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Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (GameCube) artwork

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (GameCube) review

"Rogue Squadron was really one of the best N64 games out there. With high production levels, incredible graphics, and that special feeling you get blasting away TIE fighters in the Star Wars universe, I and many others immediately fell in love with it. And why not? Very few Star Wars games, at least on consoles, were any good before this one came around, and it was really the first console game that truly gave you the feeling of being in the Star Wars universe. Rogue Leader continues that tra..."

Rogue Squadron was really one of the best N64 games out there. With high production levels, incredible graphics, and that special feeling you get blasting away TIE fighters in the Star Wars universe, I and many others immediately fell in love with it. And why not? Very few Star Wars games, at least on consoles, were any good before this one came around, and it was really the first console game that truly gave you the feeling of being in the Star Wars universe. Rogue Leader continues that tradition, to an extent. It has its own problems and is in some ways worse than the original, but it's still another great fling and fun while it lasts.

If you've never played any game in the series, you're in for a treat. The gist is simple: get in the cockpit of an X-Wing, A-Wing, Y-Wing, or whatever and blast away at the Empire. It's a third person flight shooter (although there is a cockpit view if you wish) with a decisively arcadish feel. Basically, all you do is fly and shoot. But that doesn't get old, as you have plenty of stuff to shoot at - laser towers, AT-PTs, TIE fighters or bombers, and even Imperial Star Destroyers. Likewise, missions vary widely, from your basic ''blow up everything'' to ''run for your life'' to ''destroy something innocuous while everyone shoots at you.'' Each of the 10 missions last anywhere from 2-20 minutes, and you get ranked at the end of each mission. Depending on your performance (speed, accuracy, number of kills, etc), you are awarded a bronze, silver, or gold medal, which are used to unlock stuff. Well, and prestige. There's also upgrades hidden amongst the levels, giving your puny ships much needed advanced shields, lasers, or torpedoes. The formula hasn't changed much from its N64 roots, but fortunately it was a great formula to begin with.

Probably the first thing you'll notice is the technical aspects. Let's face it, much of the game's hype and attention comes from it being the original showcase piece for the GameCube. And it is - ship models are movie-perfect (the models come straight from ILM), lighting is very pretty, and special effects are everywhere. Perhaps the best part is that there is so much to see and so much going on at one time. Imagine yourself chasing TIEs, weaving around the Rebel fleet while searching through the dense nebula. Or a huge asteroid field, stretching for miles all around, with countless rocks slowly spinning their way through the heavens. And that's what matters - a full, rich environment. You are no longer imagining your character to be a part of the Star Wars universe. Finally, you are able to get a complete picture and a grand scale fitting to the Star Wars universe.

And what a scale it is. Rogue is based heavily off of the original Trilogy, and most of the levels directly or indirectly relate to the events within those classic movies. You get to knock out both Death Stars, steal the Imperial Shuttle used in RotJ, escape from Hoth, and all sorts of fun stuff. And this helps with the feeling of getting sucked in, as you know why these missions are important. And the grand scale of the movies is shown here too. The franticness of Hoth (as soon as you finish one threat another appears), and the sheer scope of Endor is stunning and is a sight to behold. You're a part of the movie. You get sucked in. And that is what the Rogue series is all about.

Of course, it's also a game, and fortunately a good one at that. Everything from Rogue Squadron is back, only improved. For instance, the difficulty has been ramped up quite a bit. Despite being able to get golds on almost all the levels in the original, I don't think there was a single level in this one I beat on the first try. TIEs are both more numerous and smarter, and shooting them down is no longer the piece of cake that it once was. And then, of course, there are the medals. It's not too hard to get a bronze, and silver won't take too much effort. Gold, however, is just ridiculous. You have to practice the levels, know them inside and out, and can shoot down TIEs in your sleep. Getting the gold is much harder here than in Squadron, just as the game itself is harder. Honestly, I think they should have made silver a bit harder so that jump wouldn't seem so daunting, but it's nice to see a genuinely difficult game out there. If going for the gold is your goal (as it is mine), be prepared for a long shelf life, full of frustrations, near misses, and general practice. Just like the original.

But, unfortunately, I have some problems with the game too, most notably the length. Only 10 missions??? The original had 16! And one of these 10 missions is a simple 2 minute kamikaze assault. Granted, the rest are longer, but still, 10 missions. Jeez Factor 5, I was kinda hoping you could fit just a few more in the game. The game is too bloody short, despite its challenge. And yes, there are 5 bonus missions. But still, many of them aren't even real missions. Manning one of the Millenium Falcon's gun turrets is pretty lame, and who can forget the Endurance mission? Just to give you a hint of what that one is, it will take you hours to complete. It was a cool idea, but ultimately far far too boring to really count as a worthwhile addition. But of course, it had to be ready for launch, so we all get screwed. The game was rushed, and it hurts.

And I feel I must also protest the locations of the weapon bonuses. Talk about impossible. Imagine a small silvery gray thing protruding from the Death Star (a very large silvery gray thing). Or imagine it floating somewhere in the vast emptiness of space. This is ridiculous people. You know the proverbial needle and haystack? This is it.

But I think the thing I like the least has nothing to do with any of the flaws or anything. It's just more of the same. We have more flying through space, above planets, and around obstacles. Heck, two of the missions here were bonus missions in the original! It's not that I dislike the gameplay, I really don't, but it's nothing original. The few gimmicks thrown in (like changing vehicles in the middle of a mission, day and night versions of the levels, or giving simple commands to your wingmen) are nice, but rarely change the gameplay significantly. They were, at best, minor improvements that were insignificant in the grand scope of things. Factor 5 was just stuck here. They couldn't change it too much due to a lack of time and fans crying foul. And they did a good job with what they had, specifically in broadening the scope of some of the missions. But, well, the innovator in me dislikes the fact that it's the same feeling I've already found in Squadron. Despite the fun I had with this title, I don't think I'll be picking up the third one; two is enough.

Oh well, I'll still enjoy what we have here. It's still nice to get one more fling as the Rebel's unsung hero. And seeing the Battle of Endor, in all of its amazing glory (hundreds of TIEs!), was worth the ride. Being challenged again, striving for the gold while missing it by seconds, feels good despite the fact that I've done it all before. Chasing TIEs was still fun, ramming my B-Wing through the bridge of an Imperial Star Destroyer was great, and following the Millenium Falcon into the very core of the Death Star was a cool experience to say the least. While playing these missions again, I can forget their relative lack of number or their lack of innovation. The satisfaction of winning, the strive for new equipment and ships, and the thrill of swooping through a city makes up for the losses. It's still a very good game.

mariner's avatar
Community review by mariner (October 28, 2003)

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