The last time I talked about Rodea the Sky Soldier, Prope and NIS America’s Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo Wii U game, I went over how it compares to NiGHTs into Dreams. While some might find this reason enough to give the unorthodox flying platformer a chance, the Yuji Naka effect is another. Games made by the head of Prope and former Sonic Team member all have a distinct sort of style, and people who play Rodea the Sky Soldier may find themselves constantly reminded of these other titles.
For example, NiGHTS into Dreams wasn’t the first game I thought of once I started getting heavily invested in Rodea the Sky Soldier. Instead, Prope’s fishing games came to mind. Despite the drastically different tones, the character designs are quite similar for humanoid figures. There’s the illusion of realism, where characters are vaguely realistic, but have plenty of unrealistic proportions. The eyes especially are the same. The first time I saw Ion in Rodea the Sky Soldier, I immediately associated her with Coraline from Ultimate Angler, Prope’s Mii Plaza Nintendo 3DS game. The characters have the same wide, blue eyes and resourceful character traits. Give Coraline a wrench or Ion a fishing rod, and they’d fit in each other’s games easily.
There’s also the fixation on natural environments. Prope games often have outdoor settings, offering players the illusion of enjoying the outdoors from the comfort of their own home. Let’s Catch, Fishing Resort, Ultimate Angler, and even Ivy the Kiwi? all take place in wooded environments filled with greenery. Rodea the Sky Soldier continues the tradition, even offering the same sorts of lakes as the ones seen in fishing games. I especially enjoyed the sepia tones that tended to permeate this game’s desert regions.
It’s a dreamy sort of world and life, and goes along with another element of the Prope philosophy. These are games that encourage people to enjoy their time. Even when they get really challenging and desperate, as with Rodea the Sky Soldier’s boss fights and Ivy the Kiwi?’s more demanding levels, there’s this pastoral purity to the games. Yes, the further things go, the darker they can get in some titles. It’s natural as players progress and come closer to a resolution. But early on, the rustic and subtle nature encourages people to appreciate the moment.
Honestly, the most fun I’ve had with Rodea the Sky Soldier so far is in these early levels. Seeing all of the greens and blues blending together, set against occasional ruins, offers this rustic feeling. It reminded me of camping trips I used to take with my family. You’d be out doing something like hiking or fishing, and suddenly you’d look up for a minute and be in awe of the trees, mountains, hills, and rock formations around you. It isn’t Prope’s prettiest project, as I consider Ivy the Kiwi? the company’s best looking endeavor, but there’s still something special about specific spaces within the game. For example, the screenshot above shows some islands in the sky players will explore when heading fight to Rodea the Sky Soldier’s first boss. Waterfalls and trees don’t go together, but here the resulting effect is astonishing. Plausibility doesn’t matter, the moment does.
The recurring themes help make Rodea the Sky Soldier more welcoming. This game can be a little daunting, but seeing Prope fixtures, like a focus on the natural world, similar character designs, and the presentation of a place that clearly looks like it’s plucked from some sort of daydream, can help put a player at ease even when a particular boss is frightfully frustrating.
Rodea the Sky Soldier will come to the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo Wii U on November 10. The Nintendo Wii version is only available with first-run copies of the Nintendo Wii U game.