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.

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