A long time ago in a Toys ĎR Us far far away, there was a PlayStation game I
couldnít live without. Tail Concerto, it was called, and I knew I had to have
it. The smiling canine on the cover and the colorful art reminded me of happier
times Ė childhood, and it seemed it could be to my liking. Of course, back then
as a child when I actually had the time to play every single game I wanted to, I
was lacking the necessary funds. Each sojourn to the toy store that ended in my
being allowed to choose a game never happened to culminate in my choosing Tail
Concerto, though. Instead Iíd choose others, like Fear Effect, or Parasite Eve,
because thatís what my favorite magazines had been talking about. I never did
pick up Tail Concerto, not until a couple of years ago, when I finally
experienced the adorable little game for the first time.
Thatís why I was so excited to play Solatorobo: Red the Hunter
on the DS. As soon as I booted it up, I knew I had found the spiritual successor
to my missed Tail Concerto. Niche games are criminally underrepresented here in
the West, so when I realized that this game would fit the bill nicely to make up
for the time I didnít get to spend with Tail Concerto, I was overjoyed.
Solatorobo revolves around the titular Red, a bounty hunter whoís out for the
almighty dollar. Heís never against making a buck, and will use any means
necessary to get there. The lighthearted adventure is an action-RPG filled with
plenty of cute dialogue, interesting predicaments, and quick-fire combat that
makes for an entertaining weekend adventure.
Your hub world of sorts is Asmodeus, Redís airship, where you can save your
game, head out to the next quest, and check your status. The game is fairly
straightforward when it comes to pointing out the next pathway for you to take,
so whenever youíre unsure of where to go, itís always a good idea to check in
Asmodeus. Exploration is a different story. Usually Red travels on the back of
his trusty robot Dahak, and will rarely leave the safety of the hulking
mechanism unless thereís a switch that needs to be pulled or a walkway that the
robot cannot traverse. You can actually customize the Dahak via puzzle grid
where you can manage inventory a la Tetris, though it can often be unclear as to
what each part actually does. That's where you'll need to consult your game
manual, something that happens admittedly quite rarely nowadays, and gave me a
sense of giddy pleasure. I love manuals.
There are plenty of tasks and side-missions to take on whilst traversing the
world of Solatorobo, and though much of it is entertaining and should hold your
attention, it's quite the simple action-RPG. Enemies are fairly weak and combat
rarely requires more than repeating the same techniques over and over, usually
mimicking your enemies. Leveling up also grants an automatic health boost, so
this only makes staying alive that much simpler. If you're looking for a "real"
challenge you won't find it here, but the tale is so charming you can't help but
fall under its spell anyway.
It helps, of course, that this is certainly one of the most gorgeous games
I've seen on the handheld, sporting several different views and a charming
patchwork look to characters and environments in addition to detailed sprites
and animations. Light, playful music also ensures you never take the story too
seriously, no matter how involved you get. And Red's hilarious more often than
not, keeping you interested in what's going to happen next.
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is a fantastic little action-RPG/platformer
that anyone who grew up wanting (or enjoying) Tail Concerto should certainly
check out, if not simply to sample a bit of a rather unique genre, or just to
check out the lush colors and the detail in many of the areas. It's also one of
the most gorgeous games I've seen on the console, with charming patchwork
visuals and playful music that help bring the whimsical story to life in
lighthearted fashion. Genre fans will love its unique sense of humor and
classic-style gameplay, even if it is a fairly simple adventure with easy combat
and little strategy, outside of using the same techniques over and over. XSEED
Games saw fit to publish this lovable little title and for good reason - it
might not top the sales charts, but you'll certainly remember it long after
turning it off.