Review / Test:
It's been about two years (one and half in Europe) since the release of Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Now Lucasarts and Factor 5 have released its sequel, Rebel Strike. It's definitely late to write a review about the first Star Wars GameCube title, but it's not completely worthless. Rebel Strike is far from making everybody happy, but troubles didn't start only now as we're going to see in this review. At the time the GameCube was released, Rogue leader was a hit; before Super Smash Bros. Melee smashed its way forward, this was the best-seller and still is one of the most profitable title of the system. The reasons for this success are quite simple: 1/ it's a game from the hugely popular Star Wars 2/ the graphics were terrific.
After playing Rogue Leader for a while, you come to think that there was maybe no other good reason for its success, because you simply cannot find anything else appealing about it. When I first played Rogue Leader, I didn't own the game and I played it in shops. I thought it was a great game with stunning graphics and a really good immersion in Star Wars universe. Yet, because there was no memory card, I was playing the same first levels. Time past and I kept wishing to get Rogue Leader, thinking it would be a great experience. I love the first trilogy and I have no interest in the new one, so it really seemed like the perfect game for me. When the time finally came to play it at home and to see more of it, things went ugly.
It's like if I had played all the best of this game in shops. Now that I have it and that I am less impressed by the graphics, that the visual delight has subdued, what impresses me is how lame the gameplay is (especially from the mission Prisons of the Maw that I didn't finish in shops), how limited the action is and how boring the game is. The first missions are fine, especially when you begin. You keep admiring the graphics and feel so much into Star Wars that it's too good to be true. Unless you're more a Star Wars fan than a video games fan, this won't satify you long though. By playing again the first missions, you realize that even them don't escape the scheme of mediocrity.
Missions in Rogue Leader are short but tough and repetitive. The area is not as big as it seems first and there's not so much to see, whether it's in space or above some snow field, it's mostly filled with enemy ships. Yes, there are a lot of enemy ships of all size and that's probably the best part of the game, to be chased by a squad of Tie-Fighters or to see a full length imperial destroyer gives quite a thrill. But once again, it's only visual. When it comes to the gameplay, missions are nothing more than destroying a certain amount of things and that's very boring. You can't really use the freedom that you think you have as you are always required to destroy precise targets, plus areas are very restrained as we said earlier. So you just end up shooting the only things that can be shot down and that what makes the game extremely uninteresting to play again.
You can get some medals and points that give you access to some secrets including unlockable levels. Getting the medals is a step further in boredom, all you are asked to is to repeat what you've done before, just do it better: be quicker, kill more enemies and lose less lives. I'm sorry, but I don't buy it. In some games it might work well and be an interesting challenge, here it's just not. Maybe I played the first levels too much in shops, I just can't enjoy destroying the same towers again and making turns over and over around AT-AT legs. The game is just too boring, flying is not enough exciting either. A comparison that I often make is with Nintendo's Starfox 64/Lylat Wars on N64. This game is so much better than Rebel Strike in term of gameplay. The best level in Rogue Leader is no match for the worst level of Lylat Wars ! One level I hate is Prisons of the Maw. The beginning is one of the most stupid thing I've ever seen in a video game: nothing happens for a few minutes, you just fly towards your destination and that's it.
In later levels, the problem is even worse. Missions have even less to offer and are tougher. It's a good way to prevent you from realizing how poor some levels are: get killed fast and you won't have time to think about it. But it's not just that, they are also awfully made. Factor 5 never got the reputation of a good game maker, they always had the reputation of making great work with graphics and hardware's capabilities. I remember the Indiana Jones Trilogy on Super Nintendo, graphics were good but the gameplay was crappy. Well, they haven't changed and somehow they don't suit with Nintendo's motto that gameplay is the most important part. That's maybe why Nintendo never felt like buying them out. It also makes me fear for the Pilotwings game they are supposed to make... I love Pilotwings and both games on Super NES and Nintendo 64 were great to play, hope they won't put an end to that.
Back to Rogue Leader. I must admit that I never finished this game, I got rid of it before because I could not stand it anymore. You might think I got frustrated to lose, so that I didn't give it its chance and I'm getting some sort of revenge by writing a mean review, but the truth is that this game did not entertain me at all and I hardly understand how can anyone have fun with it. If you bother finishing it, it might be to prove yourself and the others that you are a good player or because you're a stubborn Star Wars fan. For my part, I didn't find the motivation to play the missions again, I was not even curious to see what was coming next. I even wondered if I had lost interest in video games at some point, how could I feel so bored ? But when I played something else, I felt the fun again. I used the passwords to unlock the next missions and gave them a quick glance, here again I didn't see anything that I would have enjoyed playing. It was just some "try again until you pass" method, it worked very well in old games but here for some reason it doesn't.
As unbelievable as it seems, Rogue Leader was for me one of the worst video games experience and possibly the worst title of the GameCube, therefore the very low score. What I liked the best was to see and hear: to feel the Star Wars universe, but not to be a part of it. Should Factor 5 got credit for this ? I don't think so. First of all, the graphics are indeed good, but they just reproduce somebody's else universe and as I said earlier, if they look terrific as first, they quickly feel redundant as soon as you try to look somewhere else than the way you're supposed to go. If you pay attention to environnements they look quite plain and ugly (Kothlis for instance). Same with the music, a large part of it is just John Williams' work and that has nothing to do with Factor 5. If you listen to the tracks composed by Factor 5, you'll notice that they are just, sorry but it's true, crap. Some sort of cheap eletronic piano melodies, really, really bad.
The only reason why I could have kept the game actually was because of the soundtrack from John Williams and the video extracts from the trilogy which were pretty nice, nothing else really. I don't even think the atmosphere was so well re-created; each mission introductions were lame, you just press hurrily the start button not to see them ever again which is quite a relevant sign of mediocrity. Voice acting was very poor too, stupid tones and badly chosen voices ruined it all, the woman's especially was very annoying. Even menus and places like the meeting room and the hangar, respectively to choose your mission and ship, rather felt tasteless. Rogue Leader is also packed with bonuses that might be interesting for those who like the game but that I personally find quite pretentious and useless. Instead of putting tons of information about how they made this horrible game, they should have spent more time working on its play mechanics which are all good to be changed.
Even I feel quite terrible to write such a review... I love the GameCube and Nintendo, I know they need the support from second or third party editors, and I'm really eager to play their cool games and encourage them to work more on GameCube. But what can I say ? I just spoke honestly about this game and told how it was to play it; this review is simply the reflection of how I felt about Rogue Leader. If I had written a review when I was playing in shops, it would have been very enthusiastic, but I had only scratched the surface of the game at this time. I checked other reviews before writing this one and it seems I was the only one to judge it so bad, but I was also the only one to write so much after. So, take it as you want, in my view, Rogue Leader is a terribly bad game.
Samurai Nintendo thinks this game is suitable for everyone (kids over 7, teens and adults)
Official story and features:
"Think you've got what it takes to lead the elite Rogue Squadron? Now's your chance to jump into the cockpit of an X-wing and find out. Join Luke Skywalker and the Star Wars galaxy's most daring pilots as they return to face off against the Empire in Star Wars Rogue Leader for Nintendo Gamecube. As in the original hit game for N64, you'll relive favorite Star Wars battles including the perilous Death Star trench run, a daring space attack on a Star Destroyer and the legendary battle on the ice planet Hoth. Rogue Leader features stunning, movielike visuals and immerses players in an intense actionarcade experience. Aerial conflict takes place in a variety of craft such as the legendary X-wing, A-wing, and B-wing. The squadron is yours, Rogue Leader!"
Story from Lucasarts site
"- This first-generation title pushes the Nintendo's technical capabilities to the limit with incredible graphics and intense gameplay
- Pilot vehicles from classic Star Wars movies with an unprecedented realism
- Eleven primary campaign missions include a Death Star attack, battle on Hoth, rescue, raids and a multitude of other air-to-ground and air-to-air combat situations
- Real-time environmental effects--watch the twin suns of Tatooine rise and set or race your vehicle to complete a mission before darkness falls"
Features from Lucasarts site