What's next . . . Tauntaun racing?
After the destruction of the first Death Star, the rebels found that they had no time to rest. Though the Empire lost its most fearsome weapon, it was far from helpless. Imperial troopers attacked rebel bases, Tie bombers disrupted supply lines, and Star Destroyers made quick work of many brave rebel pilots. In this time of conflict, Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles (the only pilot to survive all three movies) saw the need to form Rogue Squadron, an elite band of pilots ready to serve wherever they're needed. Will Rogue Squadron make a name for themselves, or will they simply be a footnote in history?
Such is the plot of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (not to be confused with Rouge Squadron, which is a division of Mary Kay Cosmetics). The plot falls somewhere between the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. For those of you attempting to follow George Lucas' strange timeline, this is a prequel to the sequel to the original, which is a sequel to a movie that hasn't even been made yet, nor have its two prequels. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?
All joking aside, the designers of the game seemed to be a little confused about where in the timeline they were making this game. Considering the constant references in the manual to scenes in The Empire Strikes Back, it would have been better if they had just said, "Fly an X-wing - it'll be fun."
Graphically, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron tests the limits of the N64 console. X-wings, Y-wings, Speeders, and other ships are all rendered in beautiful detail. The polygons are tight and the frame rate is nice. In fact, to totally enjoy this game, it is recommended that you buy the N64 expansion pack. It tightens the graphics and makes gameplay even smoother. Of course, those of you unwilling to expand will still find a very pretty game.
In the movie industry, few films had more effect on movie theater sound than Star Wars. Never fear, dear reader - the sound in Rogue Squadron is just as invigorating. The N64 is often criticized for poor sound and speech, but you wouldn't know it here. Plenty of voices flesh out the missions, including a fairly decent Luke (not Mark Hamill. . .he's busy as the Joker in Batman). Background music is authentic and fits the mood. Hearing a Tie Fighter scream by you, with its lasers strafing your hull, is a sound to behold.
Beautiful graphics and sound aside, Rogue Squadron is a lot of fun to play. Understand one thing, however; Rogue Squadron is very much an arcade game. Fans of the PC legend X-wing vs. Tie Fighter will be disappointed that there really aren't that many flight sim aspects to the game. For the console enthusiast, however, this game is almost a dream come true. The designers heard everyone say that their favorite part of Shadows of the Empire was the first Hoth level, so they made an entire game out of that concept. Not a lot of depth, but a heck of a lot of fun.
Although the control is a little wily at first, gamers who have gotten used to the N64 controller should have no problem with this game. You can pilot numerous craft including an X-wing, a Y-wing, an A-wing, a V-wing, a Speeder, and maybe even a certain modified Corellian freighter. Each ship has a small variation in control, but not enough to cause problems.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks. All missions take place on planets. Considering that most of the fighting in the movies was done in outer space, many gamers will be severely disappointed. Though there is a bonus mission where you assault the Death Star, the game always has a definitive up and down.
On top of that, there is no multiplayer at all. This game is strictly one player. While that is great if you are on your own, your friends might get a wee bit bored sitting around waiting for their turn at the wheel. With the high frame-rate made possible by the expansion pack, this could have been a fabulous split screen game.
All in all, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron is a fun arcade game that all gamers will enjoy. Unfortunately, it lacks both the depth and the multiplayer that would have made this a truly great game. For fans of Star Wars and fast paced action games, this is a sure bet.