Solatorobo: Red the Hunter Review

A dog, a cat, and a robot walk into a bar...

Solatorobo Red the Hunter Review
29th July, 2011 By Ian Morris
Game Info // Solatorobo: Red The Hunter
Solatorobo: Red The Hunter Boxart
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Namco Bandai
Players: 1
Subtitles: Full
Available On: DS
Genre: Adventure

If you read our initial preview of Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, you'll probably have been left with the impression that it's kind of hard to explain exactly what's it all about. Having had the finished version in our hands for a few weeks now, we're sorry to say that we're still having the same problems. Solatorobo just isn't a game you can easily distil into a few short words - but it's all the better for it. 

Solatorobo: Red The Hunter Screenshot

Crates. Why does it always have to be crates!

A stylish, anime infused Japanese role playing game, Solatorobo: Red the Hunter casts you in the role of the anthropomorphous Red Savarin, a once human who, along with the other residents of the land of the Shepherd Republic, have been turned into dogs and cats. Playing as Red, who, as his name may suggest, is a bounty-hunter-come-odd-job-man, who takes on random quests for the inhabitants of the island. Near the start of the game, one such quest comes in, asking you to go and retrieve an important file from within the disastrously named airship, the Hindenburg (seriously, that's just asking for trouble). Upon getting inside, Red gets a little bit more than he bargained for, as he finds a special medallion, which appears to activate when he touches it - and no sooner has it lit up, than a giant monster attacks the town, and the Hindenburg! Who said lightning never struck twice?

What follows is an interesting, twisting story that follows the adventures of Red, his sister, a pink cat-person named Chocolat, a strange cat-person known as Elh, and the secrets they all hold. For a story revolving around cats and dogs, it's a surprisingly involving tale, and one that's set to last you for a while too.

You progress through the game by taking on quests from the handy quests booths found in each city. Letting you progress through the game however you want, if you're looking to see the end of the story as soon as possible, you can choose to stick exclusively to the important story quests (marked with a large "NEXT") - or, if you want to see everything there is, you can pick and choose at the quests you get offered. These range from retrieving items, to clearing sewers of enemies, to even, bizarrely, fishing for crabs that have entire islands built onto their backs, using a harpoon.

Solatorobo: Red The Hunter Screenshot

Hidden items galore are waiting to be found.

In many of the quests, you'll find yourself being set upon by a variety of mechanical enemies - but luckily, you're equipped to fight back. You see, rarely does Red explore towns, cities, and sewers by himself, instead preferring the safety of his long-armed robot, DAHAK. As well as allowing you to lift heavy boxes, shift boulders, and otherwise navigate to places the average dog-man can't reach, the DAHAK mech also means you're well equipped when it comes to a battle.

Thanks to its having gigantic arms, you won't be attacking enemies with a sword, or shooting them with lasers or rockets - instead, you simply have to pick them up, and chuck them around. Walk up to an enemy and hammer A, and you can lift them above your head, before pressing it again to smack them into the ground. Leap before you throw, and you'll do more damage. When your enemy hits the floor, they'll bounce straight back up in the air, giving you another chance to leap up into the air, grab them mid-bounce, and smash them back into the ground again. Building up combos of bounce-catches like this is the way to win most battles.

Of course, not all enemies are the same. Some fire rockets at you, which you can catch and throw back with some precise timing, while others are simply too heavy to be lifted from the front. Scoot around behind an enemy, and you'll be able to lift them twice as easily as from the front (you'd think their designers would learn), making them easy picking for speedy Red.

Outside of battles, you can visit shops and buy upgrades for DAHAK, which need to be slotted into your machine, tetris style. Because each bit's a different shape, you'll need to make a trade off between which stats you upgrade the most - would you rather be quick, but weak, or slow, but able to chuck an enemy skywards in a split second?

Whether you're following quests, or simply chatting to the villagers in the various towns, variety is the spice of life in Solatorbo. There's a selection of minigames on offer, including a flying race (which, sadly, is naff), along with the aforementioned crab hunting, but no two quests really feel the same. Far from being simple go here, do this, bring stuff back affairs, there's genuine variety in both the objectives, and how you go about completing it. One second, you'll be using a jet pack to fly between islands searching for crates, the next, you'll be defending a ship from attack by grabbing the shells some pirates throw at it. There's certainly not a lack of things to do.

Solatorobo: Red The Hunter Screenshot

It's a pretty looking game. Especially for a DS one.

Although we're not usually ones to talk about graphics, Red the Hunter deserves a special mention, as it's simply incredible to look at. Bright, bold, colourful, and basically looking like a top quality anime film from top to bottom, exploring the colourful land of Solatorobo is almost as much fun as following the story. There's always something new to see, and with numerous collectibles scattered across the land, from old gramophone players, which you can collect notes from, to mischievous little kittens, who've stolen fragments of a photo, the collectibles in turn let you unlock all sorts of extras, from artwork, to songs, and articles in a Solatorobo encyclopedia. You'll want to see everything there is to see - and that's going to take you a while.

With enough quests to keep you going for 30-40 hours on its own, Nintendo are also supporting Solatorobo with free, downloadable quests for an unannounced period of time after launch. The first four are available to download now, and for one, we hope they keep coming. This is a game we simply can't get enough of.

But sadly, like Majin and the Foresaken Kingdom before it on the Xbox 360, Solatorobo is a somewhat obscure Japanese game, and you just know that, because of that, most people are going to blissfully unaware of its existence. And that's a huge problem. Because games like Solatorobo, and Majin before it don't come along all that often. In a world of generic military shooter No.5024, Solatorobo is like a breath of fresh air, and is a game that we hope you'll enjoy as much as we did. Should you ever see it in the shops, why not pick it up, take a chance, and give it a go. We guarantee, you won't play anything like it this year.

Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS

StarStarStarStarHalf star
  • +
    Epic storyline.
  • +
    Incredibly fun gameplay.
  • +
    Hugely varied quests.
  • -
    Disappointing race sections.
  • -
    Battles could use more variety.
  • -
    Only one save slot.
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