I wasn't destined to be a pilot. I could never land the plane in Top Gun for the NES, I could barely keep the plane level in MS Flight Simulator, and I was never really that great at Comanche. So I resigned myself to a ground-based life, and figured that I would just stick to racing and arcade games. I was liberated from this boring and monotonous lifestyle by the excellent LucasArts title known as X-Wing. X-Wing allowed me to fly without having to worry about such antiquated ideas such as stalling, pitch, collective, and, most importantly, “ground”. How does X-Wing tie into this review? Well, I consider Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter to be the next evolution in a long series of space games built upon the Star Wars license and I think it’s a winner.
Jedi Starfighter, not to be confused with its prequel, Starfighter, places the player into the cockpit of several different spacecraft, each with their own weapon systems, handling characteristics and distinct personalities. The story line is excellent and helps to keep the action going by drawing the player deep into the game. Although more arcade then simulation, Jedi Starfighter keeps the flying tight and the combat tighter. So without further ado, let us talk about the specifics.
The original Starfighter was one of the very early PS2 games and I found it to be quite good. The gameplay was fast and presented in a very well produced package. Jedi Starfighter returns with updated graphics that are quite impressive. Most noticeably are the space environments, which are well populated with distant galaxies, planets, and of course stars. Land environments are equally impressive and provide striking freedom. The graphics engine rarely skips a beat even when rendering complex water environments with dozens of ships on screen. The ship models hold very true to the Star Wars license and it is possible to pick out your favorite crafts from the movies. I really enjoyed the addition of numerous land and water based craft that I hadn’t seen before. My favorite, and perhaps the most annoying to hit, are the ground-based droids. All of them can be seen in striking detail thanks to the zoom feature, which works flawlessly and keeps the game playable.
Changes that have been made include the redesign of the HUD. The HUD is very well done now and allows the player to quickly gain information on his ship and his current target. I especially like the addition of indicators, which display the current target’s shield and hull strength. Common special effects such as lens flares, particle fields and engine trails are very well implemented and add to the space combat excitement. There are a few cut-scenes spattered throughout the game and they are well filmed and acted. I am not quite sure how many of the movies were made explicitly for the game and how many might appear in upcoming Star Wars movie. The graphics are not entirely without problems though, most noticeably is the slight frame skip that occurs every now and again in heated battle. Overall though, the graphics are excellent and help to create the Star Wars atmosphere that millions of fans know and love.
Star Wars has always been known for excellent music and sound and Jedi Starfighter is no exception. I found the music to be very well performed and produced. Sound effects and voice acting are top-notch with plenty of beeps and zaps to maintain the space environment. The radio communication is very well done and quite original. I never really realized how instrumental to the gameplay the sound was until I played without sound and was completely lost during most of the missions. Sound effects are superb and really add to the atmosphere of the game. Jedi Starfighter’s sound is so good that I can’t begin to think about anything negative to say, which in effect says quite a lot.
Well, I drew a comparison to X-Wing earlier and now it is time for me to rip it apart. X-Wing was an excellent space simulation and focused heavily on the flying aspect of star fighting. Jedi Starfighter is still very concentrated on flying but definitely has much more of an arcade feel. Control is simple and very easy to learn; ships respond deftly to the slightest fluctuations in the analog flight stick and I feel that the control has been tuned perfectly. Jedi Starfighter relies on the use of all of the controller buttons but the control does not feel overly complicated and I was able to pick up the controls quite quickly. There are two main ships that are used for the missions and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Playing the part of a male mercenary named Nym, the player pilots a standard bomber complete with the expected energy weapons. The craft is slightly slower then the more nimble starfighter but also possesses the ability to easily destroy ground based and larger targets. As the game progresses, the number of energy weapons available increases to a maximum of four. The weapons are well balanced for each situation and with the large number of enemies requiring destruction, the player will find themselves more then well equipped.
Adi, the Jedi Knight, pilots a much quicker starfighter craft and uses force weapons instead of the standard assortment of energy weapons. The force weapons are new to Jedi Starfighter and are quite an original innovation considering how many Star Wars games are out there. The graphical effects on many of the force weapons leave something to be desired, but they are quite powerful and extremely useful. Force weapons require more skill to deploy then Rin’s energy weapons due to timing issues when firing. By holding down the force button the player attempts to achieve “force clarity” by releasing the button at a certain time. This can drastically increase the power of the force discharge and I think it’s a very interesting and unique idea. The ability to control and coordinate computer wingmen helps to add more of a strategy aspect to the game and while distracting, can make seemingly impossible missions much more realistic. The story is very well done and I really felt like a part of the Star Wars universe.
Jedi Starfighter includes a new cooperative mission mode that is very fun and adds a whole new dimension to the game. Playing with someone else and trying to coordinate attacks and defense is very cool and helped my friends and I get more into the Jedi Starfighter experience. Bonus and hidden objectives add to the replay value and a large assortment of hidden medals and crafts will help to keep the game interesting once the main missions are complete.
Jedi Starfighter is an excellent sequel to the original Starfighter, it does a superb job of improving on its predecessor. Many of the imperfections from the original game have been cleaned up and there’s more than enough new material to warrant a purchase, especially if you enjoyed the first game. So give Jedi Starfighter a shot, you won’t be disappointed.