Graphics: The game is an excellent showcase of what the DS is capable of. Absolutely gorgeous hand drawn backgrounds accent the 3D character model of Red, the main character. There is a huge color palette that is used, and it really pays off. No two locations look alike, and the game is never unpleasant to look at. These are inside towns, though. Inside dungeon areas, things aren't quite as vibrant, but it still looks very good. There is also a lot of just cool looking stuff in the game, particularly with the technology. The many robots you will fight in the game look really cool, as do a lot of the airships and other pieces of technology that is present. Overall the graphics look incredible for the system, and there is very rare slowdown. The game looks great. 9/ 10
Sound: The game also sounds really good. The music is definitely above average, to begin with. Not all of it is insanely memorable, but it's better than a lot of other game music. The sound effects are also really good, although Red's robot's footsteps may get on your nerves after a while. There are also some voice clips that are very brief. At certain times, the characters will say something in French. It can be hard to figure out what they're saying, but the voice clips don't annoy like they would in other games this Japanese. Overall, this is a pleasant sounding game. 8/ 10
Story: The world of the Shepard Republic is a unique one. For one, the people are animals. There are two distinct races, Caninu (dog like people) and Felinekos (cat like people.) From there, they are further divided into different categories. (eg, in the Caninu side, there are wolves, dogs etc.) This actually figures heavily into the story later in the game.
Despite the fact that the characters are animals, they aren't hurt one bit. On the contrary, the characters are very, very likeable, and you will likely fall in love with them by the game's end. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The game starts out with Red Savarin, a Caninu Hunter (a mercenary esque character, but instead of just battles, Hunters can also solve people's problems among other things) on what is supposed to be just another job; he is infiltrating an airship when he comes across this strange medallion. He also finds a young Felineko, who asks him to help with a problem. (I'll leave that for you to find out.) However, this is a video game, and, as such, things get much more complicated and eventually turns into a battle for the world. The main storyline is a bit cliché, but the strong cast of characters makes you really care about what happens.
As stated above, Red is a Hunter and, as such, you will take many, many jobs on over the course of the game. The people who ask you for help often ask more than once, so you get a pretty good idea about what their personal lives are like. And this is one of the game's strongest points; despite the fact that the characters are animal- people, they are very believable and very well developed. You even learn a lot about the many side characters, which really helps sell the game world.
And what a world it is. You see, the Shepard Republic is actually a collection of floating islands above the clouds. Each location is really unique; one is a mine and is also a center of politics and nobility. Another is a place where Sky Fish are caught. Another is actually a collection of run down ships, a place made entirely of junk and debris. The locations in this game really go above and beyond the norm, and really feel inhabited.
And there is a reason for the world being the way it is. I won't spoil anything here, but I will say that there is a lot more to both the world and Red than what you would think. A really neat touch is, after completing a certain quest, you gain access to an encyclopedia of information about the world. By performing certain tasks, you will learn more about the culture, geography, history and more of the Republic. This is a small, but well thought out and developed touch, which really helps flesh out the world more.
Overall, the game has an enjoyable story despite is clichés. The characters are all extremely well developed, even the side ones. There are a few elements that may seem like missed opportunities, and it does move along at a really fast clip. Despite that, you will most likely enjoy the story, characters and world. 9/ 10
Gameplay: Solatorobo is, at its core, an ARPG. You take on quests, level up and fight in a real time system. However, there are many unique elements to it that helps set it apart from the rest of the pack.
For one, the combat is… well, unique. Red's mech (that you spend the majority of the game on) is named Dahak. And its main purpose is to lift things. That's it. This may seem dull, but the combat is surprisingly fun. You need to look for openings in your enemies' attack patterns, then close in to lift them. When you do close in, you mash the A button until Red throws them into the air. From there you can perform either a Ground Combo or Air Combo and toss them at other enemies. It can get dull, and, soon after a very distinct halfway point in the game, you may start growing tired of it. However, just when you think "This is getting old", a new twist is thrown in that essentially lets you change your robot to perform certain unique moves. This helps add a new layer of depth to the combat. While, sure, maybe it's unnecessary (the game is, for the most part, really easy) it is a really cool feature.
There is also a pretty neat upgrade system in place. Basically, you have a grid that you can place Pieces you find through various methods to upgrade certain stats. The more complex the shape, the bigger the bonus you get, but the more planning and management you must do. By finding objects called Power Crystals, you can expand the grid to allow for more customization. There are only a few stats, but the process is pretty fun, and it has a pretty nice sense of progression. The most noticeable of which is with Hydraulics and Mobility. Hydraulics affects how many A button presses are required to throw an enemy into the air, and Mobility is how fast you move. (If you're like me, you'll be moving like Sonic the Hedgehog by the end of the game.) While, like the changing battle styles, this may be unnecessary, it is a fun and addicting feature to the game.
Now, how is this game structured? Well, essentially, it revolves around Quests. You take on a ludicrous amount of Quests over the course of the game. They are displayed as side options, but you will ultimately have to do the majority of them since some story missions require a certain Hunter Rank. (It tells you what level quests you can do.) The nice thing about these quests, though, is that they aren't the typical "kill x amount of monsters" or "find this obscure item" affairs that are in other ARPG's. Instead, they are, for the most part, pretty fun. Many of them will take you to new areas, or offer fights against unique enemies. For instance, there is a Duel Ship in the game, which is a place where ranked battles are held. Over the course of the game, there are increasingly tougher battles (which is a term used loosely here since they aren't all that challenging) as well as certain conditions to be filled. (ie don't jump.) There are several different types of quests, and they do tend to repeat in structure by the end. However, this isn't really that much of a problem, since most are pretty fun. One of my personal favorites are the ones where you have to fly around on your robot on small islands, usually to look for a certain item or person. The freedom is just very fun. Others are more unique, like saving trapped miners or helping a pop star discover a stalker. As mentioned in the Story section of this review, the side quests really help flesh out the characters and overworld. (You have a lot of dealings with the other Hunter and/ or Sky Pirate gangs.) There are some activities that aren't all that fun, but, for the most part, the Quests help keep things interesting.
After completing the required amount of Quests, you participate in the story missions. These are usually fairly short (around a half hour or so) and there is only one mission per chapter. In addition to that, the areas you explore are fairly linear. As a matter of fact, the entire game is pretty linear. The Quests are made to look like side quests, but you'll ultimately have to complete the majority of them… the towns you explore are fairly small and lack a lot of places to go, and the missions are usually very straightforward. That's not to say there are no secrets to discover. Taking a moment to travel off the beaten path can be rewarding, usually leading to extra cash or Power Crystals. While, yeah, the linear design may disappoint some, there is still some room for exploration, which is nice.
In addition to all of this, there are some solid extras to get, and are pretty well implemented into the game. For instance, to find concept art, you have to track down the Pieces of the pictures (there are always four pieces). To get music, you go around the world and collect recordings of certain musical items, which essentially gives you currency to purchase music tracks. (And there are well over 60 tracks in this game.) You can purchase (the amazing looking) cutscenes to re-watch at your leisure, and, as mentioned above, you can complete certain tasks to unlock information about the world.
Overall, the game is fairly streamlined, but the good more than outweighs the bad. 8/ 10
Solatorobo is one of those games that you can just tell the developers loved making. The characters are extremely well developed, the production values are great, and the gameplay is very fun and well implemented within the context of the game. It's a shame that the game isn't better known, because it really deserves your attention. Granted, it's not for everyone. The presentation is somewhat kiddy and the structure and combat may put some people off. However, if this game is for you, you will likely be completely absorbed and in love with it. Like I said, there are some flaws, and a few features feel like missed opportunities. (Some elements of the story feel like they could have been fleshed out more, and Red's sweet looking gun sword is nearly useless.) Don't let these things get in the way, though. The good more than outweighs the bad. If you have interest in this game, I recommend playing it. The main quests is of decent length (around twenty or so hours) and there is added replay value thanks to New Game +. You will find yourself in love with the characters and completely absorbed by the unique and well thought out world. So long and thanks for reading.