It’s almost become customary to have a Wii U and 3DS edition of the same title launch simultaneously, with not only obvious cosmetic differences, but even differences in the controls and the way in which gameplay systems are implemented. We’ve seen this happen to Sonic entries on Nintendo platforms, with games like Sonic Lost World and more recently Sonic Boom. Capcom pulled this off with class when they launched Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate simultaneously on the Wii U and 3DS, with both versions being equally stellar. Rodea the Sky Soldier too joins this trend, as accompanying the main Wii U version is this 3DS version that shares most, if not all, of the gameplay systems and mechanics, albeit a few differences to make the experience more functional on the handheld.
For all intents and purposes, Rodea the Sky Soldier on 3DS is the exact same game as the Wii U version, with all flaws and issues intact. That being said, Rodea on the 3DS does not feel like a watered down de-make of the Wii U game, as it surprisingly ends up being a complete game in its own right, fully optimised for the 3DS hardware. Obviously this game would be more enjoyable on the 3DS XL or the New 3DS, but it actually functions quite comfortably on the original 3DS model also. Those expecting a rushed port of the console game done with no care or effort, will be surprised by how well the 3DS version of Rodea the Sky Soldier stands on its own feet.
Being an identical experience to the Wii U version is a admirable feat, but unfortunately the Wii U version is a very flawed game for reasons that were highlighted in its own review, and so the 3DS version suffers from all the same shortcomings in gameplay systems, mechanics, and even overall game design. However, things change a little bit from a graphical and technical side of things, as the optimisations needed to fit a Wii U game into the weaker 3DS hardware proves to be a mixed blessing.
The otherwise bland and uninspiring visuals of Rodea the Sky Soldier prove to be more acceptable in a 3DS screen for the most part (mind you the 3DS can produce some damn fine graphics). The technical limitations of the 3DS also prove to be a mixed blessing, as the problematic camera, which is a consistent blemish in the Wii U version, is noticeably less erratic and intrusive in the 3DS version. The glaring flaw in the portable version, however, is the short draw distance which makes navigation quite difficult as objects and platforms seem to pop up out of nowhere. There’s a constant blurry fog at a distance, and although it doesn’t make the game unplayable, still ends up making the experience a bit of a trial and error affair if you’re playing the levels for the first time.
The controls actually feel a lot better on the 3DS, which makes Rodea the Sky Soldier a fun and effective portable action game where things click and function a lot better than they do when playing with the Wii U Game Pad. Having a limited camera control system proves to be a blessing in disguise, as the camera placement is correct for the most part. In optimising the experience for the handheld, they ended up making the game control and flow a little better than the main console release.
There is, however, a lot of missed opportunity here that could have made Rodea the Sky Soldier on the 3DS much better than what we ended up getting. The complete lack of stylus usage hurts, as making use of the stylus to point and swipe could have made the flying system far more enjoyable. The digital and analogue controls work fine, but an option to use the touch pad would have been great… or better yet a combination of the two. It’s not unreasonable or unrealistic either, as we have seen games like Kid Icarus Uprising make great use of touch pad and button inputs for a stellar and uniquely 3DS experience. If anything, the developers dropped the ball by basing the 3DS version on the Wii U game rather than the original Wii version, which honestly could have translated quite comfortably onto the 3DS.
Rodea the Sky Soldier on the 3DS is nearly identical to the Wii U version, and is fully optimised and functional for the handheld. However, just because they pulled it off doesn’t change the fact that Rodea the Sky Soldier is still a fundamentally flawed and lacking experience. That being said, the 3DS optimisation actually makes the experience a bit more bearable, and so if you really wanted to play it and had no other choice, then Rodea the Sky Soldier on the 3DS feels like it was intended for the handheld, and not some lazy watered-down port.
Journey into the skies with Rodea the Sky Soldier via NIS America.