When Nintendo unveiled their Rogue Leader demo at Spaceworld 2000, I was a skeptic. I could not believe how realistic the X-Wings appeared as they flew across the screen. The detail of every paint scratch, every bolt, every R2 unit and every pilot almost resembled what could be seen in a theater 20 years ago. That skepticism came to an end at E3 when I went hands-on.
This time, I wasn’t playing the Battle of Yavin as I have before in countless Star Wars titles (X-Wing, Rebel Assault, Star Wars Arcade, and many others), I was actually living it. It was here that I knew the Nintendo GameCube will be something really special.
When the Cube was released, Rogue Leader was the only title I picked up with it, and for good reason. Not only did it continue in the amazing arcade-style flight combat first presented on the Nintendo 64, but the new features and amazing presentation make Rogue Leader the first true killer application for Nintendo’s new blue (or black) box.
Where the original Rogue Squadron took place with missions after the first Star Wars movie (A New Hope), the sequel spans the entire trilogy. In addition to the movies’ main battles (Yavin, Hoth, and Endor), new missions straight from the films’ storylines are also involved. For once, players can experience the theft of an Imperial Shuttle to use on Endor, as well as assisting the Bothan Spies in obtaining the plans for the second Death Star.
At the beginning of each mission, only one type of fighter selected for that mission is available, but when the mission is completed, more craft can be selected. Even the Millennium Falcon can be selected during the Battle of Endor missions.
Anyone who has played Rogue Squadron on the N64 or on the PC will feel at home, only this time the home has received one heck of a makeover. Developer Factor 5 added painstaking detail to every ship to make them look like their theatrical counterparts, and surprisingly, hundreds of ships can be on the screen at one time without even cutting into the 60 frames per second speed. The only sign of possible slowdown is on a mission involving a rescue on the damaged Star Destroyer, as the nearby planet surface is almost entirely water and the surface reflects everything. Even with the slowdown, the image must be seen to be believed.
The sound has also been revamped. Now free from the boundaries of the cartridge, Factor 5 enhanced their original music system with their new MusyX. Before it can be easy to discern which was the original Williams score and the Factor 5 music system, but now it’s difficult to tell which is which. Voice acting is also much better than before, as not only is there some lines taken directly from the movie itself, but the original Wedge (Dennis Lawson) was cast to reprise his old role.
In addition to the game, Rogue Leader adds features usually found on a movie DVD. We now have commentary from the producers, a making-of video (FMV on a Nintendo system? Has the world gone mad?), the original trailer presented at SpaceWorld 2000, plus several bonus missions that can be unlocked with medals won in the 10 original missions. These bonus missions include Luke in the Falcon’s gun turret (during the Death Star Escape), the Falcon escape in the asteroid field and an alternate reality to the Battle of Yavin, this time under Darth Vader’s control.
The only problem that prevents Rogue Leader from getting a perfect score is the small number of missions. Granted bonus missions can be earned with medals earned, but the original 10 can be considered light. However, each of these missions (particularly Hoth and Yavin) can be played over and over again since they are so well thought out and totally beautiful to behold.
Rogue Leader is a strong start to an impressive platform. The Nintendo GameCube is off to a strong start, and I can only imagine what this little box has hidden away. Rogue Leader has become Lucas Art’s most successful title to date, and we justly award it 4 1/2 GiN Gems. If you start playing this title and expect to do anything productive that same day, may the force be with you!
Developers: Factor 5
Platforms: GameBoy Color