"Use the force. . ."
. . .Is good advice when venturing into the realm of the long awaited, but somewhat unheralded sequel to LucasArts PC smash, Rebel Assault. However, the translation of Rebel Assault to the Sega CD and it's substandard quality FMV made it little more than a disappointment. Instead of a good try, and ended up being another nail in the coffin of the once popular trend of combining FMV and action. Ironically now that there is hardware to support it properly, it is near extinction. Rebel Assault II isn't going to save the genre all by itself, but it does present a good, solid example of what an FMV game should be.
I didn't know what to really expect from Rebel Assault II due to the grainy graphics and poor control of the Sega CD game, but was pleasantly surprised to see that the game's programmers had taken full advantage of the upgrade in hardware as the Playstation handled the motion video smoothly, with the only minor error being that the voices were slightly out of sync with the FMV at times, but this only gave an amusing impression of a pissed off samurai in an old Bruce Lee flick. The cost of the added stress on the hardware in terms of memory (the game had to use two discs for only 16 levels) were more glitches, occasional choppiness (which made the game easier because it actually slows down the pace at times), and more screen freezing than usual on a Playstation. The game's speed was exhilarating at times, and the sound spectacular for a Playstation game, or any game in general, and the FMV movie interludes are very realistic. They look like they came straight out of one of the Star Wars films. Other than the cheesy cursor and 'pasted on' enemies, this does look and feel like a true movielike atmosphere.
The control and gameplay for the most part were good, with only minor adjustments needed in both departments. The plot was good too, though not as overly dramatic as in previous Star Wars episodes. Unfortunately you don't get to be Luke Skywalker, but instead, Rookie-One, a wetnose who through "cunning poise, and pure courage" (not to mention sheer luck) stumbles upon a hidden threat to the Rebellion by the Empire (thus: the Hidden Empire). With all of his comrades dead, and with the help of a childhood buddy, Blue (the game's equivalent to Princess Leia), they infiltrate and destroy the threat before anyone can even know about it. It is fun to play using elements from each of the three Stars Wars movies, so that you go from air combat to TIE (enemy fighter) training, to flying a Corillian Freighter (the famous Pancake Plane), to ground combat posing as Imperial Storm Troopers.
The gameplay incorporates the sub-missions with the main plot well and keeps the cinema from completely dominating the game. The actual game is very simple, and only 3 buttons and the D-pad are used. You can switch views in most air combat sequences and have the option to always go back and redo a level you weren't satisfied with. The movement of the ship is a bit suspect when flying. When inside the cockpit you can't really (only slightly) control the ship's flight, and when using the outside view, the control of the ship is stiff and graphic too big. This can be a problem when you don't get a good view of what you're shooting at because your ship is in front of it. I was annoyed by the fact that there was no straight-line cursor on the outside camera to help aim, and no way to use flying options such as the twists/barrel roll in the cockpit view. Also when flying, you can't tell which obstacles are part of the background, and which ones are part of the game. Sometimes, just dodging the obstacles is irritating because in the cockpit view, you just have to move your cursor in the direction that will keep you from hitting the obstacle, and although you won't see the difference on the screen, you miraculously don't lose energy.
Despite the long list of minor complaints that I have about Rebel Assault II, I still found it very enjoyable. The biggest plus of the game is that it's fun, just plain fun, to sit back and watch and/or play. The well done FMV adds a new chapter to the Star Wars saga. For the Star Wars fans out there, I strongly recommend this game to own especially when pitted against lackluster PSX competition like Dark Forces. The force is still out there. . .