A few years ago LucasArts released Shadows of the Empire as one of the flagship Nintendo 64 titles. It was a mixed bag, consisting mostly of mundane corridor shooters. However, there was one stage which stood out among the rest: the snowspeeder battle at Hoth. Critics such as myself wished that Shadows could have been more like the first stage, nothing but exciting ground-level flight sequences.
LucasArts took our ideas to heart, and incorporated German based developers Factor 5 (known primarily for the Turrican series on the 16-bit systems) to create Rogue Squadron.
Rogue Squadron takes place right after the Battle of Yavin (from A New Hope). Before Luke Skywalker was training to become a Jedi Knight, he was honing his pilot skills along with fellow Yavin survivor Wedge Antilles. They formed the Rogue Squadron which was seen in the Empire Strikes Back, and the sixteen missions that take place in this game are part of this time period.
The game is your typical arcade style shooter. Don’t expect the complex simulator style that most Wing Commander/Tie Fighter fanatics are used for, as controls are very simple so anyone can pick it up and play. Players control one of five Rebel craft, A-Wing, X-Wing, Y-Wing, Snowspeeder, and the new V-Wing (an advanced Snowspeeder).
Gameplay can be best compared to the arena-style stages in Starfox 64, as one can fly anywhere on the enclosed map attacking as many Imperial targets as possible and trying to defend any Rebels in the area. However, seeing as the stages are all ground-based, don’t expect any space combat. But anyway, if you want space combat, load up Tie Fighter.
As for graphics, a 3D accelerator is required, but using a 3Dfx card, the effects are nothing short of amazing. Right from the opening screen lens flares, shockwaves and 60 frames-per-second speeds abound. Control is also implemented well with an analog flightstick. If you’re the lucky owner of a force-feedback control, you’re in for a real treat.
The only true complaint I have about Rogue Squadron is that it’s pretty short. Fortunately, this can be resolved by finding hidden courses and ships with the gold, silver and bronze medals obtained from successful missions.
But still I wish there were more stages available.
Overall, Rogue Squadron is an enjoyable mindless shooter which Star Wars fans, especially those disappointed with Shadows of the Empire will surely enjoy. It gets 3 1/2 GiN Gems, but it borders on 4 Gems, because I am an admittedly biased Star Wars fan.