A long time ago in a Toys ‘R Us far far away, there was a PlayStation game I couldn’t live without. Tail Concerto, it was called, and I knew I had to have it. The smiling canine on the cover and the colorful art reminded me of happier times – childhood, and it seemed it could be to my liking. Of course, back then as a child when I actually had the time to play every single game I wanted to, I was lacking the necessary funds. Each sojourn to the toy store that ended in my being allowed to choose a game never happened to culminate in my choosing Tail Concerto, though. Instead I’d choose others, like Fear Effect, or Parasite Eve, because that’s what my favorite magazines had been talking about. I never did pick up Tail Concerto, not until a couple of years ago, when I finally experienced the adorable little game for the first time.
That’s why I was so excited to play Solatorobo: Red the Hunter on the DS. As soon as I booted it up, I knew I had found the spiritual successor to my missed Tail Concerto. Niche games are criminally underrepresented here in the West, so when I realized that this game would fit the bill nicely to make up for the time I didn’t get to spend with Tail Concerto, I was overjoyed. Solatorobo revolves around the titular Red, a bounty hunter who’s out for the almighty dollar. He’s never against making a buck, and will use any means necessary to get there. The lighthearted adventure is an action-RPG filled with plenty of cute dialogue, interesting predicaments, and quick-fire combat that makes for an entertaining weekend adventure.
Your hub world of sorts is Asmodeus, Red’s airship, where you can save your game, head out to the next quest, and check your status. The game is fairly straightforward when it comes to pointing out the next pathway for you to take, so whenever you’re unsure of where to go, it’s always a good idea to check in Asmodeus. Exploration is a different story. Usually Red travels on the back of his trusty robot Dahak, and will rarely leave the safety of the hulking mechanism unless there’s a switch that needs to be pulled or a walkway that the robot cannot traverse. You can actually customize the Dahak via puzzle grid where you can manage inventory a la Tetris, though it can often be unclear as to what each part actually does. That’s where you’ll need to consult your game manual, something that happens admittedly quite rarely nowadays, and gave me a sense of giddy pleasure. I love manuals.
There are plenty of tasks and side-missions to take on whilst traversing the world of Solatorobo, and though much of it is entertaining and should hold your attention, it’s quite the simple action-RPG. Enemies are fairly weak and combat rarely requires more than repeating the same techniques over and over, usually mimicking your enemies. Leveling up also grants an automatic health boost, so this only makes staying alive that much simpler. If you’re looking for a “real” challenge you won’t find it here, but the tale is so charming you can’t help but fall under its spell anyway.
It helps, of course, that this is certainly one of the most gorgeous games I’ve seen on the handheld, sporting several different views and a charming patchwork look to characters and environments in addition to detailed sprites and animations. Light, playful music also ensures you never take the story too seriously, no matter how involved you get. And Red’s hilarious more often than not, keeping you interested in what’s going to happen next.
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is a fantastic little action-RPG/platformer that anyone who grew up wanting (or enjoying) Tail Concerto should certainly check out, if not simply to sample a bit of a rather unique genre, or just to check out the lush colors and the detail in many of the areas. It’s also one of the most gorgeous games I’ve seen on the console, with charming patchwork visuals and playful music that help bring the whimsical story to life in lighthearted fashion. Genre fans will love its unique sense of humor and classic-style gameplay, even if it is a fairly simple adventure with easy combat and little strategy, outside of using the same techniques over and over. XSEED Games saw fit to publish this lovable little title and for good reason – it might not top the sales charts, but you’ll certainly remember it long after turning it off.
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