sunnuntai 17. huhtikuuta 2011

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.

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