Review (PS2) - by Andrew "telarium" Langley
Not so long ago, Star Wars Starfighter made its debut on the PlayStation 2 as an impressive action game to showcase the power of a new console. Although the game had its shortcomings, it was generally considered quite a success. Now LucasArts has utilized this success to create a sequel, Jedi Starfighter. Does this sequel merely rehash the elements of the first game, or does it expand on them to create a new and interesting game? The answer is mixed, but the end result still works well.
Let's be honest. In a game like this, the story really does take a backseat to the action. However, that doesn't mean you can't try to mix a good story anyway. What's interesting about this particular title is that it actually gives away some of the plot points for the upcoming Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. In the past, George Lucas strictly prohibited things like this, but Jedi Starfighter seems to be the exception here. Of course, most of the plot points aren't anything major that your average Star Wars fan didn't already know from meticulously reviewing each of the film's trailers.
The story introduces a new space craft to the Star Wars films, the Jedi Starfighter itself. As a prototype ship, the Starfighter is given to a female Jedi named Adi Gallia. Mace Windu sends Adi to investigate disturbances in the Karthakk system, which then leads to an evil plot by Captain Cavik Toth and the always villainous Trade Federation. Adi eventually joins up with Nym, a popular character introduced in the first Starfighter game. Together, you two must blow up a lot of stuff and defeat the evil plot by Toth.
If you played the first Starfighter, the controls on this game should give you no trouble at all. However, for those who aren't familiar with the first game, the controls may come with a learning curve. Where this game differs from the previous title is the use of force powers. Being a Jedi grants you access to such powers as force lighting, force shockwave, force shield, and force reflex. Similar to Jedi Outcast, you obtain these force powers as you progress through the game. There is a force power gauge on your screen, and when it is full, you can press and hold down the appropriate button to release the power you have selected. The trick is that the amount of time you hold down this button affects the intensity of the force power. It takes a bit of practice to figure out just when you need to release the button in order to get the full effect from the force.
You can choose between different force powers to use in the middle of a mission. Force lightning was probably my favorite, sending out electric bolts to multiple craft in front of you and eventually destroying them. Force shockwave destroys enemies all around you, force field minimizes the damage inflicted on you by other craft, and force reflex gives a "bullet time" effect by slowing down the action. Each of these force powers is effective, useful, and just generally fun.
The look of this game is pretty much the same style from the first one. Not much has been improved in terms of the look, although they did manage to find some more variation in the levels. The danger in a game like this is that the designers may run out of ideas as to how to make each planet and mission look different. LucasArts has pulled this off pretty well and manages to give each mission its own feel. The 3D models and terrain looked impressive in the original game, and as computer technology has advanced, the game still manages to look okay. The major improvement in terms of graphics seems to be found in the framerate. The original Starfighter game had quite a few frame rate problems, but most of the issues seem to have disappeared in this game.
The video cutscenes are what I found most impressive, though. LucasArts did a fantastic job of making these scenes look great and provide some memorable action. There was one scene where Nym was shooting at battle droids in a hallway, only to have Adi break through the wall and take out every enemy with her lightsaber. The animation and camera movement was truly excellent, and I almost forgot I was watching a video game. Great job with the cutscenes, LucasArts. Keep it up!
The sound effects and voice acting maintain the same quality from the first Starfighter game. However, what made me happy was the use of original music in this title. I was disappointed in the previous Starfighter game for only using music from the John Williams Episode I score. However, this game managed to incorporate quite a bit of original music. Written by Mark Manfrey, who I can only assume is the new composer over at the LucasArts sound department, the music gives an appropriate Star Wars feel. Some fans even theorized that this original music was taken from the Episode II score. The use of electronic instrument samples is very good, and in the midst of the action, it really adds a lot to the game. I only hope we will see more original music in upcoming Star Wars titles. Be sure to check out a small MP3 of this music linked at the bottom of this review.
Gameplay: LucasArts has managed to take everything that was good about the original Starfighter and do more of it. Many people found the original game far too short, so the game designers have added 20 longer missions. These story based missions are a bit repetitive, but for the most part, they are also fun and varied. Once you've completed the story based game, you can engage in two player co-op missions, dog fighting, and more. There are also several different kinds of ships you can unlock later in the game to replay some of the previous missions.
The thing that I really enjoyed was Jedi Starfighter's use of DVD-like extras. There are some fake Pixar-like gag reels which you can download at the bottom of this review, audio commentary by the game designers, concept art, cartoons, and more. As a LucasArts fan, I really liked this feature. It gives us back a little bit of the silly and fun atmosphere we used to get from this company. I enjoyed seeing once again that LucasArts doesn't always take themselves so seriously.
This is a successful sequel to the original game. If you enjoyed Starfighter, you'll probably want to pick this up. LucasArts managed to keep this game fresh and varied, although I have doubts that they could manage to keep that up for a third game in this series. I suppose we'll just see what LucasArts has up their sleeve. Be sure to check out some of the bonus features below: