The Best Star Wars Games: Part 3

By Mike on 12:14 pm

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Rounding out some more of the best Star Wars games in part 3.

Episode 1: Racer (1999, N64/PC)
On the outside, Episode 1 Racer appears to be a very simple game with rather weak production values. The title screens and menu are very simplistic. Racer as the name suggests is a racing game. You fly the pod racers seen in The Phantom Menace. The game allows you to play as several different racers with their respective pods which have their own strengths and weaknesses. Of course, little Anakin is there too in his trademark blue and white racer. Other pods and characters can be unlocked as you win races, such as Sebulba's. Other characters from the movie appear as well such as the Boonta Eve racers, the announcers, Watto, Qui Gon and Jar Jar. Fortunately, Jar Jar does not have a speaking role in the game. Like most racing games, you race, you win money, then you can use the money to upgrade or repair your pod. Parts can be bought from Watto's shop, or from his junk yard.
Things take a turn from other racing games when you actually get into the race. The tracks are stunning and the racing is faster than any other game you've played. You frequently race at 400-600km/h and there's little margin for error. Because the pods "float", they have a floaty feel to them which is vastly different than hard surface racing games. The tracks themselves pose more of a threat than your fellow racers more often than not. The game doesn't stick to Tatooine but travels to various other worlds. Except for Tatooine and Malestare, all other tracks are located on original words never before seen or mentioned in Star Wars. Track environments range from urban, under water, jungle, ice, and sky. Due to the fact that the racers float, the game includes some of the most impressive jumps in racing. The game's controls are simple so it's an easy game to get into. While appearing rather simple, Episode 1 Racer ended up being one of the best racing games for the N64. Unfortunately, no sequels were made. Racing elements have been incorporated into some other Star Wars games as mini-games but never to the same degree.
Update: Seems I was wrong. There was a sequel. It was called Star Wars: Racer Revenge and was only released on PS2. It was not developed in house as Episode 1 Racer was, but rather by Rainbow Studios. Obviously not well known, or perhaps its just because I don't follow game magazines and websites enough. Gamespot gave the game a fairly good review but noted it was far too short a game and had little replay value. Might be worth renting if you haven't tried it yet.

Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire (1995, PC/Mac/Playstation 1)
Rebel Assault II is yet another sequel that out shined the original. In the game, you reprise the character Rookie One from the first game. Rebel Assault 2 however uses all-original material and is considered to be canon by LucasFilm, while the original is ambiguously canon. The game is well known for its use for full-motion-video, or FMV. In 1995, CDs were becoming the dominant medium for software storage due to their high transfer rates and data density in comparison to floppy discs. However, most games were still under 50-100mb where as an entire CD could hold 700mb of data. Developers used the rest of the storage space for high quality sound tracks and FMV. Rather than animated cutscenes, Rebel Assault 2 used live actors and the original costumes and props from the movies. This added strong production values to the game, driving a strong story line.
As for the game itself, it's best described as an arcade style rail shooter. Your character or ship moves along an imaginary rail while you shoot at targets. You have some control of your direction but this is limited compared to first person shooters and flight sims like Jedi Outcast and TIE Fighter. The courses themselves are pre-rendered which accounts for the excellent graphical appearance for a 1995 game. Objects in the game however are rendered as you go by the game's engine. The basic story was to discover and dismantle an Imperial project that would see cloaking devices on their fighters. The game takes you through several missions including shootouts and space combat. It's just another classic that every gamer should have in their library. I doubt it would work with XP or Vista though. If you have a Playstation (any model/generation), why not pick up the Playstation 1 version if you can still find it. There were no more sequels in the Rebel Assault series, which is unfortunate.

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