It’s damn near impossible to not have heard of Hello Kitty in this day and age; her face has been plastered on virtually everything. From notebooks to purses to questionable-looking vibrators, Hello Kitty’s iconic look and charm has won over females from ages five to twenty-five and her notoriously extensive line of merchandise has garnered the attention spans of kawaii-loving fans worldwide.
Sadly, when it comes to the gaming market, though, the cute furry feline has a tendency to fall flat on her yellow little nose. Her licensed games, which are obviously geared towards younger generations, tend to be cheaply made, shallow, and packed full of dressing up, cooking food, and other monotonous domestic activities. It usually costs little to produce such casual titles; they are comparatively low in production and distribution costs for the publisher, and Sanrio, the company that owns the rights to Hello Kitty, is no stranger to licensing out their characters for any use, as we have found.
However, like many other things in life, there are small hidden gems, games that have a tendency to be overlooked on your normal trips to the local game shop. Perhaps it’s because of the cutesy text scrolling across the top of the game case, or perhaps it’s just because the obvious girly looks and aesthetics do not appeal to the casual observer. Or perhaps it’s because many gamers are already tired of seeing various franchises being exploited for financial gain; think about the last time you walked into a local used game store and saw dozens of copies of Tony Hawk or Hannah Montana taking up half of the available shelf space. Whatever the case or the individual, sometimes it’s worth taking another look and getting a second opinion on a game or franchise.
While Roller Rescue has an obvious appeal to young female gamers, the game’s success isn’t just because of the cute houses that are shaped like teacups or the brightly colored flowers and vegetation that bespeckle every pixel of every scene. It’s not just because the game is Hello Kitty, as there are plenty of other titles to pick from that would be more in-tune with what Hello Kitty fans typically would want from a game. The game works because it is a perfect translation of a 2D conceptual world into a fully working 3D environment. Blending Sanrio’s cute looks with good gameplay featuring combat, puzzle, and platforming elements, Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue is the game that requires the player to look at our iconic little kitty, not just as a pie-baking lovable homemaker, but also as a kick-ass feline heroine who has the potential to save the world.
The main storyline of Roller Rescue is rather simple. You, playing as Kitty White (or better known as the series’ more familiar name “Hello Kitty”) are a sweet young girl living with her family in peaceful SanrioTown. This tranquility, however, is short-lived, as the evil invading Block Battalion descends on Earth, thus bringing chaos and destruction to Kitty’s hometown and enslaving her friends and family. In order to fight this terrible threat, Kitty bravely dons a pair of roller skates and brandishes her trusty magic wand in an effort to defeat the evil that has been unleashed on her world and restore peace to her hometown.
Before you start your adventure, you begin every game in Hello Kitty’s house. From here, you can perform other tasks, such as changing game options, saving, checking Kitty’s email, viewing character bios, listening to music or cutscenes, or changing Kitty’s outfit for the next mission. The wardrobe variations, while purely cosmetic, add a fun element to the game for those who wouldn’t mind scoring Kitty some sweet-looking threads. By finishing stages and fulfilling mission objectives, you can unlock more clothes and weapons for her to sport in future adventures, lending the game a bit more replay value for hardcore gamers.
The levels in Roller Rescue consist of a blend of combat, puzzle, and platforming elements, following a linear path through each of the game’s sixteen different areas. Before each mission, Kitty is briefed by another Sanrio character, Keroppi, who provides her with a basic mission outline. These missions range from rescuing Kitty’s twin sister Mimmy in an amusement park to infiltrating an enemy ship in outer space. The areas themselves are colorful, cleanly designed, and easy to follow with a strong sense of linearity, making it hard for newer gamers to get lost or easily frustrated.
The developers did an incredible job at creating an accurate translation of Sanrio’s ideal 2D world into a full 3D environment. Each of the game’s various locales still capture the essence of Sanrio’s love of all things cute and cuddly; each level is crammed full of enough adorability to make your eyeballs bleed straight out of their strawberry-scented sockets. Despite Roller Rescue’s obvious combat-oriented gameplay, the game’s bright, colorful environments seem to somehow justify your decision in allowing your young impressionable kids to play such a violently adorable title.
As for any fighting, Roller Rescue’s battle system mainly features real-time, hack and slash combat. By performing button combinations, Hello Kitty is able to bash her foes over the head with her melee weapon of choice, causing her enemies to explode into colorful stars. Collecting enough of these sparkling gems will unleash deadly attacks: one allows Kitty to spin around wildly, effectively bludgeoning anything in its deadly path, and one unleashes a powerful area magic attack that eliminates all enemies in the vicinity.
Luckily, Roller Rescue features a great combination of beat ‘em up, platforming, and puzzle-solving elements to keep it moderately well-paced throughout the duration of the game. The boss segments themselves are fun and strategic, a nice change from the usual “hack and slash” feeling the rest of this game seems to favor. Each boss has certain attacks and weaknesses, effectively requiring Kitty to revise her strategy to defeat it. For instance, one boss shoots baseballs at Kitty in a small baseball field enclosed by an electric fence. Kitty, the resourceful little feline that she is, picks up the baseballs and rebounds them off of the sides of the fence, returning the favor in a cute, but brutal fashion. The numerous boss battles require a slightly different technique to defeat them, which offers a different, but welcome change of pace for the game.
No adventure is complete without companions and an important aspect of Roller Rescue is rescuing your friends that have been kidnapped by the Block Battalion. By doing so, you can unlock that party member as a support character in future missions. Each of the various Sanrio-licensed characters have their own move sets, strengths, and weaknesses. Monkichi, the monkey, flings bananas at his enemies and My Melody, another Sanrio icon, heals you whenever your health begins to plummet. All characters has a special move and varying levels of attack, speed, and stamina.
The game implements quite a few standard features from games of similar genres. Your health, which is displayed as a row of bright red shiny apples in the top left corner of the HUD (Zelda fans, feel right at home), can be replenished by buying food from shops or by simply knocking fruit off of trees for consumption. The star gauge, which grants Kitty her power ups, is filled by defeating enemies and progressing through the game’s areas. As for the map, it is easily viewable as a standard radar (recognizable for those who play enough shooters) with a pink arrow indicating your position and the target objective being displayed as a blue star.
While Roller Rescue is undeniably cute and flashy, the game itself is entirely too short; experienced gamers can blaze through it in just a few hours’ time. Perhaps this is because of the game’s strong linearity or perhaps it’s because there are only sixteen levels total, making saving the world a relatively short affair. Luckily, while this is the only major complaint I have with this title, it is still an important issue to address to our readers, especially for those who are hoping the game is worth the initial purchase. While I obviously can’t speak for everyone, I would venture to say this is the strongest attempt to break in the gaming market that Hello Kitty has made thus far, even more than the grindfest MMORPG, Hello Kitty Online, that has went live since the release of this title. And while Roller Rescue is not terrible game by any means, I would not recommend it to very young gamers, as they may find the platforming elements or high level of combat unappealing or too violent for their tastes.
But for those who would want to see this sweet little feline in a different light, they need not look any further. Roller Rescue is a good game, but not without its flaws. The environments are colorful, well-designed, and the game features a lot of familiar and favorite Sanrio characters. The gameplay is moderately paced and the combat system and boss battles are simple enough to be grasp quickly for younger gamers. While the selling points of this title may not be worth the initial investment for all gamers, Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue is a strange and unique departure from the normal Hello Kitty-franchised games, one that surely deserves an honorable mention.