Rodea the Sky Soldier was first announced as a Wii title many years ago, and after a slow development process and going through some publishers, it was effectively cancelled until Kadokawa Games, and later NIS America, jumped in to revive the project. In doing so, efforts were made to build an almost completely different the game for the Wii U and 3DS. Fortunately, however, the original incarnation of the game on the Wii received its final finishing touches, and was bundled with the first print copies of the Wii U release as a free bonus disc. So as it stands now, if you want to play the Wii version you need to grab a copy of the Wii U version while the first print stock lasts. As an additional, and very cool extra, you also get a reversible cover art with the Wii U art on one side and the Wii art on the other. The limited availability of the Wii version is a crying shame really, because out of all the releases the Wii version proves to be the most definitive way to experience Rodea the Sky Soldier. To experience Yuji Naka’s latest creation as it was originally envisioned and intended, you simply can’t substitute the Wii U or 3DS version for the vastly superior and enjoyable Wii version, as the difference is quite literally night and day. No two ways or mistake about it, Rodea the Sky Soldier on the Wii is the only version that matters, which is ironic given that it is available only as a bonus disc with the heavily flawed Wii U version. For starters… the Wii cover artwork is awesome!
The health system, the flight gauge, the inventory, the upgrade system, and all the various collectibles, all these little systems and features present in the Wii U and 3DS versions of Rodea the Sky Soldier are completely absent in the Wii version. Not having any of these systems and features is one of the main reasons why the Wii game is so much more enjoyable, as none of these gameplay ideas were very helpful to begin with, nor did they complement the grand design of Rodea the Sky Soldier. Sometimes less is more, and not having any of these unnecessary and convoluted elements is a huge blessing. Without any of the contrived fodder and padding, Rodea the Sky Soldier on the Wii allows players to immerse into the seamless flying sensation. In fact, Rodea the Sky Soldier on the Wii is the only version which truly feels like a spiritual successor to NiGHTS into Dreams, and that alone speaks volumes.
Rodea the Sky Soldier on the Wii makes use of the Wiimote only, no Nunchuk required. This is jarring at first, but that’s the beauty of its simplicity which makes it instantly accessible and enjoyable. You use the Wiimote pointer to lock onto objects/enemies, pressing the B button initiates flight which allows Rodea to freely and effortlessly fly towards the target. The complete absence of a flight meter to limit flight duration, which tarnished the Wii U and 3DS versions, alone makes the Wii version successful in providing the wonderful flying sensation, as it was originally intended by developer Yuji Naka and Prope. The A button is used to perform attacks, and the direction pad on the Wiimote is used only occasionally to walk on foot. That’s it really, Rodea Sky Soldier on the Wii keeps the controls dead simple and intuitive so that you can focus more on the seamless flying action… no bells and whistles to get in the way.
Even mechanically, Rodea on the Wii functions soundly as the flight and homing attacks are executed without a hitch. Furthermore, the lock-on system and the collision detection rarely break the flow of the action, allowing you to execute flying chain combos with far greater ease than you could in the Wii U version. However, there is still one very strong blemish that still unfortunately plagues the Wii version, and that is the camera system and control. For the most part, the camera is correctly adjusted but things can get a bit haywire during boss battles and in certain moments during a level where you need to control the camera. To do so, you have to point the Wiimote away from the screen to adjust your view, and this is as counter-intuitive as it sounds. It’s a real struggle to adjust the camera in this manner, and more often than not pointing the Wiimote away from the screen simply doesn’t register. That fault aside, everything else clicks and flows as they should, making the flying experience and combat a real joy.
Instead of the confusing health system found in the Wii U and 3DS versions, Rodea the Sky Soldier on the Wii uses a vastly different system. There is no health bar, instead it takes a page out of Capcom’s Ghosts n’ Goblins series by utilising a power-up system. Rodea essentially has three armour levels, and power-ups enable him to upgrade his armour. At the very basic level, Rodea has a limited flight range and combat prowess, and upgrading will improve his strength, range, and attack. Take three hits without finding an armour power-up and it’s lights out for Rodea. This simple armour system works so well, and it nicely complements the grand design of the game. There’s other cool power-ups too, such as the machine gun and speed shoes, with the coolest of all being the multi-lock power-up that allows you to lock onto multiple enemies simultaneously to initiate a seamless, and utterly satisfying, chain attack combo.
With solid mechanics and systems in place, the levels in Rodea the Sky Soldier are far more enjoyable, if not a little bit different, in the Wii version. The boss battles are the highlight no matter what version you play, but they’re so much more memorable in the Wii version given that the sound mechanics allows you to focus on the epic battle and not get distracted by other things. Granted, some of the level design issues are still evident, in particular the ones that drag on a bit, but having enjoyable gameplay mechanics in the Wii version makes a world of difference. Best of all, Rodea the Sky Soldier is not only a decent looking Wii game… but it also performs a lot better than the Wii U version, especially when it comes to framerate.
Rodea the Sky Soldier on the Wii, despite some glaring issues such as the unresponsive camera, proves to be an enjoyable flying action game that simply exudes the creative genius of Yuji Naka. It’s a shame that the best, most definitive, and quite honestly the truest, version of Rodea the Sky Soldier exists only as a bonus disc for a limited time. Hopefully down the road this will get another print run or better yet a Virtual Console release, but for now the only way you can experience the true joy of Rodea the Sky Soldier is by purchasing the first print edition of the Wii U release. If you do pick it up, immediately swap the cover out and treat it as a brand new 2015 Wii release.. and just pretend that the Wii U version is the bonus disc.
Journey into the skies with Rodea the Sky Soldier via NIS America.