Genre: Action, Arcade Flight
Developed by: Factor 5
Published by: LucasArts
Platforms: N64, PC
Feeling Like: All wings, report in
I don’t have to tell you how cool Star Wars is, though lately its crown of dominance could use a spit shine. This is isn’t the first Star Wars game on the 500 and it won’t be the last. How could I leave them off? The franchise was virtually built around marketability and spin-off products. When you take into consideration every lunch box, comic book, action figure, novel, TV show, video game, movie and any other product you can slap the name on, it has to be the most profitable movie franchise ever.
So you can hardly blame me if I loved flying around in an X-Wing in Star Wars: Rogue Squadron enough to put it at 266. I could easily justify putting it even higher without much thought. There’s an underlying truth that cannot be shaken; flying around in a Star Wars spaceship shooting at other spaceships is so inherently joyous that most shortcomings are completely swept aside. It’s that simple.
It doesn’t matter which ship you’re piloting (X-Wing is king, obviously), whether you’re in space or on a planet, or what your main objective is. You have allies, you have enemies, you have your wits and your map and the opportunity to be a hero. There’s no earthly possibility I wasn’t going to get my hands on this game. It’s essentially the all-range mode maps from Star Fox 64 with a Star Wars coat of paint. I must be dreaming.
I never cared that the physics weren’t super realistic. If you’re looking for realism in an N64 space shooter game, you’re going to be disappointed regardless, but this isn’t the kind of flight you’d see on Battlestar Galactica or The Expanse. Hairpin turns can be done with ease. Going from full speed to near motionless is shockingly easy. Blasting your thrusters and angling your ship into impossible crevasses isn’t just possible, it’s necessary. Ammunition for your main weapon is limitless. You can survive head on collisions. You are Luke Skywalker, after all.
The sound effects are as familiar as my own mother and father’s voices. I know what the TIE fighters sound like, and you do too; it’s hard to write out. It’s like a really high pitched elephant that’s coming closer and closer. The blaster noises are straight from the movies. You can close your eyes and easily get swept up in it, so easily. It’s magnificent, and Factor 5 should be commended, as they had to make their own audio program for the cartridge in order for it to sound correct on the N64. Beyond that, they convinced Nintendo to market the game with the Expansion Pack for higher-res graphics. As a result…yeah, the game still looks pretty good. Definitely one of the best looking N64 games. The framerate and draw distance haven’t aged well, but it’s hardly a mess. Instead, I’m impressed.
Sometimes I couldn’t play as an X-Wing, but that was fine because every other Star Wars spaceship is a Star Wars spaceship. The Snowspeeder’s flaps moved as you turned left and right. The Y-Wing was a flying, bombing tank. The A-Wing was quick and nimble. The Naboo Starfighter was a SECRET SHIP FROM THE UPCOMING MOTION PICTURE, THE PHANTOM MENACE! …We didn’t know, back then.
If you ever played Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, you’ll remember that the very first level saw you piloting a Snowspeeder on Hoth, taking down AT-AT’s. It’s the game’s best level (talk about putting your best foot forward) and Factor 5 knew it. Fans obviously wanted a whole game like this, and Rogue Squadron delivered everything I wanted. I can’t convey how amazing it was to see not only my ship and enemies in the frantic dogfight, but other allied ships fighting alongside me. It added a layer of challenge, since it took more focus not to be distracted by the myriad of activity in my peripheral vision. Enormous buildings would be swarmed with red and green laser fire, vehicles of all shapes and sizes zooming about and audio communications coming in to guide you on your next objective. It’s quite an experience, and while it didn’t measure up to Star Fox 64, it came pretty close.
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn there are three more Star Wars games to go on the 500, or that there are eight in total. From my earliest experiences on the NES trying to figure out Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, to parrying incoming lightsaber attacks in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order , Star Wars has always been a personal pop culture juggernaut; a mainstay in the part of my life dedicated to having fun, dreaming, making lightsaber sounds and watching the Death Star trench run one more time before I go to sleep. All wings, report in…