Review by Brother Reed

"Better than Rogue Squadron? Not quite."

Battle for Naboo is the successor to the immensely popular and insanely awesome Star Wars flyer/shooter, Rogue Squadron. Like it's predecessor, it is also a hit game, but not as dynamically so as other games like Donkey Kong 64 or Perfect Dark. It was not well advertised, and most gamers including myself knew practically nothing about it until its debut, at which time it was wiped from store shelves with the same zeal as the other more prominent releases. That is a credit to Rogue, which seems to have left its elite hungry for more. As Naboo struggles to get out from under the shadow of its great forefather, the question inevitably arises: is Battle for Naboo as good as or better than Rogue Squadron?

Wow. This game looks beautiful! If you have an expansion pak, brake it out and use it! You don't want to rob the game of any of its glorious luster. Battle for Naboo pushes the n64's graphical abilities to the limits, possibly nearing Dreamcast quality. All of the craft look great, and the surroundings radiate with brilliant color. Since RS, the draw distance his been increased dramatically, so you can see father with much less fog. The people and Gungans on the ground also look much better. Their detail and animation has been improved. Still and yet, I have a few complaints. First off, despite the lack of fog, structures and even ships still appear out of nowhere once you come within two feet of them. What good is a nice horizon if you can't see anything until it jumps out in front of you? The explosions also don't seem as elaborate; they just kind of appear and disappear uneventfully. Next, there is...

SOUND: 10/10
...the sound! Another flawless job by Lucas Arts. Every sound is clear and authentic, and it really puts you into the game. The engines whine and groan, the missiles beep, and the lasers make that cool laser sound. There is probably more voice acting in this game than there was in Rogue Squadron. All the in-flight chatter helps you understand what is going on and almost makes you believe you are really there conversing with your wingmates. Still, Naboo really shines in its music. Not that cruddy title song, the rest of the sound track. A perfect classical score that ranges from calm and mysterious to urgent and adrenaline-pumping. Do not, I repeat, do NOT mute the sound and play your own music! You lose half the effect that way. Plus you will not know what you are supposed to be doing because there are no subtitles available. You have to listen closely to what is said.

I find it exceedingly sad that the control which helped make Rogue Squadron so great is so screwed up here! While it is still better than many, it has taken a disappointing drop. Accuracy is hard to achieve. Whether this is the fault of the ship or of the enemies I don't know, but the STAPs and Droid Starfighters in particular are way too difficult to nail. Either way, it is very frustrating to the novice and the professional alike. But worse than that is way the ships handle and tight situations. It is now impossible to make any considerable adjustment vertically while turning, especially ascensions. Because of this, you will find your hull scraping walls, floors and ceilings, and unable to avoid blaster fire. Not only that, but a flying craft cannot skim the ground to fire at low targets, because for some reason whenever you get almost to ground level, YOUR COCKPIT POINTS UP INTO THE AIR! and your tail skids along the ground causing tons of damage and making any shot invalid. This will annoy you to no end, as you will have to constantly fly back up and turn around to make strafing runs at ground targets. They really should have done something about this before putting the game on the shelves. Flipping is also harder and more erratic, and rolls are more difficult because you have to hit down C rather than R. R, on the other hand, has been made the tight turn button, a new feature which allows you to hug those corners without breaking. You'll be using this a lot, so learn it well. If not for this feature, the ground vehicles would always make sloppy turns and your fighters would be helpless against enemy attack.

To refrain for a moment from my constant comparisons, on its own, Battle for Naboo is an outstanding experience. The game will have you piloting a variety of ground, air, and even water craft to engage the corrupt Trade Federation and rescue the planet of Naboo. You play as lieutenant Gavyn Sykes, of the Royal Security Force special forces. Your quest consists of 15 regular missions and 3 secret ones. After you complete each mission, you may be given a medal based on how well you did. Your performance is evaluated by your completion time, the number of enemies destroyed, your accuracy, how many friendly forces you saved, whether or not you got the bonus in a level, and even how many lives were remaining. Bronze medals are obscure, silver is easy to get with a good run, gold is tough, and platinum is nearly impossible! The ultimate objective is to open all the hidden levels and achieve a platinum ranking on every mission. Now let me get back to my comparisons. For anyone who thinks it will be easier than the last game, BfN IS A LOT HARDER THAN ROGUE SQUADRON!! Some of the missions are easy and some are difficult, but it would be nice if the easy missions were at the beginning and the hard ones were at the end! The actual mix of difficulty is really strange, as you never know what you'll be up against. The enemies as a rule are way too strong, and much more resistant to damage than they should be. The platinum requirements are both unlisted and extremely rigid, so you don't know what you need to improve on, and you have to do a practically perfect run in order to get one! Most people will never be able to get them all. Speaking from a Star Wars perspective, the ships are just awful! Everything becomes obsolete to the N-1 and the Gian Speeder as your progress, so once you are through with the Police Cruiser, you will never come back and use it again, and there will be no need to. The craft are not nearly as diverse and interesting as the classic Star Wars fleet found in RS. I found myself wishing I could blow I TIE Fighter out of the sky with my spitting X-Wing quad lasers, but all I could shoot at were those boring droids. While the story line is more defined in this game, it leaves Star Wars fans feeling kind of disconnected, because they don't know any of the characters. The story line actually runs parallel to Episode you, and I will find that they intersect at at least one point, which is cool.

Despite the difficulty and control flaws, I found myself drawn to keep playing, because the game IS fun! Once you begin to improve your skills the game gets less frustrating and more rewarding. I cannot say I didn't have a lot of fun with it, and expert players will no doubt find it a joy as well. For beginners, it is probably just too hard a game. Try something more relaxing.

Not again!!! This is the third N64 Star Wars action game with NO MULTIPLAYER!!! When is Lucas Arts going to learn?? This is what we want! Obviously, this is a drawback, as the game is probably too hard for you to want to play it over and over again. The challenge involved in getting all the medals may be enough to keep you going indefinitely, but if you get them all, there is no real reason to come back. Replay the Rogue Squadron levels instead.

If you loved Rogue Squadron, you will at least like this, once you get used to the fact that it is different. They did more than simply add more levels to the original game, they created something completely new, for which they have to get credit. If you are not a Star Wars fan, don't like flyer/shooters, or have difficulty most games, give it a rent. It is at least worth that. So, is Battle for Naboo as good or better than Rogue Squadron? My answer is, not quite. It bears well the Star Wars name, and is an engaging and upbeat playing experience. Yet, as seems to be the case with almost everything based on The Phantom Menace, it can't live up to the quality of the original.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/11/01, Updated 04/11/01

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