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GamesFirst! Magazine

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by LucasArts

Star Wars games just aren’t living up to their full potential nowadays.  Where’s the next Tie Fighter or Jedi Knight?  Sure, games like Rogue Squadron and Episode 1: Racer were entertaining for a bit, but they lacked the pure excitement of the Star Wars movies.  Lucas Arts, the publishers of all things Star Wars, is still milking the franchise for all it’s worth and, hopefully, Star Wars:  Star Fighter will please the throngs of wanna-be Jedi.   Meanwhile, Star Wars:  Battle for Naboo just ain’t cutting it.  Oh, it tries with cool vehicle models and one of the best MIDI soundtracks in PC games (really), but its true ancestry shows.  It’s a console port--a Nintendo 64 port, but a port nonetheless.  With marginal improvements from its console brother, Battle of Naboo doesn’t even make it out of the hangar.

Battle for Naboo is based around the events in Star Wars Episode 1:   The Phantom Menace with an emphasis on the resistance on Naboo.  While Qui Gon Jin and company are kicking back, watching the pod race, and having a Bud, pilots on Naboo are trying to keep the evil Trade Federation (headed by two aliens with bad Russian accents) at bay.  You are Lieutenant Gavyn Sykes, young, hotheaded, and Han Solo-ish, who needs to repel the Trade Federation at any cost.  You’ve got help, of course.  Depending on the mission, you could have a single wingman or a whole squadron.  But ultimately, you’re on your own as you fly from mission to mission thwarting the Trade Federation at every step.

Quite frankly, Battle for Naboo’s tediously boring.  Sure, you have up to seven vehicles in the game, but the game makes you stick to one vehicle on the majority of missions.  You have an armament of proton torpedoes, but you can’t aim worth crap with them.  There are fifteen missions but only a few are any fun.  What it all comes down to is Battle for Naboo is unoriginal and fails to give the player any sense of accomplishment.

Let’s break it down.  From mission one onward, you ride in various vehicles, ranging from land speeders to star fighters to gunboats.  Each vehicle handles differently than the next, though the control scheme is the same.  In fact, all you’ll have to do is steer and shoot.   The throttle is of some use (its easier to pick your targets at slower speeds) but, because of the arcade feel, simple controls are the rule.  Control is sluggish overall, though, on all vehicles.  Piloting a Naboo fighter is fun, fast, and furious but it controls like a 1960’s Buick with hydraulics.  All the vehicles have an insanely wide turning arc that makes strafing runs a pain.

The vehicles themselves are fun to handle for a short while, but there’s no particular model that stands out as a favorite.  Some are wimpy and fast; some are tough and slow.  All of them are uninteresting and not just because of the poor steering.  Though the missions often require one vehicle, you will have times when the game gives you a choice in vehicles (do you prefer ground support to an air raid?   Hop into the land speeder), but it doesn’t change the mission.  You still shoot down the same old drones.

Mission objectives are pretty run-of-the-mill.  Start a mission and shoot everything in sight until you get to where you need to be--which isn’t always clear.  It’s pathetic, but you’re better off following the wingmen in your squadron if you get lost.   Usually radio chatter will alert you if you’re in the right place.  Occasionally, you get an assignment to protect this ship or hijack this vehicle but you’ll spend most of your time gettin’ trigger happy on your enemies. 

Your foes range from pathetic battle droids to annoyingly hard-to-hit star fighters.  Fortunately, your enemies have a low collective intelligence, so taking them out isn’t too tough.  Unfortunately, they have the advantage of numbers so you can’t expect to wipe out all the enemies.   In fact, it’s quite easy for you to get overwhelmed so it’s best to keep moving.  Enemies are easy to outrun and you don’t have to worry about ambushes.  That does mean you can’t get a decent fight going, though.   For most of the game, you’re in the Naboo star fighter but because of your sluggish controls and your extremely agile enemies, you can’t engage is in a decent dogfight.  Not that the enemies pose a challenge but it would be cool if you could do barrel rolls or a tight turn to avoid the agile fighters.

The enemy AI relies on brute force to take you and your squadron down.  Occasionally, you’ll be contacted by your wingmen to assist them when Federation fighters bog them down.  This adds a sense of realism to the scenario--except if one of your pilots dies, you have to start the mission over.  Fortunately, your wingmen can take care of themselves for at least awhile until you can aid them.

One of the major acts of mediocrity Battle for Naboo commits is its unimpressive graphics.  Absolutely boring terrain awaits you as glide over the planet of Naboo.   It isn’t the level design that gets to me; it’s actually pretty well thought out with mountain ranges and valleys.  Unfortunately, the environment lacks detail.  There’s scarcely any trees or other flora around to break up the monotony.  Perhaps for this reason the game runs very smoothly with no noticeable bugs.  There is some draw-in but that’s only for objects far off in the distance.  The actual terrain (like mountains) can be seen for what seems like miles.  However, nothing graphically innovative will be found in this game.

Most of the vehicles did not make an appearance in Phantom Menace, but their designs were kept within the specifications of the Star Wars.  In other words, you’ll be piloting really weird looking ships.  The various land speeders you often pilot look like beefed-up versions of the ones you see Luke Skywalker piloting in the first Star Wars.  The two Naboo fighters, the long yellow movie version and a police cruiser, are practically identical other than some color change.  Nice little effects like exhaust from the engines adds a movie quality to the design.   Also, the fighters sport a nice chrome finish on the front-end of the wings.  Other vehicles seem based off pre-established movie vehicles such as the droid tank and the droid flying STAP.

Sound-wise, Battle for Naboo is exactly what I would ask from a Stars Wars game.  I would have loved to have had a 3D surround to fully experience the sound effects.   And, man, what a sound!  Star fighters make that classic screeching sound every time they whiz by your vehicle, blaster fire sizzles as it strikes your intended target, and the battle droids actually have radio chatter in the same voices used in the movies.  Speaking of chatter, while most of the spoken dialogue is well acted, better catch phrases than “Trade Federation scum!” could have been used, and not to mention repeated less often.  One minor sore point is the use of MIDI for the soundtrack instead of using live instruments.   Still, the music makes a powerful effect on the game because it’s authentic Star Wars music.

Battle for Naboo  really shouldn’t be played by anybody but hardcore Star Wars fans.  Arcade gamers will find nothing fun about the game and flight sim enthusiasts shouldn’t even consider.  Battle for Naboo is just another mediocre game that tries to ride on the coat tails of the Star Wars franchise.

Van Davis


Ups: Decent sound, shallow learning curve

Downs: Tedious gameplay, generic graphics, boring missions

System Reqs: P-233, 64 MB RAM, 8 MB 3D card


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