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Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (Nintendo 64) artwork

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (Nintendo 64) review

"Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire tries to be a first person shooter, a dogfighting flight game, and to have a successful game based on the Star Wars license. On the first two claims there's noticable shortcomings, and on the third claim, well, the fact that no one remembers this title..."

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire tries to do far too many things to be successful. It tries to be a first person shooter, a dogfighting flight game, and to have a successful game based on the Star Wars license. On the first two claims there's noticable shortcomings, and on the third claim, well, the fact that no one remembers this title...

First, the story, a very strong point of the game. You play the role of Dash Rendar, a rather dashing (ha ha, punny) space merecenery. If you've seen the movies, this story takes place between ''The Empire Strikes Back'' and ''Return of the Jedi''. Playing as Dash, you must unravel the mysteries, all the while providing valuable information to the Rebel Alliance. I've made it sound a lot simpler than it really is, however, this is to safeguard the excellent story. As long as you haven't read the book, or the comic book, the story is the main driving point of the game.

The gameplay comes in two main parts - first person shooter, a la Quake or Duke Nukem 3-D, and dog fighting / flight simulator, like most other Star Wars games. Both parts of the game have major flaws, however.

In the first person shooter aspects, you're given a laser and thrown at the beginning of the stage. The typical movements are available: crouch, sidestep, strafe, opening doors, finding better weapons, etc. However, it's clear that not a lot of effort was put into it. The enemy design is rather pedestrian, mainly imperial soldiers.

Also, the lack of weaponry is appalling. For about eighty percent of the game, you will be using your standard laser, which packs the punch of a taser. The other weapons (heat-sinkers, flamethrower, pulse cannon, and the almighty disruptor) come in too few a quantity to use a lot of. And besides, you have to save them for the tough bosses at the end of each stage... Knowing how to strafe and crouch are ESSENTIAL for the game, since you'll do a lot of ''shoot and cover'' with the weak weapons. There's no real excuse for why there's so few weapons.

Another problem - Dash feels like he's walking on ice. ALL THE TIME. A mere moving of the control stick causes him to skate forward, into a sort of run. Making accurate jumps is almost impossible; Dash hangs in the air an unrealistic amount of time, longer than Air Jordan. There's frequent times in the game where the enemies are pretty easy, but the jumps are hellish creatures that take away all of your lives. The game is frustratingly difficult; it's not your fault that you died, or the enemies' fault, it's the ineptness of the controls.

So the first person shooting aspect of the game is less than stellar. How about the space fighting parts? Well, they're fun, but remarkably static. There's only three space battles, and two occur at the very end of the game.

In the first one, you're in an asteroid field, and must destroy TIE fighters. Unless you're seriously handicapped, you shouldn't have any problems with this. You're given four missles, which will defeat any ship, and which also regenerate after a few seconds. You have no control of the flight of your ship; your droid takes care of that. All you have to do is focus on shooting things as they go by you.

The second space battle is basically the same as the first, but the third is different. You control your ship in the third space battle. You must destroy some structures and a big core to defeat the game. Now, this aspect of the game isn't too hard if you've played other flight games, but if you haven't eight straight stages of first person shooting and fixed-flight battling will do nothing to help you here. The controls are never really explained well in this part; you have to go to a help screen to learn the full extent of your abilities.

Graphically, Shadows of the Empire is a beautiful game. It's a bit heavy on the fog, as most early Nintendo 64 games were, mainly to conceal programming errors and space limitations. There's expansive and beautiful horizions though, and Dash is animated well, albeit stiffly.

The music of Shadows of the Empire is probably the best I've ever heard on a Nintendo 64. It's a deep score, very deserving of its Star Wars moniker. The effects are weak, but the strong themes present in every stage more than make up for this.

Overall, Shadows of the Empire tries far too hard to do too many things. The attempt is comendable, but failed. Shadows of the Empire would have dipped into a lower range for score, if it had not been for the great story, music, and graphics. Only Star Wars fans should play this one; for everyone else, borrowing the book from the library and buying a Star Wars soundtrack is equivalent to playing all the good parts of this game.

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Community review by sgreenwell (Date unavailable)

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