Unlike 1999's Phantom Menace, the GBA is the only platform that will get
the play-by-play recount of the movie, aptly named Star Wars Episode II:
Attack of the Clones. In Hollywood, films that are based on actual
pieces of literature tend to be ones with fleshed out characters and
plots. The Insider was based on a Vanity Fair magazine article and it
even got an Academy Award nomination. Vice versa though, where books
are based on movies, the results tend to be less successful. The same,
unfortunately, happens for games that do play-by-plays of movies. On
Nintendo's handheld, Clones is no exception.
While many people complained the loquacious first half of Attack of the
Clones was the weaker part of the movie, Clones on the GBA is the
complete opposite. The first two seconds, with digital samples of John
Williams' memorable score is present, as are still images taken from the
film itself. They tell the story and like many Star Wars games, lets
you play out the sequences that were not included in the movie. The
first sequence is how Anakin gets to the speeder while Obi-wan hangs on
to the assassin droid in Coruscant. Like Lucasarts' very own Obi-wan
Xbox game, there is a reason why George Lucas never thought to film
how Anakin gets to the speeder. That's because action here is very dull
and derivative. And that's exactly what Clones proceeds to cover.
For much of the game, you'll assume either the roles of Anakin or
Obi-wan. While Lucasarts always provides a commendable bank of visuals
and sounds to draw upon, the licensed developers here have put them to
work in a very mediocre side-scrolling platform game. The design is
inherently at fault. Because the characters are so large on the screen,
the requisite jumping sequences play out poorly. Obviously the
developers understood this and have included a heavy dose of action to
show off the fluid animation put into Anakin or Obi-wan. All very well
but they go on for an unnaturally long time. After half a dozen
creatures, you're continually slashing away with the lightsaber,
slashing and slashing and slashing, long after any possible reason could
exist for all this inane action-followed by yet more slashing.
This wouldn't be so much a problem if the lightsaber was an effective
weapon. Obi-wan, on the Xbox, had innovative lightsaber play and some
unique force powers. The controls in Clones are frustrating, even
without such complexities. For some strange reason, you can only swing
the light saber while you're moving. Could this be because you're
expected to perform moves with the direction buttons or could it be that
when the developers played this through, they inherently knew (and thus
moved constantly) where to hack to get at all the enemies in one pass?
I have a feeling it's the latter but it gets frustrating particularly
when you're crouched and overlapping an enemy creature but unable to hit
it unless you move.
Hollywood observers pitched Attack of the Clones against Spider-man.
Both have churned out games for the GBA and both share the similarity of
bringing some sort of 3D component to the handheld version of the game.
The 3D component here is interesting but like the Spider-man portion,
limited and unpolished. It's not always clear because of the diminutive
handheld where the action is going. But at least it's not as protracted
as the main bulk of the game.
Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of Star Wars, having watched the entire
original trilogy when I was younger (albeit, not in the theatres since I
was too young or not yet born). I've played most of the Star Wars
titles and even though some like the Starfighter series are simple in
nature, I'm not particularly against a mass appeal product for Star
Wars. The franchise sets itself up for mass appeal. Star Wars games of
late have returned to the gaming limelight, producing impressive games
like Jedi Knight II or Jedi Starfighter. Even the most mediocre ones,
like the Galactic Battlegrounds RTS titles, are fundamentally solid
games. On Nintendo platforms, Star Wars has an even better track record
with Factor 5's Rogue Leader. But that respectable streak is now broken
with this game. Jar-Jar Binks and the Gungans may have been terrible
for the movie franchise but Clones' release on the GBA is absolutely