(written by Tohom) Added on: 5 Dec 2010
Anyone reflecting on the milestones set by LucasArts' Star Wars games would be daft to leave out its flight simulators. The epic space battles that took place in X-Wing and TIE fighter spawned release after re-release of those legendary series. In late 1998, LucasArts paired up with Factor 5 and gave the genre a major facelift with Rogue Squadron.
The first thing that strikes a Star Wars space sim aficionado is, well, the complete lack of a 'space' component. You have a mission select screen with a narrated briefing, followed by a ship selection in a hangar, which initially displays the game's use of N64 graphics potential. You then find yourself flying over the surface of Tatooine as a post-Death Star explosion Luke Skywalker. The default third-person camera is combines with a crosshair and lets you see your X-wing sway as you veer it around the sand dunes shooting at some Imperial probe droids. You may switch to a cockpit view, but I feel this new angle suits the game, whose genre is faster-paced and more arcade-like than its predecessors developed by Totally Games.
From the dusty hills of your hometown, you then visit various other planets, some familiar, while others less known. The terrains go from deep valleys to big cities, each challenging in its own way. There is a wide array of missions, most of them focusing on protecting convoys or destroying Imperial structures. The Empire will throw all sorts of units at you, including walkers, bombers, and sometimes even Stormtroopers in boats. Certain missions require specialized ships, such as the SnowSpeeder for taking out AT-ATs using the old-fashioned tow cable technique. The ship models are very nice, as is the overall quality of the visual effects for the time. The game came out on N64 only a few days after the PC release and the controls feel as though it may be easier to fly around with a joystick than with the controller.
After completing a mission, you receive a rating based mainly on time, number of kills, and friendly fire. This is meant to add some replay value, but more often than not, it demoralizes you by slapping you across the face with a bronze medal for a mission you thought you did very well in. Once you beat the campaign, you can replay some of these missions with different ships to try and get gold, or just for fun.
The final impression from Rogue Squadron is positive. The game isn't meant to be compared to LucasArts' previous titles, but should instead be viewed as the first in arcade-style Star Wars flyers, as it was indeed followed by others such as Battle for Naboo. Although it suffers from control issues, incompetent allied NPCs, and painfully difficult achievements, it is really entertaining, has a decent storyline, and is pretty as hell for its time.