Review: 'Solatorobo: Red the Hunter'
Xseed, September 2011 - $34.99
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is a story-based role-playing game for the Nintendo DS, featuring character design that should more than appeal to furries. If anything, it's as furry as any Star Fox game, and the characters’ animal nature has more effect on the story than just punny names.
Setting and Story
In the world of the story, everyone is either a cat or a dog. There doesn’t seem to be much racial conflict between the two groups, which I’m counting as a plus for the setting. The character designs are just too darn cute for metaphors about race.
The world these animals live in is a collection of floating islands hovering above a deadly sea of clouds. They use steampunk airplanes to get around, and robots for everything from heavy labor to fighting.
The setting appears magical at first, replete with talismans and other apparently magical apparatus, with steampunk accoutrements for flavor. As the story progresses, the world is shown to be based more in science fiction than fantasy. Not very hard science fiction, mind you, but still.
The story begins with the titular dog Red taking on a job as a hunter to retrieve a file from a hostile airship. He fails the mission (through no fault of his own) when a giant monster appears and cripples the ship. As the ship goes down, he rescues a medallion and an unconscious cat. Red, the monster, the cat and the medallion are all connected; the rest of the game involves Red discovering this — and saving the world, of course.
For most of the game, Red wanders around the floating islands of the world on his giant robot, the Dahak. He takes on quests as a hunter from various people, which, despite the importance of the overall storyline, are frequently of the “someone stole my apron!” level of triviality.
Combat consists mostly of grabbing enemies and throwing them. The mechanics of combat are simple and easy to understand, albeit illogical; I don’t know why the giant robot is incapable of throwing a simple punch at enemies.
The gameplay is occasionally broken up by an airplane racing mini-game, which I wasn’t a fan of, and shooting zones where Red mans a machine gun, which are awesome. A final showdown against two important recurring bad guys begins with a nearby character telling Red, by the way, there’s a machine gun installation right over there. A bit anti-climactic, but nevertheless satisfying.
Graphics and art
The graphics are stunning for the Nintendo DS … so not really that stunning. Most characters are 2D sprites; not a bad thing (the designs are spectacular), but as Red and his robot are rendered in 3D, their interactions look weird. Cut-scenes are also underwhelming.
The inhabitants of the world are furry with an anime-esque vibe. I think my favorite was the bespectacled blonde dog scientist, Merveille. She has a kind of Ultimate Emma Frost thing going on.
The backgrounds are full of wonderful detail, and the camera is often placed in interesting angles that manage not to make moving around a chore. An airship graveyard island is a stunner, though even the themeless starting island is pretty to look at.
I would recommend Solatorobo: Red the Hunter on the art alone, but I do add some reservations. The game came out a month ago, but it isn’t so difficult it took me a month to beat it. The problem is that neither the story nor the gameplay were good enough to keep my interest, and I often put it aside.
There was nothing wrong with either, but nor was there anything right. The gameplay was not gripping, while the story had few real moments.
I recommend the game as furry art that you can play; as a game by itself, it is weak.