Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter Review
Among every single gaming franchise; Final fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Mega Man and etc., stands Star Wars, a franchise that has withstood the test of time. Ever since the Atari 2600 and Commodore, Star Wars games have come and go, at first we had the Star Wars: Arcade (1983) game that was released on arcades and then later ported to various consoles including the Amiga, Commodore 64, and Atari 2600/5200. Following the release of that game we had countless others, including in chronological order; The Empire Strikes Back, Jedi Arena, Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle, Return of the Jedi: Arcade game, Star Wars (NES), Star Wars (GameBoy and Game Gear), The Empires Strikes Back (NES), ok, ok we get the point right? There have been over 35 Star Wars games released in the past 18 years, and three more are in pipeline from Lucas Arts and Nintendo. It's no secret that Star Wars is quite possibly the only franchise to see over 35 different iterations based on the same license, although Capcom isn't far off with over 30 Street Fighter related games released to date. The history of Star Wars games is long and deep, the highlight 16-bit Star Wars game had to be Super Star Wars, which remains as a classic among all of the titles.
As we enter the 3D era, Star Wars games would get only better, we saw: X-Wing vs Tie Fighter, Rebel Assualt 2, Shadows of the Empire (PC and N64), Rogue Squadron (N64) and the amazing Sega arcade Star Wars Trilogy. But with these amazing titles came some lackluster ones, particularly on the PSOne, Star Wars: Master of the Terra Kasi was one of them, Star Wars: Episode One was the second, and Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles being the last and the worst. Star Wars games have been around, there's no denying it, but what an ideal Star Wars title needs is the raw force of a high end PC in a little box... wait a minute! We've got the PS2 don't we? It's a match made it heaven folks! When the PS2 was first revealed to the public eye, the father of Star Wars, George Lucas himself said that the machine was powerful enough to create visuals close to what Star Wars movies have demonstrated to us in the past, and who would've thought that he wasn't kidding. Star Wars: Starfighter is Lucas Arts very first PS2 game, not to mention the very first 128-bit Star Wars game to be released [Note: Episode One: Racer and Jedi Power Battles do not count, since they were originally released on the N64 and PSOne].
Like I said in my The Bouncer review, "talk about your Emotion Engine". I would never have thought that a videogame console would be able to achieve such visual performance that is seen in Star Wars: Starfighter. Within a six month period, PS2's visuals have changed drastically, this visual evolution is something that will be very common during the next couple of years for the PS2. Not to put down any of these games, but we went from Ridge Racer, Madden 2001, and SSX, to Driving Emotion Type-S, ATV: Offroad Fury, and now Star Wars: Starfighter. It just goes to show you that the PS2 isn't a very hard console to develop for at all, in-fact as time goes by, more and more developers would rather use more complex code in order to get more complex performances, rather than easy code and shallow performance. The point is that we are seeing a huge chunk of videogaming history evolve before our very own eyes.
How about I provide you with some verbal evidence of Starfighter's marvelous visuals. The first thing you will probably notice is that the game's environmental detail is as close to the movie as possible. When you are heading through the canyon in the very first stage, take a good, long look to the side of you, and notice the extreme detail that makes this game unparallel to any other out there. The walls look so real that you'd swear they were pre-rendered, but every single atmospheric detail in Starfighter is in-fact polygonal and real-time. As you progress throughout the game's 14 stages, you will be treated to a milieu filled with devastatingly gorgeous detail, such as reflective water, various textures including factories, landing pads, command centers, drop ships, and dozens of other interactive structures, by "interactive", I mean they could be blown up, Star Wars style! In general, the environmental detail is like no other, I couldn't even imagine how many polygons Lucas Arts used on the game's environments in total. Let's move on to ship detail.
Sporting dozens and dozens of enemy crafts and massive structures all on one screen, you'd be surprised that Starfighter would rarely drop a frame. The enemy ship detail is great, there is a variety of different ships or enemy crafts that you will encounter, Scarabs and Bombers will be the most common, but Missile Tanks and other ground enemies will be encountered as well, so show 'em what your made of. Every single air craft or ground attack vehicle encountered looks great, although all of them look the same, they are after all droids and it's the same case in the movie. When the enemy air crafts explode into a dozen pieces and then fly into your screen, you know that Lucas even went through the trouble of making Starfighter 'that' much closer to an actual Star Wars battle. I praise little detail like that, it shows that the developer is using it's given time wisely to implement features that make a videogame even more enjoyable than it already is.
Your aircraft detail is what really counts here, doesn't it? Since this game has three different main characters, Rhys (pronounced Reece), Vana and Nym, you've got three different Starfighter ships to maneuver. I'm sure you've seen pull out poster like advertisements for Star Wars: Starfighter, that have detailed pictures of the PS2 on the back of it, it shows three aircrafts fighting of a deluge of enemies. Those are the three primary aircrafts that you will have to play with throughout the game, and let me tell ya' something, they look almost as good in the game as they do in the advertisement pullout. The detail on all ships is fantastic, it seems as if all I talk about is polygon performance lately, but with graphics like these, why shouldn't I? I wouldn't be surprised if Lucas Arts claimed that each ship is composed of about 5,000 polygons each, it sure looks like it. The ships look astonishing, everything from the wings to the body structure in general cannot be overlooked, even ridges on Nym's red-tipped UFO-like craft are visible, and it's just ludicrous at the amount of detail poured into Starfighter. Just imagine a new Starfighter title for PS2, two years down the road, or even next year. Why don't you guys give the screenshot gallery a look, but if you cry out of joy, don't say I didn't warn you.
Up to now, only two sci-fi space shooters have really captured my heart, one of them is Starfox 64, which I hail as one of the best N64 games ever, the other is Activision's Summer 2000 release Star Trek: Invasion. While Starfox was a very linear game, its combo based action and smooth maneuverability make it what it is today. While its graphics were fairly simple, Starfox still remains as one of the best shooters out there. Star Trek on the other, had vast environments, making the game not linear at all, unlike Starfox. The action was open space, and is a lot like what Starfighter plays like. The graphics in Star Trek were bright, solid and vivid. Starfox 64 and Star Trek: Invasion were probably the two best shooters available back in the day, but we live in a new world now, a world full of millions and millions of polygons, a world where Star Wars: Starfighter is the best sci-fi shooter available.
Star Wars: Starfighter is what Starfox 64 was to Nintendo 64 when it launched in Fall of 1996. Starfighter is based in the world of Episode One, you don't encounter any familiar faces, you will be treated to a few memorable areas, one of them being the big semi-sphere shield that enemy forces were trying to destroy, I don't remember the name at the moment, but all of you know what I'm talking about. Starfighter stars three unlikely heroes, as Lucas Arts would describe it, and that statement is pretty much right on the money. Rhys, Nym and Vana are the three heroes of this exciting shooter, they each have their own aircraft to pilot. Rhys is the pilot of the NE-1 Starfighter, that is the yellow craft with the two bullet-esque wings to the side of it. Nym is the pilot of the Havoc, a starship that is capable of sustaining much damage and lets out bombs. It is the beige craft with the red-tips down the middle of it and on the wings. Vana's ship is the Guardian Mantis, her ship's fire power is incredibly strong, her ship is the also beige colored, but it features two short wings to the side of it, and a fin-like structure on the bottom.
All of the aircrafts have their own individual advantages and disadvantages. Rhys' ship is the most maneuverable of all three ships, its speed is unrivaled by any other craft, but its body structure is weak compared to the other two. Nym's ship is probably the best of the three, not only does he have an unlimited amount bombs to shoot at nearby enemies, but he also has a strong craft, although he is reasonably slower than Rhys' Starfighter and won't be able to get around in tight areas because his ship is bulky. Vana's aircraft is a good one as well, it's all around, its got the most powerful laser of all three ships, it may look big, but it is easily maneuverable, and its body structure is quite strong. You do not have a choice of which ship to use in each stage, your ship will be pre-selected for every level, so that you will use the correct ship to carry out the mission.
Speaking of missions, Starfighter has various different objectives to be completed in each stage, if you fail to complete one primary objective your mission will be terminated. Along with primary objectives you will have "bonus goals". These bonus goals are something extra you can do, depending on how experienced you are in Starfighter. Bonus goals will help you achieve higher medals, and help you to open up secret missions and modes, such as Capture the Flag and Canyon Race. While we are on secret terms, I should mention that Starfighter is in fact a two-player game, beating Starfighter will reward you with two-player missions, which is really cool. Starfighter isn't just a shallow shooter, it got a great story that gamers will enjoy. The Trade Federation is slowly trying to conquer Naboo, but Rhys won't let that happen, he tries his hardest and realizes that he needs an army, so him, Vana Nym and Nym's army join forces, to stop the Trade Federation in their tracks. Since Star Wars: Starfighter is so relatively short in terms of just straightforward gameplay, I shouldn't really talk about the storyline since it may reveal some things that the gamer would rather find out. But I will make note that the game's story evolves through computer animated sequences (CGs), which look absolutely perfect I might add.
I first remember hearing voice acting in Starfox 64, I was in awe, I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but when I look back at the voice acting, I notice how repetitive the dialogue actually was, and how most of the speech was based on one-liners. That was all reason to the cartridge being only able to hold 35MBs, but with CDs however, developers are able to utilize 650MBs of information. Now with all of the voice acting composed into the CD, not to mention the CGs, I am extremely surprised to see that Starfighter is on CD format, and not DVD format, maybe it's the length of the game that kept this game on CD format. But anyways that isn't exactly relevant, now is it? I want to mention what an incredible job Lucas Arts did with the voice talent, they hired some excellent actors to portray these fictional Star Wars characters, and my applause goes out to them. The acting is timed perfectly and everything flows smoothly, just like it should. The dialogue never breaks up and the clarity is flawless, this is grade-A stuff we're talking about folks.
What is astounding about this gem is its soundtrack. This soundtrack has gotten Star Wars written all over it. The orchestrated tunes blend in impeccably into the Star Wars action, a lot like Star Trek: Invasion's soundtrack did. Not only are the tracks magnificent, but they will make you remember that you are playing a Star Wars videogame, and not just some average title. Truly this is quality, dreams are made out of... well depending on what kind of dreams we're talking about.
Like I said prior in this (longer that it is supposed to be) review, each craft has its own unique control scheme. One handles quickly and is very agile, the other is slow and bulky, but powerful, while the other is all around and will be enough to get you through tough spots. Both analog joysticks are supported, the left for basic movement, while the right analog stick is to rotate your craft side ways 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 sniper mode view 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 Starfighter are a breeze, you'll be into them before you know it, I should also mention that the Dual Shock is powerful.
If you've made it reading the review this far, I solute you and would like to inform you that this is the last paragraph. Even though I beat Starfighter in one day, I am prompted to go back and finish the game again, and again and again. If I go for the gold, literally speaking, I will have access to many new missions, in the Bonus Missions menu, and also have access to the Capture the Flag mode and Canyon Race. Completing Starfighter multiple times is a must, but if you want to complete it once normally, and then do it all over again for the extras, but don't want to go through the trouble, enter the invincibility code. In the end, Starfighter is not just a pretty visual product, but it's a game that has redefined the way we will all play shooters in the future. Lucas Arts has set some high standards for themselves, but if their Starfighter talent is any indication of what to expect in the future, then the future is looking bright as ever. Chances are that many PS2 owners have already gotten the game, only because it says Star Wars on it, but if you haven't, go out and get it now, if it isn't sold out already.
2/21/2001 Arnold Katayev