You can see NiGHTS into Dreams‘ influence in every aspect of Rodea the Sky Soldier. When I sat down to play the game for the first time, I knew I’d “get” it. That becoming Rodea would be like returning to a time when I glided and spun through the sky as an old friend. If you’ve ever played a NiGHTS game before, you’ll find Rodea the Sky Soldier a homecoming.
It starts the moment you begin the game, but before you even start to send Rodea around his world. The visuals are ethereal. You’re exploring Garuda, but it’s an idealized and surreal world. A softened color palette permiates the environment, with floating islands, inviting ruins, and lush greenery abounding. It’s like visiting Splash Garden all over again, only this time it’s far prettier.
The funny thing is, even though the gameplay is similar, Rodea the Sky Soldier feels smoother and more accommodating. As much as I loved NiGHTS, it felt quite loose. Learning the nuances took time. Someone couldn’t expect to soar, dip and spin through the Dreams without an initial learning curve.
Rodea the Sky Soldier was far more inviting. From the moment I took the GamePad, I knew exactly what I had to do. Everything is far more precise. Locking on to objectives to reach new areas or bust up boxes. That isn’t to say it was an effortless or easy experience, as even the initial level provided a minor challenge. My point is that the game seemed eager to help me find my way, without holding my hand.
I believe part of the reason it felt so good is because Rodea’s ability to fly is limited, unlike Nights with his constant floating. The limitations make it easier to pace oneself. There’s no showboating, through Rodea does look quite good as he flies. Rodea the Sky Soldier plays with a purpose.
But, what got me feeling the most nostalgic was the story. I didn’t get to see much of it at E3 2015. After all, you’re getting 30 minutes in a meeting with a company that has at least three games for you to play. But the introduction, which had Ion and Rodea meeting, then discovering Geardo and Naga aren’t a memory, features such strong parallels to NiGHTS‘ story. In each, we have an otherworldly hero, one that isn’t quite human, being bound in friendship to someone without the means of defending themselves against a clearly evil, invading force.
Is it stereotypical? Yes. That doesn’t devalue either NiGHTS or Rodea the Sky Soldier, though. In fact, it made me want to play more. With all the advances in video game storytelling, sometimes you want a return to something simple. It feels like a game where the focus is on the levels and gameplay, and the story is a there to fascilitate further exploration.
Rodea the Sky Soldier is going to be coming to the 3DS and Wii U on October 13, 2015. If you’re considering a copy, I recommend getting an early version of the Wii U iteration from Amazon. The first run includes the Wii and Wii U games, with the former being the only one to offer multiplayer.