Just over a year ago, Solatorobo was announced. As a sequel to the quirky Playstation cult title Tail Concerto, it arrived only a few days shy of being mistaken for an April Fool's joke. The game was real, however, and is now in-bound for Europe. Here's a look at what North American gamers should be envious of.
Solatorobo is the third entry in the Little Tail Bronx series, the first being Tail Concerto and the second being Mamoru-kun, an informative series of disaster preparedness manga pamphlets made for the prefectural government of Fukuoka. Tail Concerto was an action title about a young dog-person who rode around in a robot and attacked by picking things up and throwing them. Solatorobo is largely the same, save with a few more combat options and an experience system thrown in. Certainly it lies firmly on the action side of the action-RPG spectrum, with a strong emphasis on platforming elements. While this isn't traditionally my cuppa, I've found that it works very well in this title. The difficulty level's been moderate so far (though the Flight Mode intro area took some practice), but the bosses have the nastiest tendency to change-up tactics in the middle of battle.
The game designers definitely want to put the player through the paces at times, though. New side quests pop up every chapter, and while at their most basic they're the usual "beat the monster" or "find the item" sort of affairs, there are weird little twists to pretty much every single one. Few of them are really important to the plot, but all the same they've got lots of interesting dialogue and characterization.
And that's what really carries the game for me so far: the story, and especially the characters. The world of Little Tail Bronx is populated by all manner of oddballs, and even background NPCs have their own visual style that lends them personality without a word being said. All these colorful characters live in equally interesting locations rendered in some of the best graphics I've ever seen done for the DS.
"And that's what really carries the game for me so far: the story, and especially the characters."
This game's first Japandemonium appearance was on April 1st, 2010, which is why the article is all in French. This turns out to be very appropriate, as all the characters apparently speak French as well. The voice acting doesn't extend past the occasional interjection or exclamation, but all these little sound bites are in French instead of Japanese. Red (the hero) greets people with a jaunty "Salut!" His little sister shouts "On y va!" at the start of major missions. The referee for the battle arena announces a victory with "Vous avez gagné!" These little sound bites aren't always easy to comprehend (since it's still the Japanese voice actors trying to sound French) but it's a cute touch, nonetheless.
Finally, there's one facet of this game that should really seal the deal for fans of Tail Concerto — the cameos. Characters from Tail Concerto pop up in quests throughout the game, and the naughty kittens of the Black Cats Gang form the backbone of one of the game's optional content sidequests.
Solatorobo is cute. If I wanted, I could just end this impression on that one sentence. It's also quirky, fun, memorable, and a blast to play through. North American gamers, eat your hearts out. It's time for the European gamers to get lucky for a change.