Wolfstride Review

Mecha vibes.
Wolfstride Review Header

A lot of video game end up classified as an “anime game” purely based on aesthetics. Fighting games with hotblooded neon-haired heroes and JRPGs full of chipper superpowered high-school students obviously carry their inspirations on their sleeves, but it’s rare for a game to fall into that anime category purely on vibes like Wolfstride does.

Wolfstride has some immediately recognizable anime iconography in its visuals, sure – the protagonist is sporting huge pointy Kamina shades and the whole game is about anime-as-hell mechas – but once you dive into the game and get to know the world and characters, it becomes clear just what kind of anime inspired the team at OTA IMON Studios. If you love the sc-fi western setting of Cowboy Bebop, the ludicrous mile-a-minute dialogue of Fooly Cooly, and the hyper-stylish presentation of No More Heroes, then Wolfstride is a medley of madness that will suck you right in.

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In a world full of giant robots, there’s naturally competitive bot-battling happening everywhere you look. Our trio of protagonists – jaded mechanic Duque, himbo mecha pilot Knife Leopard, and slick-talking team manager Dominic Shade – find themselves at the bottom of the barrel with a paper-thin mecha, zero experience, and barely any money. A sabotaged fight puts Knife Leopard in the hospital and his mech in disrepair, leading to Wolfstride’s narrative drive. Dominic Shade has to scrape together a team, funds, and giant robot upgrades to give his crew a shot at finally earning some big money.

It’s hard not to instantly fall in love with the world this game sets up, with characters rocking names like ZZ Zowie and Bounty Hog and robots called Godworm or Hyper Canyon. The world of Wolfstride is certifiably nuts, and that makes it all the more enjoyable to see the layers unfold as you progress through the game and meet every wackjob in it.

Wolfstride Review Dialogue

Leading the cast is protagonist Dominic Shade, and he is by far my favorite member of the ensemble. He’s a slightly more mature Travis Touchdown that’s genuinely cool and calculated, but so confident that it’s annoying. He knows when he’s in over his head, for the most part, and isn’t afraid to admit when someone else has the tools or knowhow he’s sorely lacking. He cruises on charm and spur-of-the-moment decisions, and it’s hard to skip through any of his dialogue thanks to the incredible voice acting. Everyone in the game is rocking great voicework, as a matter of fact, and it’s the kind of enthusiastic acting that helps elevate the storytelling and really capture that oldschool anime vibe.

Wolfstride rocks a pixel-focused art style that would normally turn me off, but in this case it works. The first half hour of the game is rendered entirely in illustrations, animated cutscenes and crisp 2D robot art, and once the game transitioned into the pixel-rendered overworld after all of that, I was too charmed to hate the style switch. Plus, there’s a nice mix of styles that add a bit of flair to the otherwise ho-hum pixel-art – Dominic Shade’s eternal cigarette has a realistically rendered smoke trail that follows you where you walk, for example. Plus, once you do eventually get back into the mecha-brawling scene, the fights are once again rendered in sleek illustrations that make every moment pop.

Wolfstride Review Upgrade

Let’s back up a bit, though. Essentially, there are two phases to gameplay in Wolfstride. For a lot of the game, your task is to run around sections of an overworld to interact with NPCs, scrounge together money, participate in repetitive odd-job minigames, and ultimately repair and upgrade your robot so that your pilot has a fighting chance in their next bout. The other phase is the fighting itself. There are turn-based RPG duke-em-outs sprinkled throughout the game that see you fighting a couple dozen different opponents of varying sizes and skill levels.

Overworld sections aren’t exactly… fun. They’re the avenue to all of the incredible writing and story scenes the game has to offer, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun or addictive to walk through the same six environments a hundred times or hunt on-screen pixels to find a few extra bits of cash. Some minigames are simple and effective pace-changers, but others, like the biking delivery minigame, are just clunky chores. I could see a different version of this game that sacrifices the overworld and running-around for a more stripped down visual novel presentation. At the same time, getting to run around as Dominic Shade and occupy these spaces as he races between the bar and the scrapyard and the odd jobs helped me get just a little more invested in the world and his struggles.

Wolfstride Review Combat

Thankfully, the mecha battles are genuinely fun and entertaining. Fights place you and your opponent on either side of a single plane with seven squares occuping the bottom of the screen to represent your movable space in the arena, as well as the area-of-effect for all attacks. Gauging where to stand, when to stand there, and how to best set your enemy up in a position that leaves them more vulnerable than you is a constant tug-of-war that really stands out from any other turn-based combat I’ve ever experienced. There’s plenty of variety to these battles as well, thanks to the oodles of new upgrades, abilities, and weapons you can unlock throughout the game. It’s definitely worth slogging through the overworld sections to get to these super hype battles.

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Summary
Wolfstride is the rule-of-cool - it's a game all about vibes and style and sick robots, and it never gets old or feels out-of-touch. That hefty amount of style certainly carries the game through it's slower moments, but those are also smartly broken up by some of the most interesting turn-based battles I've seen in an RPG. There are rough spots to Wolfstride, for sure, but it's the coolest game I've played in years, and it absolutely knows it.
Good
  • Hyper-stylish and hella cool
  • Incredible characters with amazing voice acting
  • Addictive turn-based battles
Bad
  • Pixel art pales in comparison to the illustrations
  • Overworld segments can be a chore
7
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.