tends to be a little more frustrating. Hopping on and off Dahak will send gamers looking versed it more conventional games into an options menu over and over again. It's small, and surmountable, but it's something that is pervasive from the very beginning of the game.
RPGs like "Solatorobo" are hard to come by on the DS, even at this late point in the handheld's lifecycle. Blending so many different genres successfully is a daunting task, but "Red the Hunter" manages to pull it off. As long as you're willing to settle in for more "role playing" than "game" there's a good time to be had here. As for some of the control issues that arise, fortunately, "Solatorobo" is a lengthy investment, and the issues these eventually fade away as you become more and more accustomed to the layout. If you're up for a deep story, and some serious customization, then pick up "Solatorobo" for what could, realistically, be one of the last worthwhile games on the DS.