Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (Nintendo 64) review
"Jumping is virtually impossible, and itís even worse when you get to the jetpack. I abhor games with bad controls, so you can bet that this one wonít make me happy. Falling off a cliff a couple dozen times because Dash doesnít understand that difficult concept we call jumping is not great gameplay in my book."
Way back when I first got an N64, I figured I needed something to complement Zelda. I wanted something cheap, though, as I just hate paying full price for a game Iím not sure I want. I remembered back when this came out, people seemed to be rather positive about it. So I figured, why not? Perhaps I was a bit too hasty. Although this game does have its strong points, they are few and far between and simply not worth the extra boredom and awful controls that come with it.
Story - 5 - Shadows of the Empire is a book set right after Empire Strikes Back. Personally, I prefer original sci-fi books to serials like Star Wars or Star Trek, but I did like this one. Thus, I hoped the story would be as good in the game as it was in the book. Unfortunately, claiming this is based on the book is as shaky as claiming the Starship Troopers movie was. It makes me wonder if the developers actually read the book rather than just some poor fans review of it somewhere on the internet. I know itís difficult translating a book into a game, but this just makes no sense. Half the levels either did not happen or were butchered completely. Heck, the first three levels were actually from Empire Strikes Back. IG-88 never appeared in the book, nor did Boba Fett. The cut scenes in between levels didnít really explain anything either. A poor translation of a good plot just doesnít make me happy.
Graphics - 7 - Gotta love first generation N64 games. First, the good stuff. Dash (the main character) is very well rendered, especially for the time it was made. I canít complain about his animations either, or any other animations in the game. Frame rate is also quite solid. What I can complain about, however, is fog. Thereís lots of it, and it is quite bothersome to not be able to see more than a few hundred feet in front of you. Background and setting are also very plain, although it picks up in some of the ďindoorĒ missions. As for the flying levels, I will say the snow speeder and Dashís spaceship look pretty nice. Unfortunately, the rest of it certainly is quite laughable, especially after Rogue Squadron (to say nothing of Rogue Leader). Itís hard to complain about the graphics too much, since it is a first gen game after all. But it could have been better.
Sound - 8 - A question for you. When was the last time Star Wars had bad music? People pick on The Phantom Menace a lot, but at the very least you cannot deny Duel of the Fates rocked. The same thing happens here, albeit not as much. Music for each level fits the atmosphere quite well, and much of it comes from the movies, like the asteroid level. Sound effects are less than exciting though, with much of them being stock sounds that could be found in any game. It doesnít hurt it too much, but it is a slight bother. But the sound of Stormtroopers screaming as the fall of ledges is funny enough in its own right, just because itís exactly how one would not expect a Stormtrooper to sound like.
Gameplay - 5 - Thereís a lot of good and a lot of bad mixed in here. There is a wide variety of levels, from the Hoth level (which inspired Rogue Squadron, I believe) to shooting TIEs in an asteroid field to first person (or third person) shooters to a motorcycle-like race to futilely attacking a Star Destroyer. Sounds fun? Perhaps, but no single part really excels. The Hoth level is fun, but nothing compared to RS. Shooting TIEs in an asteroid belt is like shooting fish in a barrel, really. It makes you wonder why Han had any trouble escaping just a few of them in the movie. The bike aspect is pretty cool, but rather hard to control and fraught with camera problems. The last level is fun, Iíll grant you that. Which leaves us with the shooting part, which make up the majority of the game. Level design is simplistic and dull until the last few levels, the weapons are either useless or few and far between, and puzzles are practically nonexistant. But worst of all are the controls. They are incredibly unforgiving and will cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Jumping is virtually impossible, and itís even worse when you get to the jetpack. I abhor games with bad controls, so you can bet that this one wonít make me happy. Falling off a cliff a couple dozen times because Dash doesnít understand that difficult concept we call jumping is not great gameplay in my book.
Challenge - 7 - Having multiple levels of challenge in the game, meaning you can play on easy, medium, hard, or Jedi mode, is always a good thing. Theyíre spread out enough as well, as easy is easy and Jedi is practically impossible. Increasing the challenge, though, means even less ammo for the few weapons you have in the game, making it less fun (sigh). Sadly, the actual challenge varies from place to place. The asteroid belt is laughably easy, while some of the fps levels are devilishly difficult. Boba Fett and his ship are extremely difficult, whereas defeating an AT-ST in fps mode is not only easy, but boring as well. And you have to do it multiple times too! You get lives in the game, which are plentiful in the easy level and scarce on the harder ones. Most of the rest of challenge is pretty good though. But frustration runs rampant when it comes to the controls. Challenge from excellent game design is one thing, but from poor programming? Not my cup of tea.
Replay - 4 - Games that arenít that great in the first place tend to have low replay value for rather obvious reasons. The developers here did try to get you to play the game through multiple times, but it is rather unlikely that you would want to. Consider the challenge points. These are items hidden in various places in the game that you should find. What do you get for finding all of them? A scanner that tells you where all the items are. But wait! We found all the items; why would such a device? Doh! You can always try to play through on a harder level, but with the awkward gameplay, why bother? My advice is to just keep a save slot with a finished game on it so you can go back and play the final level (which is cool) as often as you want.
Overall - 5.5 - What we have here is a hodgepodge of average games of separate genres slapped together into one small cartridge. The Hoth level was cool, but Rogue is better. The Asteroid level is ok, but you might as well get Star Fox. Like first (or third) person shooters? Goldeneye (or Jet Force Gemini) has you covered. This all adds up to the fact that there is very little reason to own this game, especially now that the N64ís library is complete. Despite its cheap price, the sloppy controls and derivative gameplay force me to say that this is the only N64 game I own that simply wasnít worth it. Give it a rent if youíd like, though, as there is some good stuff here.
Community review by mariner (Date unavailable)
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