Review by Joshua Griffin
Battle for Naboo is a fun, challenging and exciting last hurrah on the Nintendo 64. Previous efforts utilizing the Star Wars license are quickly eclipsed by this game, leaving other landmark titles like the popular Rogue Squadron left in the jet wash of these newer starfighters. The game is challenging and exciting, finally coming close to capturing the essence of dog-fighting and the intense moments of a mission. LucasArts and Factor 5 should be proud of their achievements on this title as they look now ahead to the possibilities of the Playstation 2 and beyond.
Battle for Naboo takes you to the battlefront as an officer in the struggle of the peace-loving Naboo people against the Trade Federation invaders. While the Jedi and Queen have left to take on the politicians, you're left behind with a half dozen vehicles against a jillion battledroids.
You're in for the long haul as you take control of seven vehicles over fifteen missions with objectives ranging from destroying everything to sabotage and rescue. Our heroes will travel over land, sea and air to restore freedom to the once peaceful planet.
A few events intersect with the actual events seen in the movie of Episode I. From the diversion needed to give the Queen and her team time to take control of the palace to the awe-inspiring final battle of the Droid Control Ship, you'll recognize the pacing of the now familiar story.
This is exactly the kind of game LucasArts should be focused on making. Don't rehash the story in and adventure game, give us something new based around the actual events of the movies. I believe judging from the accolades this far we will definitely see this again, probably in the first wave of titles for Episode II. The complexity of the story adds to the drama of the game, and although it is familiar we are treading new territory. We know that there was a huge ground battle for Naboo, pitting thousands of Gungans against the war machines of the Nemoudians, but what happened in the moments just prior to those events?
When the movie cuts away, the game takes over. And never in truer form then in the Battle for Naboo. The graphics are one of the first items that demand your attention. The great textures, the variety of terrain and the far draw-in distance are a far cry from less-ambitious titles. While the size of your vehicles are smaller than I had anticipated, the detail is good and the animation is excellent. Vehicles bounce along the terrain with life in real time and weapons recoil when shot. Birds fly aimlessly about and people run from their homes as the STAPs move in for the kill.
The rolling hills of Naboo are presented as expected, but we see other sides of Naboo. We find a Hutt living on Naboo, and that at least one side of the planet is snowing. Through all the seasons, including an exciting rain sequence, we see our heroes fight their way to the noble end of freedom and justice for all. Though many of the events surrounding Episode I took place in Theed, you'll travel all over the planet in your quest for victory.
The artificial intelligence makes timing critical, and a speeder full of rescued prisoners will do it's best to avoid trouble until you can make a path out. The enemy fighters come in swarms and attack without relenting, bobbing and weaving around your laser blasts. Get familiar with the acceleration, turning sharply and the brakes to keep them in your sights. And thankfully as far as character development is concerned, Captain Panaka is even given more depth in two minutes of the game than the one-sided performance during the actual movie. We see what motivates the man, and the immense pressure he must have been under leading up to this battle. The replay value of the title is limited of course, but your striving for additional medals will give you an incentive to play again and again. There is no multiplayer, which is most unfortunate but expected. Hopefully the power of the PS2 will give Starfighter that ability.
The sound is tremendous as well, from the familiar opening score to the great sound effects sampled right from the movie. John Williams would be pleased to hear his themes accompany the game, including new versions and takes on his original works. From the first track you hear you'll immediately be transported to a galaxy far, far away. The effects top off the illusion of being a starfighter pilot, and you'll hear everything from the unique hum of the Droid Fighters doing a flyby to the pulsing of the laser cannons. And can we forget the use of the surround sound MUSE encoding? Hear the lazers rip right over your heads and explosions in the distance rumble in the subwoofer. Gamers with good audio systems will be impressed.
New vehicles also add a new dimension to the game, including heavy STAPs, a fantastic new Police Starfighter and Bomber. Gotta love those additions, and while they are exceptional, I would also liked to have seen some variety on the style as opposed to everything looking like a modified N-1. Seeing a vehicle for a moment in Menace is fine, but finally we get to get our hands on the controls. Generous hi-resolution cinemas play two and three times a level, and opportunities to change vehicles mid mission is clever.
The last level of the game is the standout for me though, and though it is impossibly difficult to complete, any gamer will be impressed to see this. The entire Trade Federation Droid Control Ship is present in all of it's glory. After battling off a few dozen droid fighters you head into the big kahunna. You can fly around the outside, blast holes in the side and cream towers off the top of the mammoth flying structure. It's amazing and worth a night's rent at least just to see this thing. I didn't think it could be done. Bravo.
There are hidden bonuses as well, including advanced powerups and hidden levels and vehicles, but since I've only had the game a couple of days you'll have to find and evaluate those on your own. The passcodes they've installed are unique and ground-breaking, especially TALKTOME which enables players to listen to the commentary of the designers on each level much like a DVD. What a great way to top off a fantastic game.
However, every game has its dark side and despite being an extremely good game for both LucasArts, Factor 5 and Nintendo 64, there are a few hang ups.
The death sequences are quite repetitive, leaving you few options but to stand and watch as your ship plummets to the earth time after time. Occasionally it will explode on contact, but there just isn't enough variety to dying. The wounded spaceship would have been great, flames and smoke pouring out behind the craft until it eventually made a trench in the ground.
There are a few control issues as well, sometimes the plane simply would go where I wanted it to go inside the tight canyons. Also, when a plane hits the ground, an obstacle, or goes 'out of bounds' the game handles it incorrectly and it looks very poor. We saw this in Rogue Squadron and I had hoped it would have been corrected in this semi-sequel.
And in the final battle I wasn't sure what to destroy to end the game. At one point the radar seemed to home in on nothing, leaving me to wander about without purpose as the enemy diced me to shreds. It only happened at the end of the game, and the rest of the time it worked to perfection.
But aside from a few minor quirks this is the best Star Wars title available for the Nintendo 64. And it couldn't have come at a better time, with everyone quickly jumping ahead to the next generation of systems.
By far the best Star Wars offering for the Nintendo 64, purchase Episode I: Battle for Naboo and join in the fight for freedom. A solid game with a fantastic story, you'll enjoy the eye candy and watch The Phantom Menace in a whole new light. Fight for your life in Battle for Naboo, and God save the Queen.
93 out of 100
IGN 64's Review of Naboo
Tons of Codes for the Game
LucasArts Official Battle for Naboo Website
Daily Radar Reviews Naboo
For comments or questions email the TFN Games Staff
and thanks to Joshua Griffin for the review!