Solatorobo: Red the Hunter (DS) — Review

Mohammad AlHuraiz checks out Solatorobo, a modern take on those “anthropomorphic animal” cartoons of yore.

I’m not one to reminisce about any bygone age that I had experienced when I was younger. Far from it — I always embrace newer things if they prove to be good, but something struck me when I decided to give Solatorobo: Red the Hunter a try. Where it struck me is that I remembered a good portion of my childhood watching cartoons with anthropomorphic animals as characters.

Now, before you dismiss this review as “furry fandom hitting the squad”, there was a time when these kind of themes were popular without being considered as that — think around the time many Ghibli cartoons were made. I grew up on Sherlock Hound (AKA Meitantei Holmes, a Sherlock Holmes re-imagining where the entirety of London is run by half-man half-dog people), and later fell in love with Porco Rosso. Solatorobo is pretty much a cross between those two with a little bit of Laputa: Castle In The Sky mixed in.

As a game, Solatorobo is not the second coming of anything. The gameplay is quite basic, repetitive and it serves little to no challenge whatsoever throughout the game, meaning if you play it entirely for gameplay, you’ll find it slightly underwhelming. Where the game shines is the setting and charming story, both of which deliver in spades.

The world is set in an “post-apocalyptic” future, where mankind has become extinct and beasts have taken over a sky world consisting of islands floating in the sky a la Skies of Arcadia. You play Red, a robot-mounted bounty hunter who works his ass off for a living taking various “looting” jobs. One job gets him to steal a medallion from some bad guys and accidentally awakens an ancient evil. While the story is your run-in-the-mill, fantasy adventure anime, you will get a little more from the charming dialogue and the expansive fiction about the history of that world.

The characters do have a lot of personality. This even includes the secondary characters that you encounter in sidequests, even low ranking enemies that are either too lazy to fight you or complain about their jobs not being worth the pay. Many of these sidequests, while having basic objectives, do tend to be well realized and help the quest seem more like an anime TV show episode, which is a very immersive way to present them. There are moments where the game is downright hilarious, and at others you will truly feel for the characters. Even the some of the typical anime tropes in the game didn’t stop me from giving the game my full attention.

So is it worth getting? The game is currently under $30 on Amazon and it is 18-20 hours of genuine, honest-to-goodness entertainment with a really engrossing world. It is a game I’m glad I have in my collection and slightly annoyed I did not play sooner. If you have a soft spot for the sort of fiction that Skies of Arcadia is, and enjoyed Tail Concerto (the spiritual predecessor to Solatorobo), then you will not want to miss this.

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