The Game: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Rebel Alliance calls on the hotshot pilots of Rogue Squadron for the toughest assignments – and that means you. You and your wingmen take on the defenses of the Death Star, buy time for a Rebel retreat from Hoth, beat Imperial forces away from Cloud City, and take on other high-risk assignments. A variety of ships is at your disposal, though initially you start out with a choice of the trusty X-Wing and the robust Y-Wing; if you advance to later missions, A-Wings and B-Wings become available too, along with a few others. (LucasArts, 2001)
Memories: It was hard to decide whether this game should be classified as a Retro Revival Review because in so many ways, the early stages of this game are the 1983 Atari Star Wars arcade game, resurrected with the benefit of 18 years’ worth of graphical advancement.
On that note, I may as well get this out of the way – Rogue Leader looks fantastic. If you’re a fan of the Star Wars universe, and especially the original trilogy, this is the game for you. Light years ahead of the aforementioned arcade game that drew everything on the screen as crude line art – a sacrifice made to give the game its breakneck speed – Rogue Leader is like putting yourself into the movie, at DVD resolution. It looks that good. The surround sound treatment is no slouch either.
Where game play is concerned, Rogue Leader is a flying ace there too. In some respects, if anything, it’s almost a bit slow at times, but speeding the game up too much might have made it too difficult to play – a lot of us don’t have Jedi reflexes, after all. Your control may be a little bit sluggish if you’re trying to make minute adjustments to your course, but there’s nothing quite like going in and going in full throttle. Blasting away TIE Fighters is a big thrill, but I have to admit that going down the trench may be the best part of any level of the whole game – there just isn’t a more iconic space battle scene in the Star Wars universe than the Death Star trench, and they could’ve gotten away with that being the whole game, and I would’ve still eaten it up. Even though I always wind up spreading myself all over the walls of that trench like a thin layer of “bantha poodoo.” There are also unlockable “side missions” aboard the Millennium Falcon as well, including the asteroid field chase from The Empire Strikes Back and the post-Death-Star-escape TIE Fighter dogfight from Star Wars. There are several unlockable vehicles as well, at least one of which is an interesting “holdover” from the prequel era.
In short, Rogue Leader is that rare combination of a good game and a good franchise license. Star Wars lends itself naturally to good gaming scenarios – again going back to the original arcade game, The Empire Strikes Back on the Atari 2600, and even more recent fare like Episode I Racer on the N64, but there are just as many misfires that just impacted on the surface (I’ll direct you to our existing review of Masters Of Teras Kasi for more details). Rogue Leader is a solid new entry in the former category, for sure – raising the bar considerably for what a game set in the Star Wars universe should be, by remembering some of the best elements of past games.
Now that I’m finally catching up with the current generation of consoles and I’ve found this gem, I wonder what Rogue Squadron III is like…