Ah, Star Wars. While I was too young to remember seeing the ‘classic’ movies way back when, I’ve definitely seen the movies enough times to know all that I need to know about Star Wars. Well, at least what history is given in the movies anyway.
Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron 2 (known from now on as SW:RL) is the latest in Star Wars games that involve the older movies. It’s also more than likely going to be the last. It’s also one of the best.
SW:RL is absolutely gorgeous. You have the ship models that look like they were pulled directly from the Lucasarts archives (which actually weren’t according to the designers). Objects that you fly over, around, and through all look like the real thing. Well, as real as a Star Wars movie anyway.
There are two very memorable locales in SW:RL. The first is a mission where you are attacking a Super Star Destroyer. You drop out of hyperspace, and low and behold, there it is. Your goal is to destroy the thing. To put it bluntly, the amount of firepower that the Star Destroyer can put out is amazing. The visual effects of the large amount of firepower are amazing. Watching your ship blow up from the large amount of firepower is also amazing.
The other local is the Battle over Endor. You remember it from the movies where the fleet of Star Destroyers takes on the Rebels over Endor. Just like in the movie, wave after wave of fighters engage your puny force. Ultimately it’s you and your allies (all of 8 small fighters and a few larger vessels) verses at least 40 fighters that all come on you at once. Even worse is the reinforcements that come charging down on you later in the mission. Worse yet is the fact that you have to take on 2 Star Destroyers at the same time. It’s absolutely amazing to see however.
The best part is that it does this at a mostly locked 60 frames per second. There is the rare time when the frame rate drops under that, but it’s barely noticeable since you’re too busy shooting at something and trying to avoid being shot at by 12 different other things.
SW:RL fully supports the composite cables offered by Nintendo and available on HDTV’s. It also is extremely impressive to see the huge visual leap between normal S-Video and composite. Things that used to be a blob in the distance are now very clearly a sensor droid. TIE Fighters can now be seen and targeted at great distances as well. It will greatly improve your accuracy since you now know exactly what you are shooting at and you can very clearly see where it is going. In other words, if you own a HDTV and this game, you must get the composite cables.
The sound in SW:RL is a mixed blessing at best. On one side, you have the outstanding music from John Williams, along with a mix of other musical tracks that sound like they came from John Williams. For the most part, the music greatly increases the overall enjoyment of the game. You won’t be paying much attention to it however, as you’ll be too busy trying to keep yourself from being destroyed. It is very nice though during some of the more quiet times in the game.
The sound effects on the other hand, are a completely different story. While all the Star Wars sounds we know and love (blaster fire, ships exploding, etc) are included with perfect clarity, the voices are another problem entirely. The voices from the original set of movies are included in SW:RL as background filler/story enhancement. They just don’t blend in well with the high quality digital soundtrack. Also for some odd reason, some of the character’s voices are copyrighted, so you get some 3rd rate actor attempting to say a famous line that you know for a fact is said otherwise. Other voice problems include voice clips being said during a cinema scene, and the scene ending before the voice clip actually ends. Ultimately, since the game is all spoken, the voice problems are rather noticeable.
One good note though is that the person who plays Wedge Antilles (Denis Lawson) reprises his role in SW:RL. For the most part, after all these years, he still sounds like the Wedge we all know and love. His voice acting definitely increases the overall enjoyment and immersion into the game.
Another thing to note is that SW:RL supports Dolby Surround Sound Pro Logic 2. Unfortunately I don’t own the setup needed to test this function, but from what I hear it’s rather impressive. If you do own a setup, I’d up the rating here by 2 or 3 points, as hearing what is going on around you from all angles is a great thing to hear.The controls are about as well laid out as can be hoped for. Every button on the controller is used in some way shape or form, including the click through feature of the L and R buttons. The analog control is extremely sensitive, which is needed for accurate targeting.
The gameplay in SW:RL is simple enough – go around and shoot things and make sure you don’t get shot down yourself. A total of 16 missions (11 normal, 5 hidden) await your gaming skills to complete. You are provided a total of 10 ships to pilot (5 normal, 4 hidden, 1 training craft) in your quest to blow things up.
As noted above in the Graphics section, the game looks absolutely beautiful. There are times that you just want to fly around and look at how wonderful the game looks. Doing so while actually trying to complete your objective tends to get you blown up however.
The missions you get are rather varied. From blowing up the Death Star (twice), to flying through a gas giant in your attempt to keep fighters off your convoy of ships, to guarding a raid against a crashed Star Destroyer, you definitely won’t get bored of doing the same thing over and over again. The best missions are basically detailed under the Graphic header, as the odds are rather stacked against you, but if and when you pull it off, you know you’ve done a fantastic job. A big thumbs up for the crew that designed the missions of SW:RL.
Not everything is fantastic in the gameplay department unfortunately. Completing the missions is easy enough. Completing the missions to get a medal is difficult. See, medals are used to access most of the hidden missions/craft. You get 3 rankings of medals; bronze, silver, and gold. You get better medals by doing the missions quicker, with better accuracy, and without losing ships. It seems that the designers became rather perfect with the game, and made the gold medal difficulty based around that. In most missions, you must destroy 90% of ALL targets on the map (mainly fighters), hit your target most of the time (difficult against a moving target), AND do it all in a very short amount of time. I consider myself a very good console gamer, and even I haven’t unlocked everything on one save file. The requirements are just too damn steep. And since you can’t see the entire game unless you get mostly gold medals (or make multiple save files)…Is this game worth your gaming dollars? Definately. Plenty of missions, very steep difficulty, and some great graphics and music combine into one impressive title. Considering that this is basically a launch title, Lucasarts should be commended for making such a fantastic title, one that shows the power of the Gamecube.