As much as they try, as many games as they can release, no matter what they do, they just cannot sell the appeal of the new Episode 1 of Star Wars. First there was the racing game and that was all right. It seemed like it was put in the movie just so they could market a video game around it. The there was the adventure game which was poorly translated from the PC version. Now there are two flying/shooting game that are based around the first movie. They are really stretching at this point. Actually I really like both of the new flying games, Battle for Naboo (featured in this review) and Starfighter (also reviewed on this site). My problems with the games have more to do with my problems with the movie than with the actual games.
See, in the first trilogy (which is actually the last 3 chapters) the main enemy was evil itself. They were fighting against an entire enemy that was under the power and influence of the dark side and their angular and menacing uniforms and ships reflected this fact. Also, the good side was a bunch of rag-tag pilots that made their own aircraft from whatever they could find. Plus, they were the underdogs. In Episode 1 the enemy is made up of a bunch of robots that look more like plastic model kits that nerds would collect than evil enemies. To lesson their appeal they are run by a bumbling corrupt corporation who are doing everything for the love of money, not out of pure evil. So when one of the robots is defeated I donít feel like the enemy has suffered any great loss. After all they can just crank out more robots. Add to that the fact that the Queenís army is more like security guards than real soldiers and you will see my problems with getting behind the story and the games.
That being said let me get into the game. This is in all aspects a sequel to Rogue Squadron with a few improvements and steps backwards in some areas. The gameplay follows the same format as RS. There are goal-based missions that are connected by a storyline. The storyline is much tighter than the in RS since each part of the story is directly connected to the next mission. It feels like one long mission split into different chapters than a bunch of loosely connected missions. If you have seen the movie you know what is going on. The Trade Federation is taking Naboo, and it is up to their army to wipe out as much of the incoming soldiers and troops as they can.
Once you get into the ships you will feel like you are in very familiar territory if you have played RS. You have the same controls, the same map and shield displays and the familiar crosshairs. The mission directives are mostly the same with different names in the blanks. Rescue this guy, blow up this guy, destroy this building etc. I am not saying that this is a bad thing. You go with what works. Personally I canít get enough of the flying and shooting genre.
There are some new features that really add to the gameplay. One of these is the ability to change vehicles mid-way through some of the levels. The only disadvantage I found with this feature was that the barns that you switch ships in are few and far between, and you cannot change ship midway through a battle, only when the action dies down. And, once you switch you cannot switch back since the barns are very inconveniently located. Another new feature is the diversity of level types. Instead of being limited to just flying missions over land, there are missions that are exclusively on the ground and those that exist solely in space. The space missions feel the same as the ground ones with out any kind of ground to get your bearings by. The ground missions, which are navigated in a speeder, are inverted versions of the air missions. Instead of air to ground destruction you are going ground to air. Once I got a hold of my clunky speeder I thought that these levels really had a lot going for them. There is a great deal of obstacles to avoid or shoot and without the need to gain or reduce altitude the action moves very fast. A ground level also means that there is the option for the navigation of city streets and maze-like environments. Very cool.
All is not perfect in the land of Naboo however. There were some major problems that I had with the game and a few nit-picky things that I just did not understand. The first small thing was the menu. In the vehicle select screen you are given the option of choosing only one ship. You cannot even pan around and see the other ships like in the RS garage. Also the enemies seemto be very small in this game. It seems that everything is miniaturized. This makes the enemies very hard to see and to fight especially if the environments are detailed with complex textures. The enemy ships just get lost in it. My biggest gripe is with control. It feels like there were some adjustments made and some things fixed that were never broken in the first game. The ships do not turn as tightly anymore even though the environments seem much tighter at some areas. Also it is much harder to aim in this game than in the last. I am not sure if this is because the control is much looser or simply because the enemies are faster. In either case, you have been warned.
I wish that I could say that if you liked Rouge Squadron then you will love Battle for Naboo, but I canít guarantee that. I donít think that it is through any fault of the game creators. What they have managed to do was create a viable sequel with great graphics, sound, and gameplay, but they still can not get past the plot lines. The enemies are just not evil enough. They lack personality and it makes fighting and defeating them much less interesting. Also, if the movie is any indication, this is just a hack group of pilots, not the established heroes of Rogue Squadron. Still if you are thirsting for more RS levels then this is the closest thing you are going to find and it is a pretty solid substitute.
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