Let 'em have Naboo if they'll also take Jar Jar.
Every gaming platform from the Atari 2600 to the PS2 has had its fair share of the Force, though the PC has enjoyed some of the brightest titles. From the X-Wing series to the Jedi Knight games, the Star Wars license has led to some really good PC games. Of course, stinkers like Force Commander and Rebellion have clouded the scene a bit. Star Wars: Episode 1 Battle for Naboo falls somewhere in the middle.
In the spirit of Rogue Squadron, Battle for Naboo is an arcade style shooter that pops you into the cockpit of one of seven different vehicles and sets you off on a bunch of different missions. From Speeders to Police Cruisers to Trade Federation Gunboats, each vehicle gives the game a whole new feel.
Probably the most notable feature of BfN has to be the sound. From the very first screen you are enveloped with a rich, powerful symphony. In classic Star Wars fashion, the whole game is filled with breathtaking musical scores that fill the room with energy. But wait, that's not all.
The folks at LucasFilm are fortunate enough to have the original sound effects from the movies at their disposal, so when you pull the trigger, the familiar sound of a blaster fills your ears. Kudos to LucasFilm for keeping things real.
In staying with the cinematic tradition, BfN carries on through the cut scenes by fading to letterbox format. With the well-rendered ships and cool sound effects, you'll be reaching for the popcorn between levels in no time.
The textures in BfN are right out of your choice of Star Wars flicks. From ground surfaces to the hulls of huge smuggling vessels, this game simply looks great. The single graphical shortcoming lies in the fact that your immediate surroundings are the only distinguishable features. Though it doesn't ruin the gameplay, there's more pop-up here than a toaster factory. Sure, the sky looks good, but everything past 200 feet is hazy. Were those prescription goggles that Anakin sported? I don't think so.
Gameplay feels a bit contrived, as the levels play about the same each time. Whether you're on an escort mission or off to destroy a satellite, shooting baddies is pretty much the name of the game.
And what stupid baddies they are. The enemies in BfN follow a pre-determined pattern; they seem to have no AI to speak of at all. If you keep getting shot down in the same place over and over again, just apply brakes and the enemies will zoom right past you. Then hit the gas and apply the necessary amount of laser fire up the thermal exhaust. I think someone's been stealing a bunch of droid fighters from Warlord Zsinj. With the attention to graphics and sound, a little thing like AI must have gotten left on the developers' table.
At least the control is on point. The speeders hover nicely a few feet above ground and turn easily while the Naboo fighter is as agile as a pigeon (have you ever watched a pigeon fly? They're gooooood.) Aiming can be a little challenging, but with such stupid AI, the only thing it affects is your accuracy percentages.
Game developers seem to be constantly challenged with defining world boundaries; every method has been used from the picket fence that surrounds Spyro's little world to the endless loop of 4X4 Evolution's boundless environment. But lately, LucasArts has been using silliest one yet. As you approach the point the developers felt was the end of your environment, you hit some sort of invisible force field that bounces you back and totally disorients you. It happened in Starfighter and it happens here.
It would have made more sense to have speeder levels set in ravines that were too steep for a speeder to climb, and for space to loop around like in Defender. It's just odd to engage in a dogfight in space and hit an invisible wall that shakes you up and throws the nose of your ship in a random direction.
Strangely missing is any sort of multiplayer. Maybe the denizens of Nar Shadda smuggled the plans out of the Lucasarts office, but it's just not right to have the keys to a Naboo Starfighter and not be able to show off against your friends.
But even with its shortcomings, Battle for Naboo is pretty fun. Maybe it's the whole ambience set by the slick graphics and powerful sound, but for having so many complaints, I keep going back for more. So if the Alliance is lagging on sending you that acceptance letter, and your droid is getting a little antsy, this may tide you over for a while.