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Solatorobo: Red The Hunter Review

A bounty-hunting fox in a floating island world. Wait - it gets weirder!

Solatorobo DS review In Japanese, 'Solatorobo' means 'Sky and Robot', which is an endearingly literal description of the two main themes in this game. You play as a chap called Red, who rides around using an airship in the sky and a battle-robot on the ground.

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Solatorobo: Red The Hunter takes place in a world populated by humanoid dogs and cats with Red himself bearing the closest resemblance to a fox..It's certainly a bizarre setting but it's also a wonderfully unique one. It's also beautifully drawn and in all our years of playing games, we've never seen anything quite like it.

Slow Burner

Red is a bounty hunter working with his sister, Chocolat, who pilots their airship. A mission to retrieve a secret document from a huge airship called the Hindenburg results in the discovery of a magic medallion and the rescue of a mysterious young cat-girl as well as the entire ship going up in billowing flames.

You never really know what to expect as Solatorobo keeps throwing random new ideas at you. A quarter of the way through, for example, your robot suddenly gains the ability to fly, letting you take part in aerial races with Mario Kart-like items. Hours and hours later you discover fishing, a meaty sub-game in which you chase giant hermit-crabs through the sky before skewering them with a harpoon.

It's only right at the end of the game that Red discovers his neat ability to transform into a super-powered human during battles. But then you find out that there's a whole second story to play through, which is also full of new ideas. The downside of all this, though, is that it takes a while to warm up - the first few hours really don't show what it's capable of.

You'll spend most of the time flying from sky-island to sky-island in the airship and landing in towns, each with their own selections of quests and characters. Each area has its own distinctive look and personality, which gives the game a real sense of place - there's an enormous, pearlescent metropolis that you encounter at the start of the second story; a verdant, bug-infested island whose inhabitants travel around on the backs of giant ladybirds; and a town that's inexplicably full of Canadians.

Do The Fox-Plot

The meat of the game comes from taking on quests for the locals - five-minute tasks that range from item-collecting and battling to defending airships from pirates and cute little detective stories. Quests will improve your Hunter Rank and level you up.

The story is one of Solatorobo's strengths. It's not so much the actual plot, which is largely predictable in the first half and goes completely crazy in the second, but the characters, who are an appealing band of optimistic youngsters. Red himself is a cocksure chap, but likeable nonetheless, and the baddies are enjoyably cartoonish. There's a lot of text to be read, though - quests are interspersed with minutes of written banter, and there's so much of this that it can become really tiresome.

On the ground, you stomp around on a robot called Dahak, a big orange robo that has massive arms. You fight other robots by picking them up and throwing them onto the ground, catching them again on the rebound to chain combo attacks, or by snatching their missiles out of the air and lobbing them back.

Once you've grabbed hold of something, you hit the A button to lift it up with your mighty robotic limbs. It's a simplistic but surprisingly enjoyable combat system, although it does get a bit old by the end of the first story. So it helps to refresh things when special moves and transformations open up in the second story.

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16 comments so far...
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  1. Eragon Firesword Friday 1st Jul 2011 at 15:00

    I do think I'll buy this. It ticks all the right boxes - crazy anime plot, gorgeous visuals, and mechs!

  2. spacemen13 Friday 1st Jul 2011 at 16:02

    I think that it's a stylish and good drawn game, but mind you it's meant to be really easy

  3. Violet Friday 1st Jul 2011 at 18:33

    Gonna snap this up, we need more games with as much sheer personality and charm like this. Being easy and a bit of a slow burn isn't a problem, better than being a slow burn and hard, like Infinite Space, for instance.

  4. Shmilly Saturday 2nd Jul 2011 at 14:16

    This looks quite niche, but worth a look. Bit of a translation error in the title though, if they'd actually studied Japanese they'd know it's "Sora to Robo", sky being "sora" not "sola" - for some reason they romanised it and stuck it together as one word. Don't think it'll slip past us, localisers. xD

  5. Violet Saturday 2nd Jul 2011 at 17:55

    Ah, but Schmilly, Solar means sun over here, so keeping it as Sola is actually fairly clever! Sort of.

  6. Layton link Saturday 2nd Jul 2011 at 23:57

    I dont know if i should buy this.
    i mean it looks like a furry paradise.
    and i want to kill all furrys

  7. BJQ1972 Sunday 3rd Jul 2011 at 11:10

    Although it sora, the way it is pronounced sounds more like a mixture of sora and sola. Isn't the katakana the same for ra and la?

  8. Shmilly Sunday 3rd Jul 2011 at 11:48

    Although it sora, the way it is pronounced sounds more like a mixture of sora and sola. Isn't the katakana the same for ra and la?

    Well in Japanese they only have the one sound for either "r" or "l", and it's sorta halfway inbetween. But you'll find that in any romised text, and most hiragana/katakana charts, the letter "l" is nowhere to be found. As an example, imagine looking up lyrics for say an anime theme song, and you'll see what I mean ^^;

  9. OrangeRakoon Sunday 3rd Jul 2011 at 23:27

    I bought this game yesterday, and am currently about 10 hours in. My thoughts so far? I love it.

    The story and theme of the game can be summed up as 'Handheld Skies of Arcadia with animals'. And that is a very big compliment. If you haven't played Skies of Arcadia, first off, I recommend it! It was a dreamcast game, but remade with added content and some gamplay tweaks for Gamecube, so you can play it on the wii as long as you have a GC pad and a memory card. It's a great game! As for similarities to Solatorobo - both main characters have strikingly similar personalities, full of optimism and bravado. Both games have you exploring a world made up of floating islands with an airship. Both games have you find and rescue a magical major character who is one of two remaining of their race and integral to saving the world, where the other of their race is a past friend who appears to be working for the evil side now. Both games have you racing against the villains to retrieve magical stones to either prevent or cause the end of the world, depending on your side. And both games have an almost lovable cast of villains, who each have their own personality and in-fighting, rather than just being purely evil. And finally, as if the games couldn't be any closer, both games are pretty easy, yet completely forgiveable and fun to play anyway.

    It's the difficulty that is the game's major flaw, and something quite rightly brought up in this review. You just feel that should they have made enemies do more damage/given you less health, the game would be much more enjoyable for it. However, with the constant variety in tasks thrown at you, the difficulty doesn't lead to boredom through repetition, as you're always doing something new. That's where I disagree with this review - I find the pacing in the game very good. Some games throw everything at you at once, where you miss half of it and then play the rest of the game meeting nothing new, leading to boredom. Solatorobo doesn't do that, but neither does it slowly show you new features. You meet a new part of the game, perhaps take another quest or two (which are short in length) playing with that new feature, then it gives you another. At ten hours, there probably hasn't been a single half-hour time-frame in which I haven't met something new or different. But it gives enough time to not feel rushed through the content.

    My other problem with the game is that, in battles with many enemies on the screen, I suffer with a fair amount of slowdown. Now, I'm playing on a DS Lite, and I'm imagining the game is optimised for the DSi or DSXL, with the increased processing power. On either of those, it probably isn't an issue at all. On DS or DS Lite, it's a small thing that comes up rarely, but it is a little niggle.

    As for making use of DS features, the power is about all it does use. The stylus doesn't get touched throughout the game, and almost everything uses only the D-pad, A and B. X is simply for menu, L and R are only used in the odd mini-game, and start and select not at all (apart from select toggling inverse controls in a few mini-games). Almost all the action takes place on the touch screen too, the top screen simply giving a map that isn't even needed, apart from it's use in cutscenes and the fishing mini-game. It really does feel like a GBA game to me. But make no mistake, that isn't a bad thing. It feels like a solid, GBA RPG, making use of the increased power of the DS. That is not a bad thing, to me at least.

    The graphics, once you get over the initial aversion to furriness, are actually very impressive, with a clever and working mixture of 3D models and 2D sprites. In the many cities, which serve as the hubs and locations of many quests and you'll spend most of the game in, the screens are bustling with activity - 3D airships flying overhead, while 2D hand-drawn trains and cars whizz about in the background across distant tracks and roads. The positioning of the camera is well thought out in these locations, although more generic but still mixed up a bit in the dungeon areas.

    I have ended up writing lots here, so I apologise, but I hope this helps people who are thinking about the game make their mind up, considering the great lack of reviews on the internet. Myself, I am thoroughly enjoying the game.

  10. ThatOldVagrant Friday 8th Jul 2011 at 04:47

    @Layton Link

    Oh for crying out loud. It's kemono, look it up. Here, I'll save you the trouble...

    Kemono is a pretty common visual style in Japan, where this game originates from, as you likely haven't realised. It was translated for regions outside of Japan, but it's still quintessentially a Japanese game.

    Not a furry here, I just happen to actually know a thing about Japanese culture.

    What is it about furry haters, though? Seriously. They all seem to be culturally stunted, obnoxious, xenophobic little twits. They can't even look at a Japanese artstyle without letting their xenophobia kick into full rage mode. I swear, people like this, it's like they've never been outside their own basement.

    Read some books and do some travelling, Layton Link, and maybe your knowledge of the world wouldn't be limited to knowledge about games and 4chan.


    And if you'd ever taken a life, you wouldn't be throwing around 'kill' so easily, believe me. And no, videogame violence does not constitute the real world variant. Take it from someone who knows.

    What a prat.

  11. Gothic_Geek Saturday 9th Jul 2011 at 11:51

    As soon as I read the first sentence I knew I had to say something about the dodgy romanisation, but Shmilly beat me to it! Ah, well. I'll quench my thirst for correction by posting the Japanese:????? (or at least I assume it's like that) Anyway, I'd assumed that after finishing Okamiden my DS would just turn into an alarm clock until it eventually snapped in two because of the hinge wearing out like my old DS lite. :cry: But I think I'll get this game now and my DS will live on! I love crazy Japanese awesomeness! :mrgreen: ...

    I just looked up the actual name of the game in Japanese and they've written it all in katakana: ?????? I guess having it all as one word in the romanisation makes sense since they coined it as one word (kinda like Okami I guess which has ? oo and ? kami (normally 2 words) but they stuck them together so that they could make the sound Okami, which, when written like this: ?, means 'wolf'.)

    Phew, I'm tired from all this keyboard switching!

  12. Gothic_Geek Saturday 9th Jul 2011 at 12:02

    Ah, it appears that the Japanese text won't appear on the article page :lol: (but if you click on the comments section it shows up)

  13. RaidingRaichu Sunday 10th Jul 2011 at 14:07

    The only thing that puts me off is the animals.. Why animals? Is it essential to the story or something?

  14. Nickario Sunday 24th Jul 2011 at 21:52

    Over time, I read about this game and for some reason my interest grew in it more and more. I guess I'm becoming a bigger fan of solo RPG/Adventure games after growing bored of the online FPS genres. Plus this game averages around 80-90% total from all online and magazine reviews, so for once it would be good to play a little known game that is surprisingly good. From all the reviews I've read all the minigames and sidequests on offer here remind me of all the side stuff you could do in Sly Cooper 3 for PS2 and I loved that game for it, you could take part in aerial dogfights and traverse a pirate treasure map looking for ships to engage, it made for great variety from the main game and it all worked, and from what I've heard about Solatorobo, it's a similar case with its racing game and crab harpooning game.

    I'm definitely interested, I just need something to totally convince me since I got a 3DS but I do need something to tide me over the summer now I've finished OoT 3D, Link's Awakening and Pokemon White outright.

  15. AquaMisty Friday 19th Aug 2011 at 17:29

    This looks brilliant! It's great to be able to get a good game in the UK that isn't Pokemon,Mario or Zelda (by the way i love Pokemon,Mario and Zelda so this is not a critisism ):D

  16. Mew3 Sunday 18th Aug 2013 at 09:21

    More people need to buy this game. Everything about it is amazing. The music is great quality (seeing as it's on a ds), the cutscenes (especially the anime ones) are fun to watch and the characters have their own personalities.

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