"Basic and Bizarre, Yet Somehow Refreshing"
The year was 1999 and a little PlayStation game titled Tail Concerto came out by CyberConnect2 (famous for dozens of Natruto and dot Hack games). At that time, nobody in the US played it. Okay, well, to be fair, some did, and to their great surprise, it was fun. Not only that, but all these years later the US sees a release of Solatorobo: Red The Hunter – not a sequel, or a prequel, but perhaps a spiritual companion piece to Tail Concerto. Even more surprising is that we see this release at a time when the DS has been passed by to make room for the 3DS (fanboy arguments aside). Regardless of how obscure this game is, and the fact very few may actually play it or buy it, it's really great to see Solatorobo see a release on the DS.
- A vibrant world awaits those looking for a charming JRPG -
Solatorobo is an action-RPG with a little bit of a unique styling – many of the characters (including, Red, the hero you play as) are anthropomorphic animals of some sort. Furries will rejoice that’s for sure. Regardless of the love this game will garner from the furry fandom, most everyone, and anime fans especially, will find that the characters are bright and brimming with style. The animation is typical anime fare, but the towns and cities are full of detail and design. Overall, Solatorobo is charming at the least and uniquely aesthetically satisfying at best. With a good mix of 2D and 3D, Solatorobo finds a good balance between the two worlds and gives gamers a real visual treat, especially for those with a with a soft spot for retro-styled RPGs.
While any J-gamer will also find a love here, Solatorobo is full of faults, depending how you look at it. First off, the gameplay and controls are well done, with a basic action-RPG scheme we’ve seen hundreds of times. There is nothing inherently bad, it's just nothing new and exciting. Take this bland gameplay and put it into a game where no real challenges are present, and you’re not looking at much in the way of groundbreaking or breathtaking. You’ll pretty much have your hand held throughout the game, as dungeons are a cinch, with basic lever-pulling puzzles even young children have no trouble solving. There are two ways to look at it: is Solatrobo for children, or adults? If it is for children, does that mean the designers should give kids more credit with more diverse gameplay and more complex puzzles and adventure? There seemed to be a struggle during development that using these bright, happy, cute, furry critters would deny the game of any mature punch the story or gameplay might have otherwise had. But don’t both children and adults love Zelda? Then again, Zelda doesn’t hit the cute factor that Solatorobo does, nor does it have onslaughts of furries running around, already gearing it right (probably unintentionally) into that fandom niche.
I know to many of you RPG fans consider the soundtrack an important element. Well I can’t say it’s terrible, nor is it anything that will blow you away. It’s pretty basic Japanese fare. The opening song And Then, To Coda sails you in with mystical voices, very romantic strings and airy melodies. However, the game continues along the line of being very basic RPG music for most part, with a few good things here and there sprinkled throughout the score. The sound effects can range from annoying to okay, with cute critters shouting ‘cute’ high-pitched sounds at you and ostensibly giggling for no reason.
- The characters are cliché and the story rote, but it's enjoyable all the same -
Solatorobo never challenges you, the story is fairly basic with a typical hero with a heart of gold, and there’s not much beyond a couple extras here or there (a few mini-games and side quests), but what I love most about this game is that it’s something we rarely get here in the US: a game full of uniquely-styled critters that's a spiritual successor to a title very few played, released on a system that hardly anybody is buying anymore. Now that’s ballsy for the publisher. Regardless, the publisher XSeed knows Solatorobo may not be a major success, but they’re also testing the market for these types of games. At the end of the day, with all the anti-furry commentary that is sure to come, Solatorobo is an charming, fun game with not much meat, but it’s a heckuva nice visual piece. It’s a game that will score high with fans, moderate with critics, and very low for J-Game naysayers and furry haters. Personally, I love this little adventure!
GameDynamo's Score for Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS/DSi)
Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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