Great production value, an adventurous spirit
Taking so long to come out
Solatorobo: Red The Hunter is in many ways, a miracle game. Not that it’s a miracle the game works, or that it works in all versions of DS and 3DS. No, the miracle is that the game was released at all.
See, it’s the spiritual follow-up and (arguably) the sequel to Tail Concerto, a cult PlayStation classic from the late ’90s. The game had a flair of originality and fun, and was one of the first notable 3D action/platformers. Unfortunately, while the game was timelessly fun, it also suffered from the lack of an analog stick and modern camera controls, which Super Mario 64 was largely responsible for perfecting.
Anyway, while the original game didn’t make a huge splash in either side of the pond, its developer, CyberConnect2, considered it a labor of love and continued to harbor hopes for continuing the story, which it finally did last year. However, while CyberConnect2 was able to release the game in Japan, a Western release seemed like a pipe dream. Fortunately, XSeed Games was willing to suck it up for the North American release, while Nintendo of Europe handled the PAL release itself. So, gamers worldwide get the chance to experience this unique follow-up to a cult game which likely will become a cult game on its own.
But enough about the convoluted backstory (not of the game’s plot, but of its publication). How is the actual game itself? Pretty impressive. This is one DS game that benefits greatly from being played on a 3DS, though, especially if you don’t have a DSi system. The game takes a picture of you to link with your save file, for starters, unless your system doesn’t have a camera. Also, since it is a 3D action game, having the Circle Pad helps quite a bit, even though Solatorobo doesn’t feature true analog control.
The game’s story revolves around Red Savarin, a canine bounty hunter and his sister Chocolat, who get caught up in a world-spanning affair regarding a set of ancient artifacts. Of course, like Tail Concerto before it, Solatorobo is set in a series of floating islands inhabited by the dog-like Caninu and the cat-like Felineko– they tend to not get along very well. When Red meets an unusual Felineko named Elh, things get kicked off into a series of exploratory adventures.
The main actions of the game revolve around piloting DAHAK, Red’s robot frame, which uses the power of lifting as its primary attack method. Red can lift projectiles, crates, stray animals, or even pluck missiles out of the air to throw back at his foes. Later, he’ll learn other powerful attack techniques as well. Carrying things around with DAHAK isn’t just a way to fight; Red can also lift crates to solve puzzles and accomplish other tasks. Battling other robotic frames is also about quickness, as it’s far easier to lift a baddie from behind than facing head-on. Red can take quests from local vendors to revisit areas he’s already explored, and these can range from winning gladiatorial fights to winning a race to showing a bitter new dock worker how to move crates. These can be completed for money and prestige but are the most part optional.
The platforming sequences aren’t as precise as say, Super Mario 3D Land, as DAHAK’s jumps are a bit too vertically inclined for pinpoint jumping, but they still add a small dash of variety to the game’s levels. There’s a bit more variety where that came from, though. In specific areas, Red can equip DAHAK with flight gear, leading to literally flying along a chain of small islands. Also included in the game is the Air Robo GP, a kind of 3D flight race which can be accessed independently of the main story, if the player so chooses.
Visually, the game is very artistic. The 3D graphics are very well done for a DS game, and the game’s story is also interspersed with animated cut scenes that play out from time to time. In addition, the player can collect frames of collectible art from a group of Felineko thieves that must be caught individually, referencing Tail Concerto another time. Music can be collected as well, and speaking of which, the game’s music is also quite well-orchestrated, and sounds appreciably better, again, when played on a 3DS as opposed to a DS Lite due to the difference in speakers. For some reason, all of the game’s characters speak French (which you may have guessed from Chocolat’s name), and issue clipped French phrases when speaking. Only someone who actually speaks French would be able to tell how well the voice actors are doing, but one suspects most of the characters have Japanese accents.
Overall, Solatorobo ends up being a great swan song for the DS. Its production values are stellar, the game plays very well, and is chock-full of some sweet content. Plus, it’s literally as close to MegaMan Legends 3 that any 3DS owners are likely to get in terms of play, style, and overall feeling. That doesn’t mean that Solatorobo is an also-ran, however. This adventure stands on its own and is one of the better handheld games out there– you should pick this game up before it becomes a collector’s item.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.