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Sola to Robo: Red the Hunter DS is a beautifully animated, inventive JRPG... which has anthropomorphised dog characters. The horror, the horror.
Some things are just a matter of taste. A game can be well made, beautifully put together, but there's just something about the aesthetics of the game that doesn't sit right.
This was my experience with Sola to Robo, that in spite of the many admirable and enjoyable things about it as a game, I couldn't stop myself from hating it.
Sola to Robo is a Japanese action-RPG with a typical JRPG story - a world of floating islands and sky pirates, empires clashing, a mystical stone, a mysterious boy, robotic armour... all very familiar, the usual combination of tech and magic with a rogueish hero and a grand destiny at work.
The structure is also a JRPG standard, with core quests and side missions, upgrades and commerce, and bystanders who reel out one (1) line of dialogue each if you talk to them.
What puts Sola to Robo ahead of other JRPGs on the DS is the level of production values and the effort put into varying up the gameplay. The visuals, from the cutscenes by notable animation studio Madhouse to the sharp in-game 3D graphics, are stunningly well-executed. The music is lushly orchestrated, if irritating and cliched for the genre.
The gameplay has surprising variety: there are the usual dungeons and combat sections, but also airplane races, chases and sections which require careful aerial exploration using the limited flight capacity of the lead character, Red's mech armour.
It's thoughtful, almost allegorical in places.
The combat also uses the mech, and is interesting, based around wrestling rather than punching or slashing. Essentially it boils down to grabs, holds and throws, and while it may not offer much variety its both a welcome change from the usual swordplay and a great improvement on the last wrestling game I played.
While I've never loved JRPGs, this would seem to be on the more enjoyable, smart and slick side of the genre. Well, it would be apart from the one thing I haven't mentioned, but which has probably already been given away by the screenshots on this page.
The characters in Sola to Robo aren't people, they're anthopomorphised dogs. The typical JRPG characters of the rakish, rogueish lead and his cutesy, female sidekick, as well as the other characters? All dogs.
Rakishly sexy dogs. 'Cute' dogs.
To which I say: NO.
There's a lot of poor aesthetic decision making I'll put up with in games: wonky voice-acting, protagonists with stupid vertical haircuts, daft macho dialogue. But I draw the line at drooling flirtatious dog people winking at each other.
So sorry, Sola to Robo, you are not a game for me. At least, not until someone publishes a special edition for, you know, humans.
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