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Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

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Reviewed by Mr. Shades Ok - I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan out there, but I do follow the franchise and was curious to see what Factor 5's new edition to the genre of N64's shoot 'em ups would be like. The game revolves around the exploits of Luke Skywalker's newly formed squadron of rebel fighter pilots (Yes, Wedge Antilles included) as they battle the evil Empire. For those of you looking for a time line, Rogue takes place where Return of the Jedi left off. The Empire is shaken - but far from beaten. You pilot 5 different rebel craft initially, with more available as you progress through the game, but more on that later. The game engine is what everyone wanted more of when they played Shadows of the Empire. Imagine the cool Battle of Hoth sequence from SOTE with stunning graphics and an incredible musical score - and you have Rogue Squadron.

Graphics 9 out of 10

To fully appreciate the graphics in Rogue, you've just got to have the RAM expansion. From the beautifully textured environments right down to the individual paint jobs and battle scars on each of the rebel fighters - Factor 5 and Lucasarts appear to have spent some real blood, sweat, and tears to completely immerse you in the Star Wars universe. The only graphical drawback to the game is the noticeable fogging present on most levels. Although it does not detract from the gameplay in the slightest, it is somewhat annoying. The fog is mostly off in the distance, and doesn't interfere with your view of the invariable TIE Interceptor screaming at you head on. The little things also make a huge difference. The fact that you can actually see things like stormtroopers running in terror as you begin to strafe an imperial complex, or banthas roaming around the sand dunes of tattooine just add to the atmosphere, and make Rogue one heck of a gaming experience.

Music and Sound 10 out of 10

Rogue's music really shines. From the second you turn the game on, John Williams' famous score blasts out of your speakers - and you never look back. If you have Dolby surround sound, Rogue will knock your socks off. The music is as close to perfect as MIDI sound can get. The sound effects are flawless as well. From the screaming TIE engines to the 'blat' noise of rebel blasters. This game has it all. Surprisingly, the game features quite a bit of voice acting as well. Luke and his squad mates chatter back and forth as they complete various mission objectives, and even Han and Chewie show up for a cameo (maybe even more *hint*). All told, Rogue's sound is so good, you'll swear it's a CD game and not a cartridge.

Game Play-Fun 8 out of 10

Rogue will definitely keep you coming back for more. With a "medal system" (reminiscent of Blast Corps) players earn either Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals depending on their performance during the course of a mission. Things such as shot accuracy, enemies destroyed, and even the occasional hidden objective factor into your overall grade. By earning gold medals, players can uncover hidden levels and spacecraft. Also, hidden throughout the levels are weapon upgrades that can dramatically influence your craft's performance in battle. On the downside, the game does experience some slowdown when played from the first-person cockpit perspective, but the game is more fun in the SOTE third person view anyway. The game also bogs down during exceptionally large explosions, but you always have the option of playing the game in a low res. mode which is a bit faster. Be warned! Rogue can be extremely frustrating at times. Missing 1 tiny mission objective causes the level to immediately end - which is sort of sad because you simply can't explore the wonderfully detailed levels to their fullest and still complete your mission objectives. For some reason, the tow cable that was used with the SOTE snow speeder is clumsier here too. I'm not sure why this is, but you'll see what I mean after your 5th or 6th attempt to trip up an Imperial AT-AT. Lastly, another word of caution. This game is *not* an X-Wing/TIE Fighter clone. If you're looking for a white knuckle, adrenaline inducing, flight sim - Rogue isn't it it. However, if you're looking for perhaps the best shooter that practically defines the genre for the N64, you've found it.

Overall 9 out of 10

Overall, Rogue is a visual and audio masterpiece. Star Wars never looked so good on a home console system. The medal based achievement system lets players of all abilities enjoy it without throwing their controllers at their TV sets in frustration while the added goodies keep the experienced gamers trying for that *last* gold medal. If you are a Star Wars junkie - buy this game immediately. If you are a shoot 'em up fan - this is your game. Otherwise, give this one a rent before plunking down $60.00at your local software store.

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