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Solatorobo preview: Robot trumps furry


Solatorobo: And Then to Coda for DS is kind of an unofficial sequel to the PlayStation furry/mech adventure Tail Concerto. It's apparently set in the same universe, featuring cameos from Tail Concerto characters. It's also developed by the same studio, CyberConnect2, which most recently made news for hooking up with Capcom on the weird Asura's Wrath.

But even for people like me who never got around to playing Tail Concerto -- and even for people who avoid anthropomorphic animals -- Solatorobo is a surprisingly engaging game that is fun just to interact with.

Solatorobo stars Red Savarin, a dog-person who cavalierly chomps on a bone as if it were a cigarette. He appears to be some kind of treasure hunter, using his walking robot Dahak to sneak onto an an airship to grab a certain medallion. In order to deal with the robotic enemies in his way, Red can use Dahak's long arms to grab and throw them either at the floor or at each other. In fact, this is the primary method of interaction in Solatorobo: grabbing stuff and throwing it. Heavy objects require multiple taps of the A button before they can be lifted, but once something has been slammed, it can be repeatedly picked up and smashed in a combo.

I like games where you can pick up and throw stuff, but CyberConnect2 realized that some people might find that single mechanic repetitive. To that end, Red can get out of Dahak at any time. Sometimes this is necessary to solve a puzzle -- like when a switch is at the bottom of a ladder that Dahak is too big to scale. Without his armored mech, Red is a lot less powerful, armed only with a stun gun that temporarily pushes away enemies. This just makes it more satisfying to come back with Dahak and crumple the enemy you were just stunning over and over again. That'll teach them ... not to be very vulnerable.

After finding the medallion, Red prepares to make his egress and the action heats up. The slow-moving robot enemies are replaced by flying things that like to get just out of reach and shoot projectiles. Until this point, the game was pretty easy, but with these new enemies it was now important to juggle them all, mostly by throwing them at each other, in order to prevent them from firing at me. This sequence got my hopes up for a more intense, and thus interesting, experience.

Solatorobo will be released in Japan next month. Namco Bandai has yet to officially announce anything about its localization, though the game has been rated in Australia -- and mysteriously shown off at a French anime convention under the name "Project Coda." Solatorobo is a sharp-looking game that moves quickly and has an enjoyable core mechanic. Namco could do worse than to get this into more hands.

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