Eccentric and inventive, but ultimately late to ?the party, Solatorobo is more than deserving of ?the small amount of attention it’s likely to attract coming in the wake of the launch of its host console’s successor. It’s a JRPG with brisk, snappy battling, and ?a pick-and-mix quest structure that prioritises variety over grinding monotony.
Solatorobo places you in control of Red – a mercenary, item fetcher and general odd-job fox in a world made up of floating islands populated by talking animals. While the events of the tutorial mission kick off what seems a typically large-scale narrative involving a world-destroying monster and the magical medallion that might just stop him, the structure that gradually unfolds reveals a game more concerned with short-term entertainment than grand scale.
Almost every one of the richly detailed, characterful islands of Red’s world has a job centre, where players can pick from a menu of available quests. These range from the ordinary – clearing warehouses of enemy infestations, engaging in fighting tournaments – to the bizarre: battling through giant beehives, or spearing island-sized fish with an equally large harpoon gun. Almost all can be completed in a few short minutes, in no small part due to Solatorobo’s quickfire combat.
Rather than fight enemies directly, you do so while on the back of Red’s mech, the Dahak. You spend most of the game stomping around on this device – occasionally hopping off for puzzles that require Red ?to hit switches and negotiate pathways beyond its reach. Fighting enemies (which, more often than not, are also large clomping machines) is a case of grabbing and flipping them with taps of the A button before ?throwing their prone form about the place.
There are some twists on this central mechanic – stringing combos together by catching enemies in the air as they bounce nets a damage bonus, for instance, while some enemies fire projectiles that must be grasped from the air and hurled back. Later on, the game adds a few minor twists to your abilities, but for the most part combat is simple and over quickly. The lively pace of battle and varied quest structure ensures that, even if a challenge begins to drag, players can be assured of a novelty around the next corner. And that’s true in a grander sense, as well, for Cyberconnect2 is as bold with its adventure’s overall structure as it is with its quest design, recalling Okami with an episodic sprawl.
Solatorobo’s short attention span is occasionally ?its undoing – good ideas and mechanics are dropped ?as readily as bad – and the button-mashing combat ?can occasionally fatigue, but this is an adventure both ?epic and bite-sized, with the kind of charm that ?makes its weaknesses easy to forget, and hard ?not to forgive.