It would be no exaggeration to say that Star Wars has influenced video games and comics more than any other single source. The appeal is different for each, the sci-fi/fantasy genre that Lucas effectively created is the basis for an untold number of superhero tales, while the epic air battles translated to video games much more smoothly than their real-life counterparts. Sadly, the films' most lasting appeal, the character depth, symbolism and mythological aspects, have been pretty much lost on the games or comics themselves; it wasn't until recently (with the rise of independent publishers, and the release of a certain game I talk about way too much) that the possibility of including these things in video games was even considered.
But that's why we have consoles, isn't it? Rarely does LucasArts create or
license an SW-based game directly for a console system, but one such project,
the Super Star Wars trilogy for the SNES (developed by Sculptured Software,
best known for the bi-polar SNES Mortal Kombat series), ranks as one, or
three, of my all-time favorite games for any system. If you're still into 2D
(more specifically, 16-bit 2D), you owe it to yourself to pick them up; you
shouldn't have much trouble finding them, and Empire Strikes Back is probably
the greatest action game ever released for the SNES.|
LucasArts first project for the N64 (and, after the exclusivity clause had done its thing, the PC) was Shadows of the Empire, based loosely (very loosely) on the novel and comic of the same name. The game was almost literally a 3D conversion of the SNES Empire, with some nice bonuses like an official licensed Boba Fett jetpack, a play mechanic I'd like to see more of. The game as a whole received mixed reviews (the on-foot sequences lacked the depth of Dark Forces, which was what it was naturally compared to), but everyone agreed that the vehicle sequences, particularly the Battle of Hoth, were amazing.
It was on this that Rogue Squadron was based; a vehicle-based action game, not
a hardcore sim like the hugely popular X-Wing series, but a frenetic arcade-
style shooter. for the uninitiated, I should mention that Rogue Squadron is
the elite group of rebel pilots who we last saw getting their asses kicked at
the Battle of Hoth in the beginning of Empire. Good news for those
who were disappointed in Shadows, bad news for me. Oh well, I can't expect the industry
to adapt to me...then again, everyone else seems to. Hmm.|
Anyway, the game's out, and was released in the first wave of Expansion Pak- enhanced titles, a fact that really wasn't a great marketing move, since, after what we've seen from Turok 2, the graphics are pretty pedestrian. Since it isn't required, the Expansion Pak can do nothing to help the framerate, which is frequently inferior to Shadows. The increased resolution allows for less fog and more distance combat (putting a higher emphasis on accuracy), which improves the gameplay tenfold (I'll explain why in a minute), but I would have expected more eye candy, especially after the gorgeous air battles of its pedecessor. The PC version is mostly likely better in this respect, but unfortunately I can't comment, since my desktop is still in repairs.
But, whether or not they're connected, the disappointing graphics are more than redeemed by the gameplay, which shows far more variety than most games of the genre, including the reigning champion, StarFox 64. Yes, you're still basically relegated to shooting things, but there are lots of red herrings, and often targets that must be taken out in a roundabout manner or avoided altogether. Escort missions stagger the attack waves, so you actually have to stand guard at times, waiting for the enemy to come to you: something of a rarity in aciton games. You'll die much more frequently because of failed mission objectives than you will being shot down.