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PLATFORM PC

Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo Review

GAME INFO
publisher: LucasArts
developer: Factor 5
genre: Action

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
P233, 64MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, 8MB 3D accelerator
ESRB rating: E
homepage:
www.lucasarts.com/products/naboo/

release date: Mar 11, 01
» All About Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo on ActionTrip


In the past, Star Wars games have always brought excitement to a wide variety of gamers. Although, recently the enthusiasm and anticipation for upcoming Star Wars games slightly started to fade, along with the spirit, which the old trilogy presented. The movie Phantom Menace created a gigantic uproar once it got into theaters worldwide. It received poor marks from the critics, however that didn't stop thousands of fans to watch it, hear it, and enjoy it. Fair enough, the phenomenon of the miserable infantile character Jar Jar Binks kinda blew the Star Wars fantasy for some people. But, The Phantom Menace brought a fresh look with new planets, ships and vehicle technology. In Battle for Naboo you can explore all that and operate every vessel available from the huge assortment of the advanced Naboo technology. Unfortunately, the poor visuals make this game a bit tedious and certainly old-fashioned. But, more on that later on.

OK, first, and most important, I have to recognize the effort that was put into making the story seem unique, while at the same time it had to blend with the movie plot. While the preparations for the great Battle are under way, your character, Gavyn Sykes, a loyal Naboo soldier, has to carry out a series of missions assignments which include all kinds of special tasks, from protecting important Naboo individuals to demolition and preventing Trade Federation's convoys from getting to the battle.

Well that all seems fun enough, however after a few hours of playing the game becomes quite monotonous and not much of a challenge. But, what really comes as a drawback is having to begin each mission from the start when you die. This brings me to the matter of gameplay. Battle for Naboo is practically the same as Rogue Squadron - the dog-fighting, the battle scenes, and the mission concepts are all just way too similar. Destroying shield generators and escorting transports are the tasks you will find frequently throughout the game, which is a nuisance really since we've all done it a billion times before. Nonetheless, some of the battle scenes were meticulously designed, and are tough to accomplish; they force you to make the most of your vessel and show some superior piloting skills.

The huge universe of Star Wars, as we all know, encompasses many star systems, different planets, and moons, and races that inhabit them, environments, and advanced technology. Each race has its own unique life-style, proficiencies, and customs. In Battle for Naboo you will witness two opposing forces: the daring Naboo warriors and the powerful droid armies of the greedy Trade Federation. Aside from various enemy units you'll be encountering (battle droids, the famous droidekas, and the Trade Federation tanks), you are also going to have a plausible quantity of vehicles to select from, all of which have distinctive characteristics. In addition, the game features some never before seen ships, like the Naboo police ship as well as the huge Naboo Bomber. The assortment of ground vehicles available is a satisfactory innovation, in comparison to Rogue Squadron; especially as the player can sometimes switch vehicles during missions. This way the whole atmosphere of the game changes and it evokes the good ol' Star Wars momentum that was present in previous Lucas Arts games.

On the downside, it may take you a while to get the hang of the controls. Controlling and flying the ships is not a big problem, however, some ground vessels have extremely tough targeting systems that respond awfully to your commands. Even with the aid of the mouse you will have a hard time trying to bull's-eye enemy ships and droids. On the positive side, there's the auto-aim system that may be of some help in certain battle situations. Eventually, you train yourself through the game and get use to the controls (although I never got used to the targeting systems on some vehicles), and then the game becomes much easier. Unfortunately, this is when things start to get boring once again and it won't be long until you complete the entire game.

You will have to play about 15 missions in Battle for Naboo, which will take you to complete in less than a few hours, and when you do, I doubt you'll want to play the game again. But, all is not lost, cause during the game you get to participate and influence some of the major events of Star Wars history. One of the most spectacular moments will be the final battle that took place next to the Trade Federation Control ship, but I should probably shut up about it, so I wouldn't spoil whatever little fun this game has to offer.

Sadly, this game was initially designed for N64, which definitely left some scars on the visual effects that it has to offer. The graphic engine is precisely the same as Rogue Squadron's, featuring the same old explosions, shadow, and light effects. Although the models of the ships, speeders and other vessels are pretty good, certain items have a low polygon count and some of them appear more like paper cutouts, rather than real-life objects. While these models completely spoil the feeling throughout the game, I draw your attention to another visual limitation. Namely, if we recall the movie, the surroundings of Naboo are all paved with endless green lands and rock-less hilltops. Nevertheless, this game's environment simply cries out for more details in the landscapes and more polygons on the objects. All things are not grim, for there is one aspect that will relieve you immediately when you initiate the first mission - it all runs smoothly with details set to the maximum, even on slower machines.

But, as a true Star Wars fan I have to point out that a rather heartless gesture was made with the fabulous soundtrack, which is, for some strange reason, in MIDI format. This probably won't annoy most of you out there, although it may irritate people who expected a real John Williams treat (like in previous Star Wars games - that is if we forget the dreadful music from Star Wars: Rebellion).

Finally, I guess it's up to you to decide whether or not you should spend any money on a game that can be completed in a few hours time. You will have fun, I guess, but it simply won't leave enough of a lasting appeal for you to play it again, or for that matter to recommended to someone else.

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5.1   Okay


HIGHS
Exciting battle scenes recaptured from the movie, a nice variety of vehicles;

LOWS
Old-fashioned Rogue Squadron engine, MIDI music, and the game's way too short.

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