Review by Sour DieseL
"A long time ago, on a console far, far away...."
I'll start off by noting that for me, this has got to be one of the strongest entries in the Star Wars video game franchise thus far. Shadows of the Empire was a full-on, multimedia campaign. It spanned comics, books, even the original trilogy special editions, and obviously, spawned this video game. It takes place between the films Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Everything in this side story was a huge hit. And now we'll go over how well the Shadows of the Empire storyline translated into the video game format.
Story: 10/10: You play as a character named Dash Rendar, rebel ally and a very Han Solo-ish character, though he looks a bit gruffier. He once worked for the Empire, but his family was banished from the family due to a freighter accident. He hails from the planet Corellia, just like Han Solo. Upon being banished from the Empire, he joins the Rebel Alliance to help take down the Empire. However his missions take a slight turn, leading him to having to take down a criminal organization that works for the Emperor named the Black Sun and it's leader, Prince Xizor. He splits from the main group of the Alliance during the infamous Battle of Hoth on his ship, The Outrider, a ship that closely resembles the Falcon. Along the way he'll encounter familiar faces, such as Bounty Hunters Boba Fett and IG-88, who are out to get him. He'll even have to save Luke Skywalker's hide from the Black Sun organization in one of the greatest levels in the Star Wars video game franchise. Dash is no Jedi mind you. Just like Solo, all he needs is a good blaster at his side.
Game-play: 10/10: For most of the game you'll be controlling Dash in a third-person view. You start off with a typical laser gun that will help you in your quest to take down the Black Sun, and lucky for you it's infinite! In addition to the blaster, you'll be able to get different sorts of ammo packs for your gun, such as heat-seeking missiles, or the powerful Disruptor, which will even hurt Dash if he's caught in the blast radius. I cannot express how much caution must be used with that weapon, just a heads-up. The game obviously incorporates boss fights. You'll even have to take down AT-STs Man to.....walker? Sounds almost impossible doesn't it? Well it's no problem for Dash! In addition to walkers, you'll even have to fight the two bounty hunters I mentioned earlier, Boba Fett and IG-88. The boss fights are most certainly challenging and will keep you on your toes, but they shouldn't be too much trouble. In addition to the fun battles, enemies include waves of stormtroopers and even Wampas!
This game surprisingly has a platforming element to it, and a bit of puzzle solving. Often times they're incorporated to work together (Such as using the jet pack to get high enough to plant bombs in the core of the Black Sun fortress). And you'll find yourself jumping from train to train on Ord Mantell, a junkyard planet. There are special items to find in the game as well, some of them very well hidden, known as challenge points. These appear as silver Rebel Alliance insignias. Getting enough of these in a level may grant you an extra life or two. And some are rewarded without having to find anything, but by accomplishing certain tasks. For instance, during the Battle of Hoth, shoot down an AT-AT instead of using the tow cables.
That being said, and this being a Star Wars game, there are some flying ship stages. You'll find yourself in a Snowspeeder during the planet of Hoth, or in Dash's signature craft, the Outrider in other stages, the last one included. You'll have to fight off TIE Fighters and TIE Bombers in an asteroid belt before making your escape. In addition to that, there's a level on Tattooine that's a race of sorts, where you're on a speeder bike called a Swoop Bike. You'll have to take out the Black Sun henchmen on their Swoops while traversing the Tattooine landscape. You'll find yourself racing through space ports and ramping over Sarlacc pits in a race to make it to Luke Skywalker. The final stretch being Beggar's Canyon, which allows you to thread the infamous needle if you so desire.
Graphics: 10/10: They put in a lot of detail here. There *are* some buggy parts to some of the environments, but they're barely worth mentioning as none of them have an affect on game-play. Characters faces are quite detailed and they did a good job with the cut scenes, which are very Comic Book-esque, probably taken from the comic itself. The ships are very well detailed as well, especially for a game of the era it was released in.
Sound: 10/10: The soundtrack is just as epic as the movies. And all of the subtle, dark tunes only serve to help create the atmosphere of the game. There are obviously hectic tunes of course, such as the Swoop Bike race. In the Sewer level you'll be hearing pipes draining and other noises of that nature, which sound pretty realistic. Even the AT-ST's signature clanking sound can be heard while fighting them over....and over....and over. Personally, because I'm weird like that, I think said sound effect looped so often is akin to a catchy song. And the blaster sounds like blasters, explosions sound like explosions, nothing really nitpick worthy, unless the constant looping of the AT-ST sound effect gets on your nerves.
Overall: 10/10: This game is a must have for any Star Wars fan. Even when I was merely a casual fan back when this game came out, I loved it. It draws you in, and is definitely worth shopping around to see if you can find it and add it to your collection of Star Wars and Nintendo 64 games if you haven't already.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/10/10
Game Release: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (US, 12/03/96)
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