Game developers broke ground in creating Battle for Naboo. Where did they go?
Video gaming started to be enjoyable with the release of the Nintendo 64. Don’t try and tell me any video game systems available prior to the N64 were actually fun. They weren’t. They were poor attempts to satiate the masses with bright pixels and horrible gameplay mechanics, but before high speed internet, how else were you supposed to pass the time? Sure, there are some exceptions here and there of individual games that were enjoyable (The Amazing Spider-Man vs. the King Pin for SEGA CD, for example), but video gaming on the whole, not fun.
Enter our hero, the Nintendo 64, with groundbreaking titles like Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, or Mario Party, but critical to this revolutionary system was the availability of titles set in a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars games for the Nintendo 64 were many, they were involved, and they were, most importantly for a video game system, actually fun.
While watching the movie franchise, who could help but dream about being a fighter pilot for the Rebels? Well, in Star Wars: Rogue Squadron for the Nintendo 64, your wish was granted. Piloting across diverse landscapes and through outer space in a myriad of familiar aircraft, the player was able to serve as a fighter pilot against the Empire, helping secure victories by dogfighting and bombing targets. The mechanics were intuitive, the graphics for its day, stunning. It was fun.
Remarkably, game developers recognized they had a good thing, and continued to deliver the fun with the spiritual sequel Battle for Naboo. While feelings are lukewarm at best for the Phantom Menace movie, there’s no denying it introduced some wicked vehicles like the N-1 starfighter, better known as the awesomely sleek yellow fighter craft. Improving on the mechanics, Battle for Naboo introduced more landscapes and limitations to what various vehicles could do. Sometimes having the option to even switch between vehicles mid-level, players could employ real strategy in fighting for victory. Getting lost in levels was a joy, happening not because a player was unclear on the objective, but because landscapes were so rich and inviting that it was worth flying away from the battle to destroy a random farmhouse, or just fly over the glassy lakes of a given battle scene. These games got piloting the vehicles in the Star Wars universe right. Not too many frills, but focusing on robust mechanics to deliver a meaningful and fun experience.
Perhaps the most unexpected Star Wars game for the Nintendo 64 was Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, allowing players to traverse through both vehicular combat and 3rd person shooter levels as a mercenary by the name of Dash Rendar. With robust mechanics and immersive levels, fans still reminisce fondly over the introduction of the jetpack in this game. Players were introduced to fresh storylines, uncovering exciting aspects of Star Wars lore mixed in with essential appearances from familiar characters. The game was inventive. It was daring. It was fun.
Of course, the Nintendo 64 also gave us the underwhelming Star Wars speed racer game. Not everything is going to be a home run. Star Wars games have continued to develop and be celebrated, with several sequels to Rogue Squadron being released on various Nintendo systems, and of course, the ever popular Battlefront series, but where has the inventiveness of these games gone? Where has the sheer joy of exploring the Star Wars universe been? Abandoned at the wayside for the safe bet of re-tailoring the Battlefront series? It is time to get inventive again, and the Nintendo Switch is the perfect system by which to introduce players to something new. The time where it’s acceptable to release a port onto the Switch has passed. Save Battlefront. Be inventive. Take us back to the glory of the Star Wars Universe on a Nintendo.
By: Dan Burkett