Listen, we all know it and it’s been discussed a million times already – the Star Wars prequels aren’t exactly cinematic gold. You hear me Jar Jar? Nobody likes you Jar Jar! Luckily, the same fate didn’t befall all of the video-game tie-ins for the Star Wars prequels.
Several of them were quite entertaining, in. The last Star Wars game for the N64, Battle for Naboo, is one of the games that brings the galaxy to life without drowning under the poor writing and directing choices that plagued the movies.
Following in the footsteps of Rogue Squadron, Battle for Naboo lets you play as Captain Kael and Lt. Sykes while you fight, fly and shoot your way over vast terrains and engage in several intense dogfights. When Rogue Squadron first hit shelves, it was universally praised by gamers and critics alike. Unsurprisingly, developers Factor 5 and publisher LucasArts soon released a sequel.
Lt. Sykes and Captain Kael were side characters in the Episode I movie, but they’re our main protagonists here. This is an interesting plot choice, because the game isn’t banking on the nostalgia factor by letting you play as characters we all know and love. Instead, you’ll venture into the extended universe and occasionally toss you into the middle of some of the series’ most iconic moments, but have you play through them from a different perspective. If you’re a fan of the Star Wars franchise, this can be both a good and bad thing, considering the source material (The Phantom Menace) is already not the most popular in the series.
But the storyline is really a secondary aspect of this game, and all the fun comes from the fast and frenetic gameplay. Most people associate Star Wars with lots of space battles and high-tech crafts and turrets shooting at each other. And in this aspect, the game delivers handily. You’ll constantly be engaged in violent firefights in your N1 Starfighter with other squad members. You’re often thrown into high-octane chases and counter-attacks, and this is where Battle for Naboo shines. Throughout the 15 or so levels that the campaign offers, you will encounter a bunch of these scripted fights and objective missions that are conveyed via cut-scenes. The action takes place both on the ground and in the air. This keeps things fresh as you’ll be able to get behind the wheel of several different types of vehicles. Without this variety, the constant seek and destroy missions could have become monotonous.
That being said, the actual missions themselves are mostly variations of a singular theme – you are supposed to shoot at one or many enemy targets/buildings until they explode in a glorious mix of fireballs and screams. In the background, your allies will shoot bridges to clear a path for your team, or shoot some boulders to block your enemies’ path. Rinse and repeat. In the foreground, you must shoot antennas, enemy crafts, robots and strongholds. That’s not to say that this meat-and-potatoes approach doesn’t work. On the contrary, it’s quite enjoyable.
The combat is fast and furious, and the slick control scheme really helps you feel like a badass fighter in an advanced galaxy. If you’ve played Rogue Squadron, you are used to the dogfighting and swooping fights that Battle for Naboo offers. The radar system that you’ll have at your disposal isn’t exactly the best one out there, but it can be excused as everything else is quite fun. Although it will occasionally leave you cruising mindlessly through deep space as you ponder your existence and the location of your next objective.
The graphics are stellar and really convey the epic scope of the Star Wars universe. One mission in particular (you’ll know it when you see it) features a-clad mountainous landscape offset by a beautiful sky creating a visual combo that is spectacular. Flying through the levels feels appropriately adrenaline-inducing, as does raining down a hail of bullets on a ground target as you slowly swoop on it from above. The draw distance has been greatly improved from Rogue Squadron, making it a much more immersive experience.
The framerate is solid for the most part, except for the occasional glitch during cutscenes when several fighters converge on your screen at once. All of the ally and enemy crafts look great and move well, like you would expect from your time watching the movies. The sound, in typical Factor 5 fashion is crystal clear and really lends a cinematic feel to the action.
Battle for Naboo is one of the best-looking action games on the N64. If you’re a Star Wars fan, there’s plenty for you to dig into here. If you’ve not seen any of the movies, this is still a solid, fun shooter that you will have a ton of fun playing.
May the force be with you.