Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter Review
Last year, I remember anticipating the original Star Wars: Starfighter. The thought of actually playing Star Wars in 128-bits was mind-boggling, especially on hardware like the PS2's. The day the game arrived in stores, I ran down to pick up my reserved copy. I played the game from the moment I returned home and stayed up all night to get as far as possible. Needless to say, I was pretty damn excited and very satisfied with the game. The visuals were astounding, the gameplay was addictive and very involving, and the soundtrack -as well as overall aural presentation- was downright 'Star Wars'. After completing the game, I still found myself coming back to it quite frequently, more so than any other PS2 game - yes, including SSX, ATV: Offroad Fury and Madden NFL 2001. Starfighter was easily one of my personal favorite games of the year and seeing as how it was based on Episode One, a sequel (to the game) seemed really inevitable. So when time came and LucasArts announced Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter on that wonderful October 25th day last year, my blood boiled and my anticipation rose. It was a 4 month and 17 day wait, but the day arrived; the sequel was unleashed. All subtlety aside, Jedi Starfighter sure is one force powered thrill ride.
To this day, Starfighter's visuals can still hang. Though in comparison to Jedi Starfighter, they are noticeably dated; they're nowhere near 'bad'. For Jedi Starfighter, the visual experience has become even more vibrant and detailed. The textures that were once simple, are now incredibly detailed and help make the environments look even more life-like and organic than ever before. An example would be the following screenshot of Nym cornering around an ice covered mountain, avoiding threatening opposition as they fire upon him. Take a look at the details on the mountain, and awe at the detail that seems to come close to looking bump-mapped. For those pessimists, yes the game does indeed look that good. It doesn't pale in comparison to Rogue Leader, but it does manage to hold up with Factor 5's Nintendo graphical whore house. Obviously, Jedi Starfighter is environmentally sound. The texture details are beautiful to say the least, and through a higher quality A/V cable (perhaps S-Video or even component) the scenery looks even crisper, sharper and more defined.
This being a Star Wars game, it of course includes aircrafts (duh!). No longer is Rhys Gallows in the game and neither is his yellow droid air craft. Replacing Rhys as the main protagonist is Adi Gallia, piloting the prototype aircraft titled the Jedi Starfighter. Accompanying her is Nym, the rebel fighter from the original Starfighter - piloting his Havoc. Other supporting appearances include another returning character, Yeti and his aircraft the Zoomer; Jinkins and his Freefall; and Siri Tachi in her very own Jedi Starfighter. Each craft is remarkably detailed with attention to detail. For instance, if you would check out the following screenshot , you'd notice that Nym's 'Havoc' has some noticeably bad erosion, and not to mention smears, all over it. Surely, these are small details to notice, but that's exactly what attention to detail means. Having said that the game has nice aircrafts and fantastic scenery, allow me to point that the special effects (explosions and the works) are even better than last year's game. Depending on the size of a structure, you'll get either an enormously wonderful explosion, complete with its own shockwave ring, or a pint sized flame that simply blows up whatever it was you shot at. As awing as that sounds, the destruction and explosion of aircrafts have also been given an "umph". Now enemy air crafts explode into more pieces and chunks than the previous Starfighter, and the result is oh so delicious.
With all of that mind, I should mention a few minor gripes I have with the visuals. First off, the frame rate is inconsistent, it's not bad, as it rarely drops below 30 and for the most part is steady in between 30 and 60. Second, the game has a jaggy here and there. Nothing too noticeable, but it's there. Lastly, the Jedi Starfighter aircraft comes off somewhat like a cardboard figure. It's not that it looks bad, it's just that it's spearhead design makes the craft look somewhat awkward to say the least. Overall, the visual package is surely a good one, with nice looking CGs to boot.
"Force powered" this game is! While more or less this game plays like the first Starfighter, (much like Rogue Squadron and Rogue Leader) it still doesn't stop it from being one hell of an experience. Some will argue that because both play so similarly, instantly Jedi Starfighter is more worthy of a rental than a purchase, and is somewhat of a disappointment. Well, seeing as how the formula still 'ain't broke' there is little reason for LucasArts to 'fix it.' I'm glad they didn't alter much of the core gameplay, as the 'pick up and play' factor is absolutely perfect for somebody like myself. Granted, there are enhancements and extras such as new crafts, weapons, and etc, but veteran Starfighters will feel right at home. Adi's Jedi Starfighter comes with some fantastic agility, and "the force". Oh yes, the force, people. The Jedi Starfighter is able to carry out 4 different force actions for either offensive or defensive purposes. One force power (Force Shield) would cover the Jedi Starfighter with a shield to protect it from attacks for a limited amount of time. Another, (Force Lightning) would let out a burst of magnetic energy that links together the nearest opponents to you (up to 4 at a time) with a magnetic beam. Once they are all linked, they cannot attack, all you do is shoot down one of the enemies within the link, the rest of the bunch will perish as well. The 3rd force power (Force Reflex) raises Adi's reflexes and perception, and puts her in a state of mind where everything is in slow-motion (think Max Payne's Bullet Time). The last force power is the Force Shockwave, which is pretty much self-explanatory; use it and it damages/destroys whatever nearby opponents there are. All of these force powers come at the cost of force energy, so use them humbly and wisely. Nym possess heavy firepower, and his trusty unlimited wave of energy bombs return. He now also has cruise missiles, cluster missiles (shield barriers are no issue for these!) and proximity mines. Adi and Nym are the two primary characters you will control, with Reti, Siri and Jenkins stepping in during co-op play.
The gameplay objectives have remained reasonably similar, if not the same in contrast to last year's game. Escort missions, preventing destruction or crucial damage to a protected air vessel, preventing casualties to a residential area under attack, destroying important buildings on a certain locale and etc. The objectives are quite involving, and most of the time you have back up to help fight off the AI, which is incredibly challenging when played on the hard setting. The game features a 2 player co-op and a much improved versus mode, so the replay value is surely there. In terms of overall value, the game's 3 chapters and 15 stages will take you through an Episode 2 journey that is completely spoiler free, and even features Mace Windu as an appearing character. The story of Jedi Starfighter 2 is about Jedi Master Adi Gallia helping Nym to take down the Trade Federation, as the Captain of the Trade Federation named Cavik Toth has taken Nym's home and base and hopes to take control of the "resource-rich Karthakk system". My satisfaction with Jedi Starfighter is very high. I happen to love the game almost as much, if not more, than Rogue Leader. Jedi Starfighter offers everything you could want from a Star Wars game, this is the PS2's Rogue Leader, enjoy it.
As far as sound goes, it's Star Wars audio, folks. You can't expect it to be bad. The orchestrated symphony soundtrack returns in full force (no pun intended). The music sets the intense mood and makes the experience feel even more refined. The sound effects, such as explosions, sound incredibly good. Hook this bad boy up to some heavy stereo machinery and live Jedi Starfighter through the luxury of your living room. The voice acting is top-notch, almost nothing to complain about; everything just sounds crystal clear. The game is also compatible with Dolby Surround during in-game cinematics and CGs. The aural presentation is surely a knockout, hook your PS2 up to some wonderful audio receivers and speakers, turn the volume up and live Jedi Starfighter.
Seeing as how the gameplay hasn't changed, neither have the controls. Allow me to rehash my controls description from the original Starfighter, it'll give you a sense of how little they have changed. "...each craft has its own unique control scheme. One handles quickly and is very agile, the other is slow and bulky, but powerful. Both analog joysticks are supported, the left for basic movement, while the right analog stick is to rotate your craft side ways (balance/straighten it out) and do a little extra maneuvering. The R2 button is used to speed up, the L2 button is used to brake, pressing them both will allow your craft to powerslide, sweet huh? What's even sweeter about the controls is that Starfighter has a zoom in perspective that can be accessed by holding the R1 button. With this view in-play, you can shoot down a boggy easier than you can in normal sight. This is one feature every sci-fi shooter must have from now on. The controls in [Jedi] Starfighter are a breeze. You'll get into them before you know it. I should also mention that the Dual Shock is quite powerful as well." And there you have it folks. Though it needs to be said that the digital pad is what selects the weapons of each craft, during gameplay.
Star Wars Jedi Starfighter is a definitive must have game! While it plays similarly to the original, its formula still feels fresh and the game, along with Rogue Leader, exemplifies sci-fi air combat excellence. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, and look even better than they did in Starfighter. The textures are wonderfully done and the special effects are beautiful. Visually, this one's a pleaser - despite its very minor framerate and aliasing issue. Aurally, everything sounds nearly perfect and those who have the audio equipment will surely find themselves loving Jedi Starfighter's sound. Then we have the replay value and the untouched controls. All in all, Jedi Starfighter is a package no Star Wars fan, no envious Rogue Leader PS2 owner, and no space shooter fan must pass on.
3/26/2002 Arnold Katayev