keskiviikko 27. huhtikuuta 2011

Updates on a couple of you-know-whats

I'll keep this very brief.

I'm sure all of you, even those who don't own a PlayStation 3, have read the news. For the first time since the late 90's, I'm thinking of jumping ship - from Sony to Microsoft. Hacking's one thing, but allowing the slightest chance (0,0000000001%) to hack a major network and having the nerve not to admit a critical security breach to customers are bigger crimes in my opinion, and those were Sony's crimes. This is just an opinion, I hope to discuss this issue rationally on the boards today. Anyway, I'm playing it safe, and I'll anull and replace my credit card tomorrow. I advise you do the same thing.

I'm having some hardware problems which have lead to further delays in the Star Wars marathon. I'm thinking of saving the one delayed game for last, to keep the pace steady. The review is well underway, though, so it might be possible to get it done after all. In any case, you'll be seeing the next review during the weekend, I guarantee it.

lauantai 23. huhtikuuta 2011

The Force is still with us


First off, I'd like to say it's the warmest springtime in history down here in lovely Finland, I've been worshipping the sun for the past week and taken the time to catch up with some old friends some of whom I haven't talked to in years. I've been playing less and as you can see, writing at a slower pace. Taking into account the size of my future projects, it just might be my pace will become even slower in the coming weeks. Thought I'd give a heads-up.

Cue heavy breathing.
There's been some sort of a misconception, in the case of at least one person. The whole purpose of the Star Wars marathon - for me - was to somewhat extend my knowledge of the Star Wars universe beyond the scope of the six movies and a few random novels. For the third and last time, there is no proper order to reviewing Star Wars games. In other words, I'm not reviewing them in chronological order. I'm not willing to give you the details on the subjects of the upcoming reviews, but there's still a total of (at least) eight games left in the Star Wars marathon, it's not over. I've been trying to place the rest of the games into a somewhat sensible order. Those eagerly following the Star Wars marathon simply cannot know what to expect next. In theory, I could go back to X-Wing right now. Or Jedi Knight. It's just a theory, though. The point is, I'm not done with Star Wars just yet. As a matter of fact, I think I'm heading into the better part of the marathon now that I'm done with the direct movie licenses! "This is where the fun begins."

It's something like +15 Celsius outside, so I think I'll take a little stroll, perhaps also into the nearest local bar to "cool off", and I'll take on the next game come sundown. Can't make any promises about my schedule, but I'll get cracking as soon as possible.

May the Force be with you.

REVIEW - Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

GENRE(S): Action / Fighting
RELEASED: May 2005
DEVELOPER(S): Ubisoft (DS, GBA), The Collective, Double Helix Games (PS2, PSP, Xbox)
PUBLISHER(S): Ubisoft (DS, GBA), LucasArts (PS2, PSP, Xbox)

Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II - The Arcade Game was one of my favourite video games as a child, and it remained one of the truly finest games ever released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. A side-scrolling beat 'em up with familiar characters, colourful and detailed graphics, some of the coolest cutscenes of the time, and simple, addictive arcade-style gameplay; the game was a winner. 16 years after the game's release, Ubisoft stepped forward with a Game Boy Advance game that just might've been conceived with an arcade TMNT of the new generation in mind. This game was based on the final chapter of the Star Wars saga, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which I easily consider the best movie of the prequel trilogy. With the horror of the previous Game Boy Advance game, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones still plaguing my mind, I carefully tread into Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, to find a visually unsatisfying, but physically decent beat 'em up.

Do what must be done. Do not hesitate. Show no mercy.

When Padme's pregnancy becomes known to Anakin, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine - a.k.a. Darth Sidious - seizes the opportunity to finally manipulate the young Skywalker into turning to the Dark Side of the Force, making him believe it is the only way he could protect his family from harm. He uses his new apprentice Darth Vader to execute his orderly plan to completely wipe out his fellow Jedi. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi struggles for survival and prepares to face his former apprentice in a battle to the death.

Since my opinion on the final Star Wars movie is already out and there's really nothing to add, let's get into the graphics without further due, I think we're in for a fairly lengthy review here as it is. The visual design of the game sucks, there's no way around it. The graphics are not bad from a technical standpoint, but I really don't understand the very concept behind pseudo-anime characters in a Star Wars game. It isn't even a Japanese game. As a matter of fact, it's French... which always explains a lot, and not in the most flattering fashion. Especially the portraits look horrible, and there are some errors in details which really bother me, for example Obi-Wan and Anakin's battle stances. I've rarely seen a Jedi swing his lightsaber with one hand. The sound bank's comprised of extremely familiar, but still good music, grunts stolen from some random beat 'em up, and quite sufficient sound effects.

How could I not doubt it?
My initial impression of the game was not very flattering. The graphics made me gulp in horror. The dialogue is somewhat similar to that of the movie, I just don't remember Obi-Wan and Anakin making those faces straight out of any anime flick to express their emotions. Anakin says "This is where the fun begins", I doubted it so much that I had to take that one screenshot over there. All of the missions have taglines which are memorable quotes from all the Star Wars movies, and the line to accompany the first mission is "I have a bad feeling about this"; it really reflected on my emotions at the moment. But, I was in for a surprise - the strength of the gameplay managed to put a smile on my face.

The first game to come to mind was indeed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, and it took a couple of minutes for me to realize that hey, it's probably no coincidence, as Ubisoft was responsible for each TMNT game of the 21st century, including the remake of TMNT IV, a game which I've not yet had a chance to experience properly, while TMNT II was one of my Top 5 played games as a kid. There is far more to Revenge of the Sith than just moving forward and kicking ass, though. The combat is far more tactical, and the more sufficient style you have, the more you can assign skill points after each mission, to improve your attributes and Force spells as you wish. It's pretty cool. I dig this game to some extent already.

You can choose to play as either Obi-Wan Kenobi or Anakin Skywalker. In other words, you can do this the good or evil way. At first, it seems like both characters are exactly the same, but it's actually surprisingly far from the truth. Obi-Wan is faster than Anakin, but his speed makes him somewhat more vulnerable to ranged attacks and it's harder to deflect blaster shots with the lightsaber. Both characters have a set of special moves dependent of a meter, which are executable once they destroy or kill enough enemies. Obi-Wan's special moves are collectively known as Focus, while Anakin's are known as Fury. As long as both characters are assigned to the same missions, they have similar but notably different monologues which mirror each other. For example, Obi-Wan says something like "This is why I hate droids, they never know when to quit", while Anakin claims to love them for the same reason - he just loves to pick a fight. Even if the presentation's far out most of the time, I think it's cool how Ubisoft made the characters such mirror images of each other in every way they could.

Tell me, droid, what makes you tick?
It's a bit disappointing that the first scenario in the game, which spans about three different levels, is pretty much the climax of the game when it comes to gameplay, since it features both characters on active duty. Regardless of who you choose, your mission is the same and your agenda is to free Supreme Chancellor Palpatine from the clutches of Count Dooku. Yeah, we all know that Palpatine's his boss and this is all a scam, but so what? We get to kill at least one bastard. Mostly, you just walk forward and tear everything that moves into shit. Occasionally, you can also make your way to some background props and destroy them to gain some power-ups. There's are several tutorials in the beginning of the game that show you how to use advanced combat techniques, such as Force Push / Pull and the age-old lightsaber trick. It works a bit differently this time around, though. Just standing there and shielding yourself with the lightsaber doesn't really work as an offensive method - the saber just vaporizes the shots - but if you shield yourself at the exact right time, you can deflect them back at enemies as per usual. You can also use the Force to pick up parts of fallen droids and hurl them at enemies to deal some surprisingly devastating damage. One early boss fight is even wholly based on this ability. Lastly, using the D-Pad while attacking results in different lightsaber attacks. For example, pushing down and attacking while standing near a grounded enemy allows you to stab 'em while they're on the ground. This is quite a physically advanced game, a huge overhaul from the last Star Wars game that came out on the Advance... hell, any other Star Wars game on the Advance. It has some notable quirks, though, and I'll get to them very soon.

The boss fight against Count Dooku / Darth Tyranus looks stupid, but it's quite unique. He has a certain attack pattern he changes to another one once his health hits a certain low. The key to winning this fight is to figure out the pattern and follow up with a suitable counterattack each time he fails to deliver. Each time he manages to hit your character, you change to either Obi-Wan or Anakin. It's a constantly changing tag team duel with great tempo, I really enjoyed it although all that counterattack business can really mutilate one's hands. It ends dreadfully, though. Instead of decapitating Dooku like he did in the movie, Anakin just quickly swings at him with the lightsaber and he drops dead. Just about the lamest fatality I've seen in a while. It's also funny that I won the fight using Obi-Wan, suddenly he's inexplicably passed out in the background while Anakin takes the credit.

Whoa, dude. You've gotta show me some
Many quirks can be picked up throughout the game; some recurring ones, some which jump in your face one time only. Obstacles you need to jump over have the tendency of sticking to the edge of the screen, in other words you don't know where you'll land, and secondly, you can't be certain you'll make the jump because of the slow transition into the next screen; your jump might be cut off with no reasonable explanation. They might've went for some really advanced controls, but collision detection - that's another thing; it's incredibly hard to hit large enemies because it's never too obvious what their weak points are. Getting caught in a crossfire or just failing to counter to the sights of one droid enemy that has the privilege of rapid fire, spells certain death, or at least damage heavy enough to potentially fuck up your whole trip. An essential pain in the ass when playing as Obi-Wan. Lastly, both characters are slower in every way than any enemy's A.I. is to react. You can't break your own combo, so you need to watch your surroundings at all times if you're going for one, or an advanced technique. There just might be someone right behind you aiming to put a few bullet holes in your back, you just can't see 'em on the screen yet.

Let's recap: the presentation is downright awful, the plot is very faithful to the movie but having two playable characters around alone makes it very inconsistent. It feels like we're speeding through the storyline, missing some important plot points like all the stuff that makes Anakin one angry camper. He just turns by himself. At least the game doesn't feel as forced like its kind usually do, the movie was so packed to the brim with action that the atmosphere of the missions is authentic most of the time, even if the presentation isn't. The controls are pretty good, but most of the other elements of gameplay tend to piss on your shoes from time to time. All in all, what we have here is a game that cannot stand up to the ones that paved the way for it - but, also one of the better movie licenses of the decade, an entertaining beat 'em up game, and first and foremost, arguably the best game to be released in promotion of the whole Star Wars prequel trilogy.

SOUND : 8.7


GameRankings: 71.85% (DS), 73.38% (GBA), 64.63% (PS2), 80.00% (PSP), 65.97% (Xbox)

Most of the events that don't take place in the movie, but are depicted in the PS2 and Xbox versions of the game, are actually taken from the original draft for the movie.

maanantai 18. huhtikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Star Wars: The New Droid Army (2002)

GENRE(S): Action / Adventure
RELEASED: November 2002
DEVELOPER(S): Helixe, LucasArts

Six months after the release of the awful Game Boy Advance title based on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, THQ put out a new game in promotion of the most recent Star Wars movie. Even the most dedicated fans of the franchise weren't too excited about the new game until it was revealed that it wasn't really based on Episode II, but served as a stand-alone video game sequel to its events. I didn't give a damn about that, but I thought I'd give the game a shot after hearing it was somewhat influenced by Star Wars Episode I: Obi-Wan's Adventures, which I thought was all right. I stumbled on a decent game, at least in comparison to the last game which had Hayden Christensen for a cover boy...

...But I'm running out of suitable quotes!

A few months after his defeat and near slaughter at the hands of Dooku, Anakin Skywalker confronts the Jedi Council to assure them of his physical health and travels to Tatooine to investigate Dooku and his Separatist army's actions. He uncovers his arch nemesis' plot to create an army of powerful droids, and his ultimate goal of destroying the Jedi Archives.

Hunting for whatever makes the womprats
You'll start to see the game's true aim about halfway through when it comes to the storyline, and in the end it's obvious; the developers created an alternative ending to the prequel trilogy, which makes absolutely no sense. There's no mention of Palpatine in the game, it seems that Dooku is the main antagonist of Star Wars, and if I spoil someone's fun, so be it, but in the end of this game, Anakin becomes a hero to all Jedi and lives happily ever after. See? No sense! The initial purpose of the whole prequel trilogy was to provide details on how a kind-hearted child slave from Tatooine became a fearsome Sith tyrant known throughout the galaxy (far, far away) as the greatest villain of all time. This game's storyline creates a paradox like no other, it overturns the whole franchise. It's horrible. Well, at least the game is somewhat playable - not good for much more than simply killing time, though.

The game is isometric and a quick glance at it easily reminds one of Obi-Wan's Adventures on the Game Boy Color, and Jedi Power Battles on the Advance. However, the sprites are made up of tiny polygons to enable more realistic character movement; Anakin's character model looks like a miniature version of the one in the abysmal Attack of the Clones. The environments are very, very bland, and the level design in general is very much about creating illusions of grandeur, with dozens of virtual miles of empty space. The sound effects are OK, the music's the same as it's been in all games based on the later Star Wars movies thus far, only a bit more ambient throughout the line.

Those stupid droids always fall for the same
At first, The New Droid Army looks like an RPG, which is a very quickly shattered illusion. The maps are huge, and you will learn very soon that most of it is indeed just empty space. All of the NPC's you can talk to or otherwise interact with are clearly marked on the map, there are usually just one or two of them, and there's simply nothing to collect in the whole game. No power-ups, no secrets, nothing. All you need to do is keep track of your mission objectives, which change constantly, and deal with them. In other words: travel from point A to point B, save captive citizens, locate informants, kill a lot of wild animals or alternatively, send a lot of droids to the scrapyard. There's not much more to the game.

Anakin moves SLOWLY. You have the Force at your disposal, and you can use one spell from the beginning which allows you to sprint as long as your Force meter has gas - both the Force meter and your health meter regenerate in time. "Yay." Why they didn't make this an auto-ability is beyond me. You gain an additional spell whenever you finish a chapter in the storyline. Most of the spells are quite useless in the long run, but of course there are some instances during which you simply cannot proceed without using some of them. The lightsaber antics are basic stuff we've been seeing in these games for years, but they work a bit better. By pressing the D-Pad in different directions while you're chopping an enemy to bits, you can execute some pretty neat combos. The good old deflecting trick works better than ever, and I just love humiliating and killing ranged enemies with it.

Jabba's dungeon ain't for the impatient.
The neat combos and realistic animation make hacking up enemies kind of fun, but after figuring out there's really not much more to the gameplay besides walking in slow motion and unleashing lightsaber rage across dozens of huge maps, you'll get bored of the game before reaching the halfway mark. Jumping over chasms using the Force Jump is one true problem which rears near the halfway mark; sometimes Anakin just refuses to jump, and sometimes the direction of the jump seems to change magically after you trigger it, sending you down into the pit and back into the beginning of the stage. Luckily The New Droid Army is not a very lengthy game, nor is it that difficult. The only thing that might prompt Star Wars fans to engage in round two, is the opportunity to play as Luke Skywalker, which is there from the very beginning in consideration of haters of Hayden Christensen, unlockable via a simple, three-letter password.

Star Wars: The New Droid Army is moderate fun for a while, but really recommendable for true, relentless Star Wars fanatics only - and even they are very likely turned off by the ridiculous, highly paradoxical storyline. Like I said, to me it's perfectly enough that it somewhat makes up for the sheer abomination that Attack of the Clones was.

SOUND : 7.3


GameRankings: 58.92%

sunnuntai 17. huhtikuuta 2011

And the FAQ... right there, on the right. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with Mr. Sandman. Next up, Star Wars: The New Droid Army.

VGMania v2.0

Talking is over, I've finally managed to make some notable changes to the blog. Thanks to friends and readers who've pointed out some nuisances, keep 'em coming. Here's a list of things I did apart from changing the logo, which I already did a couple of weeks ago:

1. Added a search bar for exclusive use. Just enter the title of the game; if I've written anything about it, you'll find it.

2. Changed all generic headers to something that fits the theme. You readers are now "Enlightened Ones", named after the ancient practitioners of magic in Chrono Trigger, in case you're wondering where it comes from. Enlightened Ones in the game are self-absorbed a-holes, but I don't feel that way about you - it's just a good name, I think, so don't take it personally. ;)

3. Want to read reviews of games for specific platforms only? Added platform tags to all the reviews, they're listed on the right.

4. Cleaned up the archive. It's the same thing, just in compact size.

5. Removed additional blog entries up to a certain date. Some of them were really obsolete.

6. Left my MSN address on my profile. It's better that you either send your e-mails to the address from now on, my official mailbox is bursting as it is. If you're being decent enough, you can try adding me on MSN if you want to discuss something relevant, or just flap your gums for the fun of it.

7. Working on an FAQ. It should be online very soon, and you'll find it in the "Contents" section on the right.

REVIEW - Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: May 2002
DEVELOPER(S): David A. Palmer Productions, LucasArts

The movie Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones wasn't a really huge improvement over Episode I: The Phantom Menace, but it was a notable one and there was a trace of classic Star Wars in it. It is truly an entertaining movie, if nothing else. Of course, a new Star Wars movie called for a bulk of video games... but it didn't get it. Actually, Episode II spawned only two video games, and both of them were released exclusively on Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, whereas Episode I spawned a total of six games for multiple platforms, and an arcade title. An optimist is led to believe that the two games were so good there was no need for fulfillment, while a pessimist knows exactly what to expect from Attack of the Clones. Let me correct that, not _exactly_; I thought they stopped making this particular brand of manure back in 1993.

I've got a bad feeling about this

I prefer to see the movie. Thanks, anyway.
Dooku, a former Jedi Master and now a servant of the dark side of the Force, organizes a resistance movement against the Galactic Republic. Senator Padme Amidala reacts to the situation by attempting to create an army to assist the fledgling Jedi, and therefore becomes a target for assassination. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine assigns Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Padawan Anakin Skywalker as Padme's bodyguards. Obi-Wan soon leaves to follow up on a lead regarding the identity of the hired assassin, while Anakin is left alone with Padme, whom he has loved since he was a child. Conflict ensues.

After finishing a sort of a sub-marathon that felt like one of the longest I've ever had, by beating Star Wars Episode I: Obi-Wan's Adventures, I was totally stoked about finally being able to move on to the two games based on Episode II. I downed a couple of cupajoes, went jogging for a couple of hours, returned home, took a shower and sat on the bench, totally ready for Attack of the Clones. I always thought the movie was underrated; it was unfairly placed in the same category as The Phantom Menace. OK, it isn't great, but cut it some slack. At least Jar Jar Binks isn't the one character to utter every third line of the whole movie, at last there's SOME Darth Vader to be seen in Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi sports his coolest look ever, and we witness Boba Fett's coming of age. With the best parts of this fair movie in mind and Yoda's sudden
über-athleticism totally ignored, I start up Attack of the Clones. In less than one minute, my brain lies scattered across the floor. This game is the worst movie license I've played since the "golden" days of the "fatal four" (read on).

Attack of the old-school polygons.
Large, digitized character sprites extended to 3D with polygons, on the Game Boy Advance. That's all I've got to say about the standard gameplay graphics; everyone has a different opinion on the style. I guess it looks OK; Anakin's movement at least looks dynamic, which it isn't in terms of control. The enemies are kind of flat, though. The music is good, and surprisingly well produced for the system, but I can't help but sigh when I start up the game and "The Imperial March" plays as the main theme. Even if it was in the movie, it's not this much of a central part of the prequel trilogy. What can I say, I'm a detail pervert.

There have also been a few detail perverts working on this game - different sorts than me, though. The cutscenes spill all the most important details, and spoil the movie, totally. Not that it would matter that much, I just thought I'd point this out 'cause there's really nothing more relevant to say about the game that it's a tight bundle of crap. Star Wars games haven't always been that good, but whenever there's the LucasArts logo in any capacity on a game, there are certain expectations, none of which are cashed in by Attack of the Clones.

The only thing that separates Attack of the Clones from an overtly generic side-scrolling beat 'em up game and rather makes it an "action" game, is the inclusion of 3D shooting and racing levels, which are as simple as they can possibly be, and also as rough, messy and ugly as they can possibly be. The rest of the game pretty much comprises of the most stiff trio of models of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Mace Windu you've ever seen, beating the shit out of droids and whatever comes their way with awkwardly controlled lightsaber offense, quick jumpkicks and weak Force spells which take an eternity to charge up. Shielding yourself from blaster shots using the good old saber stunt looks easy enough, it's just too bad that it actually shields you from about 50% of projectiles. Your health drains rapidly, there are enemies coming from the left and right, and the attack button doesn't do jack by itself. You always need to "direct" a swing from your lightsaber by using the D-Pad to make it do _something_. Just try to maintain some control in a game that constantly refuses to co-operate, get overnumbered in the process, die, start over. I've seen this before - many, many years ago, in almost every SNES movie license made in the early 90's, most of which were made by the "fatal four": LJN, Ocean, Sony Imagesoft and THQ. Who actually published this game, by the way? Oh, THQ! Not much of a homecoming.

Haha, your blasters can't match my lightsaber!
Yeah, sure, the game is hard, in the usual wrong sense of a movie license, so its initial lifespan is pretty close to plain zero, or it would be, if I was willing to go beneath the magic number of 1. Changing the difficulty to "Padawan" doesn't make the game any better, but I guess the most dedicated (read: crazed) Star Wars fanatics will keep on bearing the game for an extended while longer on that level. Check a few more additional points out of pity. The game really is this embarrassing, I'm not intent on being overtly negative just because I was personally disappointed.

Of course, some might say that disappointment is inevitable when it comes to movie licenses, but I disagree at least when it comes to Star Wars. Like I said, there are always at least some expectations when a new Star Wars game comes out; all of the movies, even The Phantom Menace, have so much good source material for video games, more than any other movie franchise. 20 years of Star Wars games, so much know-how... and then this. There have been bad Star Wars games in the past, but Attack of the Clones takes the cake. I guess it's the much spoken great disturbance in the Force.

SOUND : 8.5


GameRankings: 38.87%

REVIEW - Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo (2000)

GENRE(S): Shooter
RELEASED: December 2000
DEVELOPER(S): Factor 5, LucasArts

Arcade shooter Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (3D), released in 1998, was quite a commercial and critical success, and it was to spawn a direct sequel exclusively for the Nintendo GameCube in 2001. Before that, though, a spiritual sequel to Rogue Squadron, based on the events and settings of The Phantom Menace emerged on the Nintendo 64, and later, Microsoft Windows. Although extremely similar to Rogue Squadron, Battle for Naboo introduced a notably modified game engine which enabled ranged combat on both land and water. It's a playable game, as long as you have the right hardware for it - it's damn near impossible to play with traditional PC devices - but it's based on the weakest link of the Star Wars franchise, and two whole years didn't really do that much wonders to the basic Rogue Squadron gameplay.

The Federation has gone too far this time

Matt Walters : Lt. Gavin Sykes / Battledroid / Escapee
Bruce Robertson : Captain Kael
Jeff Coopwood : Captain Panaka / Narrator
Clint Bajakian : Borvo the Hutt / Ric Olie / Naboo Citizen
Doug Boyd : Rohan Wayside / Male Farmer
Roger L. Jackson : Smeer Ze-Trois / RSF Officer
Terence McGovern : Kol Kotha / Trader
Steve McPartlin : Lutin Hollis
Jarion Monroe : Ivar Nitu / Ned Greeby / Gungan
Peter Van Schaik : Vedd Deviss / Naboo Citizen

Lieutenant Gavin Sykes and his superior, Captain Kael, are forced to flee the city of Theed after the Trade Federation's invasion. Together, they form a resistance movement, all the while their Queen is in the protective hands of two Jedi Knights on a mission of their own.

My initial reaction to this game was simply: no, I won't do it. I won't even try. I even left it out of the marathon, until I discovered that Rogue Squadron wasn't a bad game at all. It was then I found out that Battle for Naboo was actually some sort of spiritual sequel to that game. Suddenly I found myself a bit more intrigued by the game, and decided to go for it even though I was fed up with games based on The Phantom Menace before I had even started with the first one, and even though I have no interest in battling for Naboo. Well, the first thing I discovered about the PC version first-hand, was that it's a terrible play with the mouse and keyboard - it was originally released on the Nintendo 64, and the new engine is much more physical than that of Rogue Squadron, so it's optimized for a controller. Luckily I have my trusty Microsoft Sidewinder. I plugged it in, and finally I was cooking.

Rogue Squadron on bikes?
Technically, the game looks just slightly better as Rogue Squadron, which is very strange considering that there were two whole years between these two games. The audio is excellent, courtesy of Skywalker Sound for the most part. There are well rearranged mash-ups of Star Wars themes, and perfectly authentic sound effects. The voiceover work is a bit less impressive. Your character Sykes has a wide array of tacky battle quotes at his disposal, and the dialogue sounds extremely mechanical.

Let's go over what Battle for Naboo does better than Rogue Squadron, first. First off, the new engine rules; it's a bit less arcade-ish than Rogue Squadron. You don't just fly around shooting everything that moves and be home for dinner and poontang by nine; sometimes, when you rescue a civilian, he/she might ask you to follow and give you a bonus in return, which you should always go and pick up before carrying on with your main objective. There are also tactical instances which require you to quickly determine whether you should try to fight or look for an alternative way out of the situation. Finally, there are many stages in which you encounter enemies you simply cannot dispose of with your current craft; in this case, you need to find and enter the nearest security hangar to switch to a craft more suitable for the situation at hand. All in all, it's a bit more intense than Rogue Squadron. Finally, AT-AT's were not yet invented at this point of the Star Wars timeline, so you need not to worry about cable trouble.

Halt, this is the swamp police!
The cons. Well, the theme for one. I simply dislike everything about The Phantom Menace, it's just the way it is. I know there are a lot of other people who feel the exact same way, and although this game isn't really based on the movie, its events rather coincide with the movie's events, there's a lot of stuff in it besides the general atmosphere that makes Menace-haters lose interest very quickly. Secondly, you spend a little too much time helping your partners out; it seems like they can't do shit to defend themselves, and even when they're on the "offensive", they seem to just fly around and yell to you, until you bust in and actually do something about the situation. Thirdly, besides the new combat engine and more physical movement, the game is not that much of a leap forward from Rogue Squadron. The more you play it, the more it starts to feel the same. Once again, getting all gold medals in the game results in some extra stages, and passcodes lead to more unlockables. Still cool, but all too familiar. There is one new feature, though; you can also unlock concept art and audio commentary for each stage with passcodes. Battle for Naboo was one of the first games to feature this sort of useless, yet harmless bonus material.

Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo
is easily the best merchandise to be spawned by The Phantom Menace - right after the double-bladed lightsaber toy. Man, that shit was neat. Why wasn't the movie made when I was a kid? As a game in general, or even a Star Wars game, it isn't that special or one you simply could not ignore. Besides, I truly understand what most critics were ranting about back in the day, when they spoke of the mouse and keyboard control. If you truly want this game, and are going to play this on the PC like I did, get some sort of pad. Seriously.

SOUND : 8.3


a.k.a. Star Wars: Battle for Naboo

GameRankings: 81.66% (N64), 57.00% (PC)

Not the last game based on The Phantom Menace, but the last to have "Episode I" in its title.

REVIEW - Star Wars Episode I: Obi-Wan's Adventures (2000)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: November 2000

I actually remember when this game was released. It was promoted somewhere as Star Wars: Obi-Wan, which sounded way cool. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has always been one of my favourite characters in the Star Wars universe, all the way from the first movie to the prequel trilogy. Even if he was just a Padawan and had awful hair in The Phantom Menace, his character development was one of the movie's greatest (and only) driving forces as far as I'm concerned. Well, Star Wars: Obi-Wan was actually an Xbox exclusive, a critically mutilated Phantom Menace prequel which came out in 2001, while the Game Boy Color game was actually called Star Wars Episode I: Obi-Wan's Adventures. "That's got to be the stupidest title for a Star Wars game I've ever heard", was my first reaction and it still holds true. As a game, it's yet another adaptation of the Phantom Menace storyline, this time from Obi-Wan Kenobi's exclusive point of view. Aaaggggh... I'll do this one more time. One - more - time. Luckily the game isn't as bad as it sounds like, it's actually quite innovative for a handheld game of its age. The Force isn't exactly strong with it, but it's there, somewhere.

Meet Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan is Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn's highly impressive apprentice. When Qui-Gon discovers Anakin Skywalker, a child who he believes to be the Chosen One foretold of in the Jedi prophecy, Obi-Wan is suspicious at first but develops a friendship with the boy. He does his best to protect the boy from harm, and aid his master in his battles with the Trade Federation and the Sith assassin sent after their group.

I don't get _all_ the criticism towards the graphics. Sure, it's a bit rough and messy, but most critics say they can't really make out what's going on half the time - I can, for the most part. Depends on the floor texture, if it's too detailed it is indeed hard to make out what's happening. The music really ain't too good. A couple of vintage tunes such as "Duel of the Fates" check in, but they play on highly repetitive and awkwardly rearranged loops.

Everything in the game does
NOT look this messy.
The game looks very much like Jedi Power Battles, which came out on a handheld (Game Boy Advance) a couple of years later - the game is just a little bit more diverse, imagine that. The stages are pretty much the same, too; both games are based on the same movie, after all. You play as Obi-Wan Kenobi (duh), and your mission is to solve some simple puzzles, break down walls, destroy a lot of droids and make your way from the Trade Federation's blockage to the final, epic battle with Darth Maul, to set the stage for Episode II. The game kind of reminds me of old-school Metal Gear, without any form of stealth; the very familiar electric currents in the floors in the first stage take care of that.

It sounds cooler than it plays out like: besides the lightsaber, you can use the Force to dispose of enemies and obstacles. It's really boring, actually: you can't move anything with the Force grip. You can simply blow up anything you grab with it. Nevertheless, quite impressive, considering that Jedi Power Battles on a more advanced handheld didn't have anything of the sort, just direct attacks. You can also use a blaster, which is blasphemy. What kind of a Jedi or an advanced apprentice - like Obi-Wan - uses a blaster?! It's pretty mandatory to use it, though. One more detail I would like to point out about the combat, and one which I truly like, is that by mashing the attack button, and pressing the digital pad in any direction makes Obi-Wan walk slowly across the floor and swing his lightsaber around to deflect any blaster shots coming towards him, just like in the more recent trilogy. You actually need to use this move to make progress on a couple of occasions.

Tinkerin' with the Force.
At some point, the boredom sets in. The passages between screens, not to mention stage exits, are not in plain sight - they get lost amidst everything else. The stages are lengthy, they more or less follow the same initial pattern despite the potential of diversity brought on by the puzzles, and the high-pitched music starts to drill a hole in your skull sooner or later. The controls are quite stiff and incoherent, but at least there's not much platform jumping in the game, if any.

Star Wars Episode I: Obi-Wan's Adventures might have the stupidest title out of all Star Wars games... oh, wait. Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi. Point taken! The SECOND stupidest title... wait. Star Wars: Republic Commando. God damn it, THIRD stupidest title out of all Star Wars games. It's not the worst handheld game I've ever played, nor is it the best. It's also not the best game based on The Phantom Menace, but it isn't the worst either. That latter honour definitely goes out to Jedi Power Battles.

SOUND : 5.7


GameRankings: 62.33%

REVIEW - Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles (2000)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: March 2000
DEVELOPER(S): LucasArts, HotGen (GBA)

In 2000, LucasArts revealed the third game based on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, entitled Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles, and released on Sega Dreamcast and the Sony PlayStation. This arcade-style action platformer was received rather poorly. In early 2002, the game was ported to the Game Boy Advance by HotGen, and since Episode II's premiere was closing in, the reference to Episode I was dropped from the title. It is still an isometric action platformer strictly based on the storyline of The Phantom Menace... and it has got to be one of the downright glitchiest, most useless handheld releases I have ever seen.

I need to speak to the Jedi Council

While escorting Queen Amidala to Coruscant and being targeted by a Sith assassin named Darth Maul, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi stop to have their ship repaired on the desert planet of Tatooine. There, they find a fascinating child slave named Anakin Skywalker, who Qui-Gon insists to be made a Jedi due to his overwhelming spiritual connection to the Force.

This is the plot of the movie for those who don't (want to) remember it. Those who haven't seen the flick and wonder what all the fuss about Jar Jar Binks is, well, he's with the group nearly all the time - I just left him unmentioned. I have never played the home version of the game - but this Game Boy Advance version kind of reminds me of the whole movie The Phantom Menace. It's a failure, an error in judgement. Not to mention, full of errors in programming. I know I use the word "glitch" a lot, sometimes even when glitches aren't really glitches, but if you can't see or experience one true glitch in this game, you've got to be the blindest Star Wars fan I've ever seen.

The graphics are better than I expected, but the game still looks kind of generic, tacky and commercial - the kind of game you get as a freebie for buying a magazine or something. The animation... what animation...? The sound effects are good, props be to them. The music is extremely lo-fi, and repetitive, but at least it's original for a change, and true to Star Wars.

So whatcha gonna do, brotha?
I don't know a whole lot about the home version, but what I've seen tells me that it's a hybrid of an action-adventure, platformer and beat 'em up - and the Game Boy Advance version is just that. As either Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Jedi Masters Qui-Gon Jinn or Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson, motherfucker!), you must travel through ten stages, familiar settings from the movie. Your trip is chocked with platforming hazards, tactical boss fights, and tons of droids to unleash lightsaber rage on. I guess the game's idea is to be a realistic "role-playing" experience as a Jedi. Well, it's far from that.

The game is OK as long as you're cutting droids in half. It's easy as hell. Repetitive, but kinda fun for the first few minutes. Just hack away, there are two different lightsaber attacks and an AOE attack dependent on Force energy to dispose of large groups of droids. There are bosses and some droid enemies who you need to tactically dispose of by abusing their own blasters, by deflecting the shots with your lightsaber in the vintage Star Wars style. It's nothing too hard, I assure you. Nothing about the combat is difficult, except perhaps droids who are camped on the other side of bottomless chasms, and happen to time their shots just perfectly to hit you in mid-air. The A.I. of the enemies is quite damn close to zero, and there aren't many different enemies, so they're quite easy to read after just a couple of confrontations. The "challenge" of the game is brought on exclusively by the (dis)ability to jump.

Absolutely everything related to jumping forces you to stay on your toes. It's not only the artificial difficulty of jumping in an isometric environment that's the problem, there are glitches everywhere! Let's see if I can trace every single problem, it's very hard though, there are so many. Invisible walls from the days of the old school Game Boy return, perhaps worse than ever. In the first stage, there are these vertical lifts. For some odd reason, if you make a double jump off-screen from one of these lifts, you might actually get stuck beyond the screen for several seconds and then suddenly fall back onto the lift with all your health drained. You might think it's because you're falling from a great height, but it isn't; your health is drained BEFORE you hit the ground. You pretty much need to do that double-jump, or an invisible wall might turn up and disrupt your transition to the next lift. It's a Jedi Power Battle with a huge glitch, and it's not even the worst one.

I've come for Jar Jar.
In the second stage, there's a tree which you must climb by jumping on these fungi growing from it. Well, at least you can't die, but it takes an eternity and many falls back to ground level to make it to the top. A bit further into the stage, there are these narrow, bottomless gaps - actually the first stage has some too. Sometimes, you can just simply walk over them, sometimes you can't. Well, then the real glitch comes along. I wish I had had the video recorder ready for this, so you would believe me. You can actually fall into a thin seam between two ground levels, and die. Also, if you jump just slightly into the wrong direction while heading towards the Gungan boss of the stage, you can either die or get stuck inside the ground. I shit you not, I fought the boss from underground. I had to use a Force spell every now and then to see where my character was located; triggering it makes your character flash on the screen for a nanosecond. I managed to do away with the boss, but damn, did I feel stupid. And damn, did I feel pity for the developers. Not anger. Anger leads to hate.

Kids are easy to please, so make a game based on some popular character, TV show or movie, and you've got a winner. No matter what the critics say - as long as the game is somewhat playable, it'll sell, all thanks to the children. A few glitches, buh. Kids don't know what a glitch is. Impossible hazards, buh. Kids have infinite patience when it comes to video games. Make a game out of Star Wars, and you've got at least some adults expecting something out of it - at least some TESTING before it leaves the belt, into the shelves. Seriously, why was this game released? Couldn't they wait for Episode II, only a couple of months away, and really focus on making a playable, properly programmed game? Did they really have to quickly cash in on a three-year old, lackluster movie one more time, with an initially very mildly entertaining, but totally repetitive and glitchbound piece of crap? Weren't there enough Star Wars games to go around already? Was it just because Game Boy Advance was scheduled to have a game based on Episode II, yet no games about Episode I? I simply don't know!

SOUND : 6.8


a.k.a. Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles (DC, PS1)

GameRankings: 74.73% (DC), 56.96% (GBA), 56.93% (PS1)

The home versions of the game feature two additional playable characters (Jedi Masters Adi Gallia and Plo Koon), two unlockable characters (Queen Amidala and Captain Panaka), as well as four bonus stages unlocked after the first playthrough. Jedi Knight Ki-Adi-Mundi is an exclusive unlockable character in the Sega Dreamcast version.

lauantai 16. huhtikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Star Wars Episode I: Racer (1999)

N64 VERSION (1999)
GENRE(S): Racing
RELEASED: May 1999
PUBLISHER(S): LucasArts, Nintendo (GB, N64)

Out of all six Star Wars movies, The Phantom Menace spawned the most licensed video games. I'm very tempted to guess that the Lucas empire had to pay big money to critics to ignore the character of Jar Jar Binks and be gentle to the lackluster movie, that's why they needed so many games. Be that as it may, my personal opinion on The Phantom Menace is no secret. In my mind, the movie sucks, but I can't help watching it every now and then, since artificially it's such an important part of the series. The first game that was released on the heels of The Phantom Menace's premiere was non-surprisingly an action-oriented adaptation of the flick. About a month later, just a few days before George's biggest night since 1983, LucasArts presented a racing game based on one of the most central, yet totally irrelevant scenes in the movie. Curious. But dull.

Bantha poodoo

Jake Lloyd : Anakin Skywalker
Andrew Secombe : Watto
Lewis Macleod : Sebulba
Scott Capurro : Fode Annodue
Greg Proops : Beed Annodue
Dominic Armato : Ben Quadinaros
Bob Bergen : Clegg Holdfast
Gregg Berger : Wan Sandage
Dave Fennoy : Toy Dampner
Roger Jackson : Ark "Bumpy" Roose

Star Wars Episode I: Racer is a very simple and quick game to review, for a change. Just as the name implies, it's a racer, pure and simple. Since we're racing with hovercrafts in a futuristic setting, the first comparison to come to mind is obviously WipEout, and since the reviewed game is the Nintendo 64 version, I can't help but think WipEout 64 from the very beginning. There are weapons, too, acquired via periodical upgrades - more familiar shite. Fans of racing games featuring foul play and those chosen few who actually liked The Phantom Menace and its irrelevancies might enjoy it. Me - I'm constantly thinking of all other similar games of the era, games that were released even long before Racer, and how much better and more exciting they were.

WipEout Wars Episode I: The Usual Menace.
The graphics are quite OK on the Nintendo 64 scale - actually I keep on forgetting that it's a Nintendo 64 game, since it looks so "normal". Although Nintendo published this version, I guess they didn't have much say in how the game should look like, which is good - the game shows what the 64 was really capable of at the time. The frame rate is excellent. There is close to no music, only John Williams' "Duel of the Fates" - the best thing that ever came out of the prequel trilogy - plays in the menu screen, while rest of the sound bank is comprised of quite standard sound effects and occasional voiceover samples, by actors from the movie as well as some voiceover staples including LucasArts' golden boy, Guybrush Threepw... sorry, Dominic Armato, and Gregg Berger. The commentary is God damn irritating.

The game's main mode, the Tournament, is quite effortless to beat. Once you take the lead and manage to maintain it for the shortest while, even crashing your vehicle one or two times will definitely not prevent you from winning the race. The lack of true competition leaves an even more stale taste than the get-go, and renders the actual need for foul play quite non-existent.

Like I said, it's fit for some people. Mainly for kids, those adults who can't get enough of racing games, and those who approved of Jar Jar Binks and rest of The Phantom Menace's fluffiness. For a casual competitor, Star Wars Episode I: Racer offers nothing unique except for the Star Wars theme in a gameplay setting that is quite unexpected from the franchise.

SOUND : 6.5


Star Wars Episode I: Racer for the Game Boy Color is a whole different ball game... uh, racing game, from the big boy of the same name. This game is a one-on-one racing game from a top-down view. You simply race against several opponents, stage by stage, and by winning an opponent once, you unlock 'em to your disposal. Out of all the games I've ever played, the look of Racer most reminds me of Micro Machines, a game that I personally consider a cult favourite. What makes Racer for the Game Boy stand out a little is that Game Boy really hasn't got that much quality racing games. I'm not saying Racer is anything too exciting either, but it's quite decent, harmless entertainment.

The graphics are quite good, pretty much of the late 90's Game Boy Color standard. The sound design is exactly the same as in the home version, without the voiceovers, of course. Only "Duel of the Fates" checks in as a menu tune - sounds surprisingly excellent in MIDI, by the way - while stale sound effects rule the rest of the show.

I don't know what the deal rightly is, but I actually enjoyed this game further than the more advanced and serious home version. Maybe it's my fondness to Micro Machines, I don't know, but the point is that the game is playable, mild handheld entertainment, whereas the previous version was lost in the masses of its peers and superiors. I kind of dig it. Relatively fun.

SOUND : 6.3


a.k.a. Pod Racer

GameRankings: 69.44% (GB), 75.78% (N64)

perjantai 15. huhtikuuta 2011

A musical interlude

Been listening to this tune a LOT while doing the Star Wars reviews. Epica are a Dutch band, they play symphonic metal and they have one of the most beautiful women in the world for a singer - Simone Simons. I'll see them live in the summer for the second time, hope they'll play this one.

torstai 14. huhtikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D (1998)

GENRE(S): Shooter
RELEASED: December 1998
DEVELOPER(S): Factor 5, LucasArts
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo (N64), LucasArts (PC)

In 1995, a group of comic book writers and artists collaborated on a Star Wars-influenced series of comic books entitled Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron, and starring the character of Wedge Antilles. The series continued until November 1998. One month after its retirement Factor 5 and LucasArts published a widely acclaimed Windows game loosely based on this comic book series, entitled Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D. Just a few days later, an even more acclaimed version of the game was released on the Nintendo 64, as simply Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. This arcade-style, simple shooter struck a good nerve, but it was also criticized, primarily for not having a multiplayer mode - which indeed is kind of odd. I'm not that much into shooters myself, but Rogue Squadron 3D is definitely an addictive, apparently timeless experience, and one of the better Star Wars games I've played.

Don't get cocky, kid!

Bob Bergen : Luke Skywalker
Robert Foster : Wedge Antilles
Olivia Hussey : Kasan Moor
Neil Ross : Han Solo / General Rieekan
Raphael Sbarge : Dack Ralter
Terry McGovern : Crix Madine / Wes Janson
Paul Amendt : Rogue Ten

Six months after Luke Skywalker destroyed the first Death Star, he establishes a group of elite fighter pilots within the Rebel Alliance, collectively known as the Rogue Squadron. The Squadron is tasked with various anti-Imperial missions across the galaxy.

I've had Rogue Squadron 3D on the PC for quite a few years, but I played it for the very first time when I started doing the initial field work for this marathon. I've got to admit I had no idea what it was about, I didn't even know what kind of a game it was! The plot was the first thing to grab me by the balls; this game shows what Luke, Han and company were up to during the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The next thing was the medal system. Whenever there are medals of different value awarded for an achievement, or in this case bunch of achievements, I'll pretty much play any game. It's like Trophies and Achievements these days. When I heard a Luke Skywalker sound-alike reading biographies of members of Rogue Squadron to me out loud, with John Williams' original score playing in the background, I was sold. Time to brush the dust away from my skills with the mouse and keyboard. For once, I really don't feel like using my pad.

"Luke, you're going the wrong way!"
"...I know. ...Just checkin'."
The audiovisuals of the game are good. The game basically looks excellent. I still can't believe that even though the game is "old", it only takes something like 45 Megs of hard drive space, it looks so good and runs so smoothly. However, there are some occasional problems with distances. To juice it up a little bit, an enemy might not pop on the screen until you're about two feet from it, bound for collision. Looking for a single remaining TIE Fighter to shoot down in the night sky is quite difficult. The soundtrack's a collaboration between John Williams - I don't know if he was actually involved with the project, but these are his original scores - and Chris Hülsbeck, somewhat of a legend in his business and best known for The Great Giana Sisters and the Turrican series. Great, inspirational stuff. Technically the voice acting's great, from a really picky Star Wars' fans point of view it's just OK... Bob Bergen and Neil Ross do good jobs in imitating Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, the thing is that no matter how good an imitation is, I can always tell the difference. In the case of some later games, especially those which feature Matt Sloan as Darth Vader, I've listened to some critics go on and on about how great and authentic the voice work is and how you aren't able to tell the difference... get the fuck outta here.

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D is an obviously three-dimensional, arcade-style shooter, so there's not a fancy way to describe it. First, you get to create a pilot, but keep in mind that this generic creation is only for keeping a unique track record; you always play as Luke Skywalker, whichever craft you're using. There are some times you can choose your craft all by yourself, but on most of these 16 missions your choice is limited to 1-3 different crafts from the possible five: the X-Wing, Y-Wing, A-Wing, V-Wing and Snowspeeder. All crafts have primary and secondary weapons, as well as a special feature. The missions range from sweaty combat like defending cities from all sorts of Imperial toys, to escort missions which require you to keep a keen eye on your surroundings and blast down the occasional TIE. It's fun...

...But I know what you're thinking: why doesn't this game have multiplayer? While I feel for each and everyone whose primary concern lies in the lack of multiplayer, I'm not personally that bothered by it. What I'm bothered by most is the control. It's not just the mouse and keyboard, but it's the fact that once you begin to really chase down a pest, you'll be doing a lot of rolls and swirls just to keep up with it, and it's really hard to regain control - a neutral position. Double that for me when I'm using control devices outside of my true comfort zone. It's apparently been an even bigger problem for more players than me, so I also have to mention one certain secondary weapon, which is a really awkward pain in the ass to use: the Snowspeeder's tow cable. Remember, the one Luke used on the AT-AT's in Empire? You need to use it on AT-AT's in this game, as well. Which is funny, since most of the game's events take place before Empire; Luke got the idea of using the cables in the movie. Nah, it's no biggie, just wanted to bitch about something irrelevant yet again. Rogue Squadron is an entertaining game. I don't really know how to describe it any further. Audiovisually, it's pure Star Wars, and you get to shoot stuff. Isn't that enough?

The speeder's definitely my least favourite
If you're wondering how long a game like this lasts in the hands of the casual player, I'd say moderately long. Getting all gold medals in each storyline mission (which is HARD!) unlocks a total of three secret missions, directly inspired by the movies: Beggar's Canyon on Tatooine, which was mentioned in the first movie but not seen until Episode I. The Death Star Trench Run, the climax of the first movie, and last but not least, The Battle of Hoth from the first half of The Empire Strikes Back. The tow cable's most awkward hour, right there. Or should I say, most awkward four minutes, since that's the time you need for the very last gold medal of the game. Even if the game lacks multiplayer, you'll keep hacking it if you're a fan of Star Wars and shooters, I'm sure.

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D was a pleasant surprise. I'm not willing to bet I'll go out of my way to get some more games like this on my list on my near-future-must-plays, but I really enjoyed it. And still do. As a matter of fact, I think I'll get me a couple of gold medals right now. I'm ready!

SOUND : 8.7


a.k.a. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (N64)

GameRankings: 84.25% (N64), 79.24% (PC)

In promotion of the movie Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), a Naboo Starfighter was patched in as an additional craft. However, this very efficient vehicle can only be used in missions that are already completed.

keskiviikko 13. huhtikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1994)

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: October 1994
AVAILABLE ON: GB, GG, SNES, Wii Virtual Console
DEVELOPER(S): Realtime Associates (GB), Sculptured Software, LucasArts (SNES)
PUBLISHER(S): THQ, Black Pearl (GB, GG), JVC (SNES), LucasArts (Wii)

Return of the Jedi was my favourite Star Wars movie when I was a kid, due to the fact that I loved the Ewoks spin-off. When I matured some, The Empire Strikes Back overwhelmingly took that spot. However, Return of the Jedi is almost just as good. No matter what you think about Ewoks, you can't deny that Return of the Jedi is another great classic, in this series that has three great movies, two good movies and one "movie of the week", so to say. Critical reception to Return of the Jedi was initially very mixed, and it still is today. Most fans love it just as much as the last one. Interestingly, the reception to the last game in the Super Star Wars trilogy was just as mixed. Some critics that had praised the previous game blazed at it because "there was nothing new", while some regarded it the best game in the series. I'm with the latter on this one: it might be just like the two previous games, but that's the idea - it's a trilogy! Besides, I disagree with those who say this game offers nothing new. I think that once again improved gameplay, atmosphere and respect for players' feelings are quite enough to make Return of the Jedi an enjoyable, fresh experience. At least in this one you have some slight, faint hope of making it to the final boss honourably! ...But that's about it...

Strong am I with the Force, but not that strong

Nice and easy does it. A soft landing, finally.
Jedi knight Luke Skywalker returns to his home planet of Tatooine together with Leia and Chewbacca to rescue the imprisoned Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt's palace. Meanwhile, a new Death Star is being constructed, and Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader's Sith master, arrives to oversee the construction work in person. While the rest of the rebel alliance stays on the forest moon of Endor to plot a concentrated attack on the yet incomplete Imperial space station, Luke willingly enters the Death Star, to confront Darth Vader one last time and attempt to bring his father back from the dark side of the Force.

The graphics are once again improved to the point there really is no more capacity to go around. The Mode 7 sequences are smooth, and the ones in which you control the Millennium Falcon's turret are in seamless, full 3D, which was pretty much unparalleled work from a third-party developer at the time. The standard 2D graphics are very detailed, although at times, the environment's kind of flat. The sound's just what you'd expect after two games that were very strong in that department. This is some truly heartfelt Star Wars schtick, I love it.

An awesome move.
After the mayhem and emotional torment Super Star Wars and Empire put me through, I was very nervous going into Return. The game starts off a lot easier than either one of the previous games. The first stage is a Mode 7 landspeeder sequence, in which you don't have to shoot anything, you don't even have to concentrate on steering the vehicle. You just need to dodge rocks and jump over some occasional chasms. The second stage is the pathway to Jabba's palace, and you can already choose your character between Luke, Chewie and Leia. Luke's the same as always, but since he's a Jedi knight now, you have Force spells at your disposal from the very beginning, including the healing spell and one in which he throws the lightsaber at an enemy and you can then remotely control the weapon to do some extra damage. Very cool. Leia has a similar somersault attack to that of Luke's, but her normal attacks have crappy range. Chewie is the only character in this stage of the game to have a blaster at his disposal, which obviously makes him essential in long-range combat. Sometimes, you simply need a long-range weapon; you don't want to get caught between two enemies in this game. That spells death.

Leia at least attempting to kick some ass in
Jabba's dance hall.
The bosses in the game are difficult throughout the line, they're pretty much THE challenge of the game. They take a million hits, each and every one of them. Luke's essential to use in boss fights since he has the Force on his side. You wouldn't believe how much one or two healing spells per fight can help. As you progress, the game turns out to be very difficult in general, and Palpatine is one of the meanest motherfuckers ever to appear as a boss in any game - but the game manages to entertain with its difficulty on a whole new level, it never borders on impossible quite like its predecessors. The game's pretty generous on health items, and checkpoints turn up often in the form of R2-D2, which is definitely a first in this series. Also, you can start over from the last checkpoint as long as you have continues left. When you don't have any left, you'll have to start any stage all over, but at least you've still got a password to go on. This is one of two things the Super Star Wars series needed: forgiveness.

The other thing Super Star Wars needed was better level design, and in my opinion, Return of the Jedi manages to impress with that quality as well. There are many different stages and different types of them - all of these sequences did not happen in the movie in any shape or form, but it doesn't matter. They still fit the bill, and don't affect the mood and atmosphere in any way.

Looks awesome in motion.
It might be nearly impossible to beat, but at least it isn't impossible to play and enjoy. Besides, if you are lucky enough to make it to Palpatine, you can simply write down the password and keep trying, you never have to repeat your very possible success in the previous areas again. You still have to fly the Millennium Falcon and blow that shard of crap they call the Death Star to smithereens, but after you've done away with Palpatine, you've pretty much done away with the game. That guy is a serious prick.

Yep, I pretty much regard Return of the Jedi as the best game in the Super Star Wars trilogy. It has the best atmosphere and level design out of all three games, and it's challenging in a much more amusing way, which also makes it the most lasting and replayable Super Star Wars game. As a personal sidenote... I must say my love for Ewoks hasn't gone anywhere. I love playing as Wicket, and this is the only game in history I can do that in. It's not worth an additional point, but it's worth this special note.

SOUND : 9.3


Making a game entitled Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi for the Game Boy wasn't quite as weird as making one for Sega Game Gear; after all, Nintendo pretty much owned the rights to use the "Super" exclamation. This Game Boy version is a comprehensible, and actually somewhat expected release. To remind you, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were both released for the NES and Game Boy. Then, LucasArts decided to reboot the franchise on the SNES. In 1994, the lifespan of the NES came to an end, but Game Boy was still going strong. Since it never got a Return of the Jedi game, Realtime Associates and Black Pearl took the simple way out and ported Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi to Game Boy. How can such an audiovisually pleasing, physical game work on the Game Boy?

Mess No. 1: the bike chase.
Well, it's not surprising that it can't. Let's start with the graphics: can you spell "one-dimensional"? Most of the game's difficulty level is based solely on graphics. It's rather weird: in some levels, there are no details at all, while in some, there are so much details that enemies are easily camouflaged in the background. The one Mode 7 sequence of the game proves why Mode 7 should've never even been tested on the original Game Boy. Probably wasn't "tested" in the core sense of the word before they made this game. It's a mess. Remember the Millennium Falcon's Death Star infiltration? Well, congratulations to you if you can make out the ground levels the obstacles are on. The music is horrible. Just a couple of tunes, circulated and remixed from the beginning to the end, in genuine Game Boy fidelity. Kind of reminds me of those good old Mario educationals.

Mess No. 2: the attack on
Death Star.
The one thing you must do before even trying this game is that you must forget its name. Yes, it is a port of the Super Nintendo game. Quite faithful one in terms of progress, just a few stages are cut. But, we are two primary action buttons short, so no Force spells this time around. As if you would need them, anyway, because the game is easy - one of the easiest games I've ever played on the Game Boy. The total graphical flatness of the game is the only thing that really poses any true challenge. You can stand right next to Jabba the Hutt and beat the shit out of him, no problem, no health lost. Luke's famous whirl attack, which of course is also in Leia's repertoire, but I prefer Luke, is pretty much inpenetrable. In other words, you can easily pummel Boba Fett, Darth Vader and even Palpatine himself to another dimension with the whirl attack, never even breaking a sweat. You can also use Luke's lightsaber to deflect blaster shots back at enemies. This is like "Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi on the SNES in five minutes", you can simply run through it until you get to the Falcon bits, which are pretty much impossible to beat without resorting to trial and error. Oh, but you can definitely afford some trial and error, there are no game overs. Some stages are frustratingly lengthy, though, and all of them don't even have checkpoints at all.

The Game Boy version of Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is not exactly an awful game, it's just one of those games that make me wonder the purpose behind it; it's a needless port, no doubt about it. It's playable at least to some certain extent, I guess that's all that matters when we're talking about an old school handheld game.

SOUND : 4.5


a.k.a. Return of the Jedi, Super Return of the Jedi

GameRankings: 65.00% (GB), 83.00% (SNES)