With Rodea the Sky Soldier, Yuji Naka has created the closest thing people will probably get to a successor to NiGHTS into Dreams. The idea of soaring through the skies over a fanciful world is quite reminiscent of the Sega Saturn exclusive, though Rodea the Sky Soldier is a little more realistic. Which is difficult to say, considering it’s taking place on a series of floating islands with magical Graviton pieces and all sorts of overbearing and intimidating robots. Still, the focus on flying through levels may not be what immediately reminds people of NiGHTS into Dreams, especially with Rodea’s limitations. Rather, the characters are what makes the two games feel so similar.
Both NiGHTS and Rodea are artificial beings created to serve their masters’ goals. NiGHTS is a Nightmaren made by Wizeman to aid in his attempts to become ruler of Nightopia. NiGHTS doesn’t share that goal and winds up imprisoned as a result. Once freed by Claris or Elliot in his original game, he helps reclaim Ideya for the children, overcome nightmares, and defeat Wizeman to protect Nightopia.
Likewise, Rodea is an original creation by someone with ill intents. He is a R-0 Sky Soldier created by Emperor Geardo of the Naga Empire, tasked with protecting his daughter, Princess Cecilia. By meeting Cecilia, Rodea learned what it was to have a heart. He learned from her and realized what her father’s desire to invade other countries were wrong. He went with her down to Garuda to prevent Geardo from taking over that land and, in Rodea the Sky Soldier, finds himself defending Garuda against another Naga invasion.
Despite their artificiality, both Rodea and NiGHTS are characters that take on an overwhelming task that doesn’t really concern themselves. Yes, NiGHTS is imprisoned by Wizeman, but once freed it could have gone on its way. Instead, it chose to stay and help the children and defeat Wizeman. Likewise, Rodea immediately returns to the task he shared with Cecilia after his 1,000 year sleep in the hopes of defending an innocent country against an invasion.
But Rodea and NiGHTS aren’t the only characters that paint Rodea the Sky Soldier as a true spiritual successor to NiGHTS into Dreams. The entire cast comes together to provide parallels. Princess Cecilia and Ion, Rodea’s partners, are akin to Claris and Elliot in NiGHTS. The characters don’t actually do anything, but are there as support. They provide motivation for Rodea and NiGHTS’ actions, giving the characters someone to connect with and protect. Ion and Cecilia aid Rodea by repairing his arm and helping him care about things greater than himself. Claris and Elliot give NiGHTS his freedom.
The villains also feel so very similar. Both Rodea and NiGHTS have rivals that were once considered allies, fellow creations of their former masters. In both cases, their contemporaries remain on the side of evil. NiGHTS’ match is Reala, another Nightmaren who aids Wizeman in the conquest of Nightopia. Meanwhile, Geardo sends the other Sky Soldiers, R-1, R-2, and R-3, to aid in his conquest. The Nightmaren look alike, as do the Sky Soldiers, and our heroes share similar abilities with their rivals. It helps accentuate their unique dispositions and show how these characters wet out of their way, defying any possible programming, to do the “right” thing.
Both Rodea the Sky Soldier and NiGHTS into Dream’s evil masterminds even share similar flaws, as well as appearances. Both are lords of their domain, with Wizeman in charge of Nightmare and Geardo acting as emperor of the Naga Empire. Each man wears gigantic cloaks around their bodies, as well as massive headdresses to further paint them as imposing figures. Most importantly, each boss is unnatural in a way. Wizeman has no Ideya, perhaps the reason why he so desperately steals from everyone else. Geardo went out of his way to make as much of his body with machines as he could, making himself more robot than man.
The result is something of a fight of that which is natural against artificiality. Pleasant dreams in Nightopia and proliferation of Ideya is the norm in NiGHTS into Dreams, while Rodea the Sky Soldier looks at the juxtaposition and integration of machinery into a more rural and natural environment. In both cases, a refugee from the opposing and malicious empire comes through as the strongest defender of what is right, supporting innocents against those they know and owe their lives.
It’s an interesting dynamic and one which Rodea the Sky Soldier players and NiGHTS into Dreams fans will hopefully appreciate when Rodea the Sky Soldier comes to the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Wii U on November 10.