Rodea the Sky Soldier is a Wii game that, despite being made a beloved game creators, looked like it would never see the light of day. But now, after being remade for Wii U, the game has finally been released in Japan with the original Wii version as a bonus. But one version is clearly better than the other.
Let's begin by looking at what is the same in both the Wii U and Wii versions of the game. Rodea the Sky Soldier follows the robot soldier Rodea who awakens from a centuries-long sleep to find himself with amnesia and the world under siege by swarms of evil robots. Teaming up with the scrappy young mechanic who fixes him up, the two begin travelling from floating continent to floating continent battling the evil robot menace.
Both versions of the game are identical in the story department -- even having almost all the same cutscenes (though with some colour alterations and a step up in video quality on the Wii U). The level design is also largely similar between the two -- though there are minor changes here and there to keep up with the gameplay differences between the versions.
The game is clearly designed with motion controls in mind. On the Wii, you pick a location, point and click on it with the Wiimote, and then fly right to that point. You can also fly in an arching path (to dodge obstacles and enemies) by flicking the Wiimote in the way you want to go. It is smooth and simple to control -- you can easily fly from one end of a level to the other without even touching the ground.
The only major downside of the Wiimote controls is how the camera is handled. You move it by aiming at the boarders of the screen but if you turn the Wiimote too far, it stops registering completely and locks the camera in place. While not game-breaking it is certainly an annoyance to overcome.
The Wii U version, however, does not support the Wiimote which makes for a major alteration in how the game plays. On the Wii U, Rodea launches himself into the air and hangs there for a few seconds. Then you use the thumbstick to select where you want your character to go -- which is more than a little awkward.
In another Wii U-only addition, you can also fly straight up at any time. However, this new freedom in flight is offset by the fact that, unlike on the Wii version, Rodea's flight time is limited. Thus you constantly have to land and recharge your flight meter. Because of this and the new aiming system, the smooth flow of the Wii version is lost on the Wii U, making for an uneven ride.
Like Yuji Naka's previous work, Sonic the Hedgehog, Rodea is best when you are flying across the stage non-stop at high speed -- which is something can really only accomplish in the Wii version. But that is not the only aspect it has in common with the Sonic games. Rodea's world has stars to collect that, like Sonic's rings in the Sonic Adventure games, can be dashed along over large gaps between islands. Moreover, Rodea can get several powerups, including speed shoes that allow him to utilise speed boosting pads.
Rodea on the Wii also includes a fun little racing battle multiplayer game which unlocks bit by bit as you progress through the single player. In this, you and up to three additional friends can battle it out as you fly from floating island to floating island -- gathering crystals to open shortcuts and attacking your friends to steal the crystals they have collected. As far as local versus games go, it's a blast -- too bad it's completely absent from the Wii U version.
Another feature removed from the Wii U version is the Wii version's set of side scrolling puzzle rooms. Using Rodea's various moves and power-ups, these bonus areas are a welcome change of pace that add some needed variety to the game. However, it's also obvious why these were cut from the Wii U version: More than anything else in the game, they absolutely rely on quick, precise movements with the Wiimote that a controller can't match -- though tapping on the game pad could have been a possibility.
Rodea the Sky Soldier is a game simply made for motion controls. So, while certainly playable (and better looking) on the Wii U, the Wii version of the game is easily the superior version. And although the camera controls make playing it a bit more difficult than it should from time to time, Rodea the Sky Soldier is an enjoyable game and a great note for the system's life to end on.
Rodea the Sky Soldier was released in Japan on the Nintendo Wii U (with the Wii version included as a bonus) and 3DS on April 2, 2015. It is currently scheduled for a Western release in September 2015 for the Wii U. First-run copies of the Wii U version will also include the Wii version.