It’s Raining Cats, Dogs and Robots.
With so many new games bursting onto the scene in the lead up to Christmas, now can be a good time to look back on our extensive video game catalogs and see what hidden gems we have just sitting on the shelf, gathering dust. Between the excitement of new releases, older games sometimes do become forgotten so it is always nice to just pull out something you haven’t played in a while to remind yourself of how far we have come with gaming. After all, just look at the huge jump between the Playstation and Playstation 4. Such a jump is incredible, just like the jump from the humble Nintendo DS to the 3DS. The Nintendo DS introduced gamers to so many new titles and a plethora of new heroes for us to grow fond over. One of the more obscure but certainly one of the fuzziest would be the fun and peculiar cast of a little DS game known as Solatorobo: Red the Hunter.
You may be a bit confused about the odd little title for this game but fret not as it does have an actual purpose and relates to the game in some fashion. Translated from Japanese, Solatorobo actually means ‘Sky and Robot’ which plays heavily into the setting of this story. In a very surreal world of floating islands inhabited by anthropomorphic cat and dog people, our titular hero Red flies around in his trusted robot. Travelling their world with his adorable sister Chocolat, the duo explore the land in search of adventure and for quests to fulfill, all the while speaking French (which is their native language for some odd reason, but fret not as it is translated thankfully).
However, after coming into contact with a mysterious feline and coming into possession of a mystical amulet, Red and his motley band of heroes are now being chased through the skies by a group of baddies determined on world wide destruction. At first glance the story and indeed the setting may seem a bit too wacky and out there for some people – however, after experiencing the world with Red and getting to know the other characters inhabiting this strange world, you probably won’t be questioning the reality of the situation. If other big titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog can get away with an almost exclusively animal-based cast then there is no need to be so confused here. As an early DS game, there isn’t much in the way of voiced dialogue so you will be scrolling through A LOT of text to get to the meat of the story. however this isn’t inherently bad per say. After spending time with Red and his friends, they grow on you and certainly aren’t the most annoying cast of characters a game could have. With a fun sky-pirate themed world and likable characters, the story is a pleasure to experience.
In terms of the actual game play, it is a bit difficult to really discuss in depth. There are two elements that make up the majority of play time – robot combat coupled in with some flight missions as well as brief puzzle sections. The robot combat is fought through Red’s trusted robot vehicle called Dahak, which looks visibly impressive but isn’t exactly the most threatening machine to control. All it really does is pick up objects with its huge arms and throws them at enemies and obstacles. As far as controllable mechs go, it isn’t the most exciting thing to talk about. You can pull off some extra damage by catching your thrown object on the rebound to smash it into your enemy again but that’s it to be honest.
Dahak can be upgraded using a Tetris-styled system, but this really only affects its attack strength or how quickly it can move. Red can hop out of his robot buddy in order to explore brief sections of the environment which is where the small puzzle element comes into the game. Sadly though, it really is a very small fragment of the overall game play and doesn’t happen often enough. Red can jump out and, say, flick a switch or move something around to clear his way, but then after that it’s back into the mech for more grabbing and throwing. It becomes repetitive rather quickly. You are left slightly torn with the fun and engaging story and stale game play. It makes sense as to why most of the game is staged out in different quest missions to break it up with dialogue, as this style of playing would be a bigger slog to get through without anything to break it up and sustain your interest. These quests will occasionally inject something rather random to do – such as sky chases, arena battling or even photograph hunting, but these usually pop up once or twice then never again.
Looking over Solatorobo: Red the Hunter as a whole, it really is a tale of two halves. On the positive side, you have a brilliantly creative story that is bursting with ideas and is full of many twists and turns. It has likable characters, funny dialogue as well as a fresh and quirky art style that transitions well between cut scenes. A lot of love was injected into the game on that side, yet it seems that the game play does suffer from it. You are very unlikely to die at any point during this RPG adventure, and you are barely challenged by the combat at any stage, even with the boss battles that pop up every now and again. As well as that, the small puzzle element isn’t even that challenging to begin with- they could barely be called puzzles. It’s safe to say that the game play seems so laid back that it is practically horizontal. Rather than rushing through this DS title though, take the time to go through it leisurely and enjoy the engaging story. You will have to just push through past the mediocre robot sections but once you get past that obstacle, you can enjoy more of the game’s lore and characters. Give Solatorobo: Red the Hunter a chance for it’s story and you will have a pleasant experience.