Overall Rating: 4/5
The Star Wars universe has spawned every form of spin-off product conceivable, from basic toys and action figures to expansive orchestral soundtracks and unique novelty items. One of the promotional tools of the franchise has been a long line of video games, and some of the best were for the Nintendo 64, including Shadow of the Empire and a now-classic combat flight game called Rogue Squadron.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron takes place across the timeline of the original film trilogy, along with offering many levels that take place in the Expanded Universe canon. Following the titular Rogue Squadron, gameplay takes place as a series of missions one must pilot an advanced fighter craft through in order to meet specific objectives. With multiple ships available, and an impressively deep save system with different medals awarded for how well every mission is performed, Rogue Squadron offers a quality video gaming experience for Star Wars fans or flight-game fans alike.
Enhanced by the Expansion Pak add-on for the Nintendo 64, the graphics were crisp, clean, and gorgeous. Lush worlds were illustrated on a grand canvas, precise cross-hair functions added to the dogfight sensation, and all the classic crafts were rendered in their easily recognizable glory. Along with the rapid-fire weaponry and bright explosions, there was little room for complaint (perhaps the choppy Hoth scenes) in the looks department.
This game, which boasts the THX brand in its intro, really shines in the soundtrack. The background music uses established Wars tracks interspersed with new voiceovers provided by the appropriate actors, along with the unique sound effects of the saga, including the familiar scream of T.I.E. Fighter engines. The noises and effects genuinely bring a player into the full-immersion experience.
Flight games had been done before, even multiple times already on the 64 system (hello Pilotwings and Star Fox), so the formula could not truly claim to be unique or original. However, performing within the Star Wars galaxy certainly brought a fresh touch, along with the creativity of the choose-any-mission save systems with medal-based performance scores. Rogue Squadron is an example of taking an established genre and honing it to near-developmental perfection.
In a word: Massive. The difficulty of the missions is just right, since completing them may be easy but completing them in a better fashion earns a shinier medal, which can open up hidden worlds to play. Trying to get new medals for new levels provides hours of additional incentive, but even just the original storyline is rich enough to follow through on its own.
The one glaring flaw with this game is that it is very, very Star Wars-flavored. If a player is not a fan of the Star Wars scene, then the flight dynamics will not make sense, identifying enemy fighters will be more difficult at first, and the motivations and incentives behind the characters’ interactions will not be as understood. In addition, the satisfaction of completing the assignments will be reduced, along with the desire to see where this side-story goes. It is certainly a great game on its own merits, good enough for four stars out of five, but for a truly perfect gaming experience, players will have to go in with some prior Star Wars fondness.