sunnuntai 17. huhtikuuta 2011

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.

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