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Classic Review: Star Wars Rogue Squadron

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Oh this one takes me back. I mean, that’s kind of the point of Classic Reviews I know but still there is a large amount of nostalgia associated with this title. Sometimes you play games and certain parts stick in your memory forever. Sometimes whole games manage to be remembered in shocking detail. Sometimes you only remember tiny snippets, but with those snippets comes a sense of time, a feeling that even though you don’t remember much, you played this game A LOT.

For me, Rogue Squadron is one of those games.

Strangely, considering I grew up with a younger brother who shared my enthusiasm for gaming, this game was single player only and yet I remember (or I did once I prompted myself with a few level names and gameplay videos) playing each of the fifteen or so levels an unusually large amount of times each. Maybe it was because I was 11 at the time (and my Star Wars obsession was just as pronounced back then as it is on this website) but I just spent hours and hours taking turns zooming along on a bevy of planets, dropping bombs from Y-Wings and barrel-roll-blasting on X-Wings.

For anyone who managed to miss this game (easily in my top 10 N64 games of all time), Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was a Action Shooter, Flying Combat game which took place chronologically between Empire Strikes Back and Return of a Jedi. As with a lot of old Star Wars games, you played as Luke Skywalker for the majority of the game but this was restricted to basically voice-overs and a small 64 bit rendering of Mark Hamill’s face in the bottom right corner. This was something I was thankful for.

The actual gameplay was a cut above. Other critics have praised it’s realistic flight (well, as real as Star Wars gets) and its attention to detail, which went so far as to include an R2 unit on the back of the X-Wing and flames on your ships exhaust. What I remember loving about it was both the range of ships (X-Wing, Y-Wing, A-Wing, Snowspeeder and Y-Wing) and playing through some of the most iconic moments in Star Wars. The first time I managed to take down an AT-AT (or as Family Guy dubbed them “Robot Camels”) with the hook line on my Snowspeeder, which can be achieved through a series of large loops around the AT-AT, my jaw dropped watching this massive machine crumble to its knees. And as for the first time I did a Deathstar tunnel run, well let’s just say it wasn’t quite as easy as bulls-eyeing whomp rats in my T-16 back home.

Keeping up with my Star Wars jargon? If not, there is the door (press back on your browser).

The game also had an inbuilt rating system (Bronze, Silver, Gold) which allowed you to unlock extra levels based off of your performance on each level. I’m fairly sure this is what guaranteed repeated play throughs between me and my brother, there is nothing that will keep your competitive edge keen like a sibling.

Really Star Wars Rogue Squadron came about in a legendary time for Star Wars games, it’s release was followed by Star Wars: Pod Racer (also on the 64 and one of my favourite racing games of all time) and was just after Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight (perhaps the best Star Wars FPS ever made). Knights of the Old Republic was still a good 5 years off, but excluding that (and its sequel) you basically have my top 5 favourite Star Wars games of all time.

Comparing the game without the Star Wars? It was still a great aerial simulator/fighter. Considering that genre of games rarely venture in Sci-Fi territory, it was like IL-2 Sturmovik  (hyperlinked to wiki, because I hadn’t heard of it either) in the future. The scenery was crisp and well varied, the missions were at the same time complex and yet not confusing and the rating system ensured replayability.

Really the only down side of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was the lack of a multiplayer, which I never really seemed to miss, and some graphical let downs like distance fogging. That and that the only sequels that were made were made for GameCube, a system which I never bought and have never regretted skipping.

So if you haven’t tried this game and your 64 is kicking around, give it a go. If you don’t have a 64 anymore (I think I’m on my 4th) and just want a trip down memory avenue then YouTube some gameplay. It certainly brought me back to a simpler time, where my hands were bruised and disfigured by Nintendo’s ill conceived controllers and my shared bedroom was filled with the sound of laser beams and Ion bombs.

Good times.

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