A fine counterpoint to that argument came in the form of Rogue Squadron, a gorgeous, smooth-handling starfighter that enthralled both critics and kids alike. That game came out shortly before the release of Episode 1, so it comes as no surprise that developer Factor 5 and LucasArts have reunited for a sequel -- or prequel -- of sorts.
Gamers play as young Lt. Gavyn Skyes, an young and expert pilot fighting under the command of Captain Panaka (remember him?) against the invading forces of the Trade Federation. At the game's onset, the invasion has begun, and the lieutenant must rescue his captain from the besieged city by means of those fancy landspeeders that seem to pepper the city. From there it's on to a pair of stolen STAPS (albeit more heavily armed ones), and then on to Police Cruisers -- cobalt versions of the Royal Starfighter -- used for training. After that it's to the stars, flying the real thing -- and this is where the game really shines.
Fans of the first will find themselves immediately snug in the pilot's seat, though some strange control scheme options are used. One inclusion we're grateful for is the ability to pull tighter turns, though you'll need to hit the right shoulder button to trigger them. Each of the vehicles features lasers (which -- thankfully -- don't overheat) as well as missiles, which are doled out pretty frugally. The interface remains mostly unchanged, and while we wish the radar could have been tweaked to reflect crafts' altitude, it's still a pretty effective way to keep the gamer consistently pointed in the right direction.
Each of the game's 15 levels takes place across a wide variety of terrain, some of which looks quite nice, and feature plenty of air- and land-based opponents to fight. Like its predecessor, the game features some guard-duty levels, though we'd say that each level ultimately takes a little less time, and has a fewer constraints, than those in Rogue Squadron -- this is a good thing. Also, some levels allow the player to swap out vehicles at key garages -- giving the choice of ground or air mobility (we invariably chose the high road). Still, we could have done with a greater diversity in mission types -- after all, most of the missions that feature swarms of ships are pretty demanding in directing players towards a specific target, failing to give gamers good opportunity to indulge their more bloodthirsty instincts.
While the game makes good use of the best elements of its predecessor, some of the flaws (or limitations) show through, too. A good example of this comes when Gavyn and his teammates first hit space to take on some massive shielded something or other. A large complaint about Rogue SquadronBattle of Naboo doesn't do much to effect a difference. Flying through space, the player can often become disoriented -- doubly so when the game takes the liberty of righting his or her ship. It's not a downer, but we're used to having actual 3D freedom, or at least the illusion of it. was that all of the missions took place above the planet's surface, and
The visuals are better than most we've seen on the N64, and the draw-in, in particular, is much improved and pretty impressive. Ship models are convincing and accurate, though the level designs tend to be a bit erratic; one level that takes place above icy waterways is visual bliss, while those that take place on the grassy plains of Naboo are a little flat -- and we don't mean physically.
Factor 5 is well renowned for its top-notch audio work with the N64, and this final Star Wars outing on the aging system doesn't disappoint. Naturally, the Duel of the Fates theme song plays a pretty good part, as do the classic Star Wars fanfare and plenty of blaster fire. Both the music and sound effects come through crisp and clear, and most of the voiceovers are serviceable -- some even convincingly Star Wars, which is no mean feat.
We must say that this is by no means gaming perfection -- like so many fine games, it's lacking patches of innovation in some areas, polish and depth in others. Obviously, it's not as much of a watershed event as Rogue Squadron, but it does most everything better, and fixes a good number of flaws. Besides, having the Star Wars license adds -- for better or worse -- tremendously to the standard action game's appeal, and does wonders for what's ultimately the sort of quick and feisty firefight fest that Nintendo gamers have been clamoring for.
The Bottom Line: Frankly, there aren't many serviceable alternatives in the hangar, making Battle for Naboo a nice way to kick some ass into the N64's golden years.
Final Score: 8.5