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Gamer Tuesday

May 15, 2012

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights:Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

Developed by: Factor 5

System: Nintendo 64, PC

While at first it might seem odd of me to talk about Star Wars, a non-Disney franchise, on Gamer Tuesday, the truth of the matter is that Star Wars has been synonymous with Disney for years now. Premiering in 1987, Star Tours has been delighting guests for years now at Disneyland. Recently the attraction received an update, featuring 3D visuals and new paths every time you ride (as well as the amazing chance to become the Rebel Spy!). Not to mention that every year from May through June, Disney hosts Star Wars Weekends at Disney�s Hollywood Studios where fans interact with Star Wars themed Disney characters. So I figured that it would be great to feature a Star Wars game to celebrate both Star Tours and Star Wars Weekends. There are many, many, MANY Star Wars video games, some dating back to the premiere of the original film trilogy! Not only that, many of these games have been dubbed as some of the best ever made, so it was quite a task to pick one to feature on today's Gamer Tuesday. In the end, I went with Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for the Nintendo 64.

If you were to ask Star Wars fans what they like most about the franchise you might spend a while talking to them, but, a certainty is that they will eventually talk about the epic space battles that occur throughout the film series. Even the maligned Star Wars prequels feature stellar battles with lots of ships and enough explosions to make three Michael Bay movies possible! Rogue Squadron is a game based on those iconic battles that changed the course of history forever in the Star Wars universe. With the game being released on 1998, the battles take place during the original trilogy. Players will be placed in the boots of Luke Skywalker as he leads his group of rebels against the empire and try to achieve freedom throughout the galaxy. Other rebels joining him include Wedge Antilles, Wes Janson, Zev Senesca, and many more.

Story wise, Rogue Squadron is more interested in giving us epic space battles than to let us experience any form of dramatic narrative. But that's doesn't mean that there isn't a story going on. The battles are taken straight from the feature films, meaning that you will be trying to destroy the Death Star, participating in the ambush at Mos Eisley, and taking down Imperial AT-AT Walkers. During all of this you will constantly be hearing from your co-pilots, adding a lot of intensity to the gameplay. I've mentioned before how important it is for licensed games to be loyal to the source material as players really do want to partake in the most iconic moments of the franchise. Factor 5 has taken this to heart, delivering on every facet the game has to offer, from graphics to overall gameplay.

Speaking of which, Rogue Squadron can be described as Star Fox 64 but with far stronger emphasis on the completion of mission objectives. The battles also take place in an all-range setting, meaning that you are not flying on a scrolling set path. This can be both a delight and an element of frustration as it can be hard to find your primary target. It is, however, super satisfying to just fly around and see all the wonderful locales ripped straight from the Star Wars franchise.

The vehicles have also become an important element of the Star Wars mythos, almost as much as the Jedi and light sabers. In Rogue Squadron, players can pilot the famous X-Wing ship as the default ship of choice, as well as the Y-Wing, A-Wing, and the V-Wing. You can even pilot Han Solo's Millenium Falcon! The ship is available as a secret that can be unlocked either by completing missions or using cheat codes. Other unlockable ships include the Naboo Fighter (included long before Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace premiered in the summer of 1999, meaning that lucky gamers got their first taste of the new movie before its actual premiered) and even a car! Yes, you can fly around the Star Wars galaxy in a classic black car.

Now that I mentioned content, Rogue Squadron has also been praised for its immense amount of content. Not only are there many missions to take on as well as medals to earn based on performance, you can hear audio commentaries by the developer playing throughout the level, and there are even additional secret missions such as the battle of Hoth. The challenge of obtaining gold medals on every stage is enough to extend the replay value, but the content feature throughout is amazing to say the least.

The graphics in Rogue Squadron are some of the best seen on the Nintendo 64. Since it's early beginnings, Factor 5 is a company that strides itself in great presentation. Despite the limitations of the N64 hardware, Factor 5 made sure that the game looked like the movies that inspired it. Each ship looks exactly like the ones featured in the movie. There are no out of place designs, and each texture lovingly pays tribute to the special effects Lucasfilm accomplished in the original trilogy. By itself, Rogue Squadron looked great. There was, however, more to it. In the fall of 1998, Nintendo released the Expansion Pak, a small cartridge that would add 4 MB of memory, allowing game developers to create games with high resolution textures (up to 600X480), better lighting design, and more expansive levels without any loss of hardware performance. Factor 5 used this opportunity to further pay tribute to the Star Wars legacy. When the Expansion Pak is inserted onto the system, the game automatically switches to the highest resolution. The graphics became sharper and the levels and ships even more detailed. Without it the game played fine, but gamers hoping to get more out of the game always opted to have an Expansion Pak for this game.

The Star Wars films are also known for their stellar sound design. Many of the famous sound effects, from Chewbacca's roar to the hum of a lightsaber, have been ingrained into our minds for all eternity, and that's a good thing. Once again Factor 5 excelled in preserving that little nugget of Star Wars mythos. As I mentioned before, your co-pilots are always talking, commenting on the action on-screen. At the time this was considered to be an extraordinary feat in game design. The N64, despite being more powerful than the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn, suffered in sound design, meaning that many of its titles lacked the clear audio of its rivals. Factor 5 completely ignored this obstacle and made it a pretty sounding game.

Rogue Squadron's success lead to several follow ups. In 2000, Battle for Naboo took to the skies seen in The Phantom Menace. In 2001, the Nintendo GameCube was released, and Factor 5 developed one of its launch titles: Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. The power of the GameCube made for a game that blurred the line between real time 3D graphics and motion picture effects. It was just a very beautiful game with amazing gameplay to boot.

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron is highly regarded as both one of the best games on the Nintendo 64 as well as one of the best Star Wars games ever produced. So if you are a Disney fan that can't get enough of Star Tours or Star Wars Weekends Rogue Squadron is highly recommended for its game design that plays tribute to one of the most enduring pop-culture franchises ever made.

Screenshots courtesy of Moby Games


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