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Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter
Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:
In less that a month and a half, Star Wars: Episode 2 will finally hit the theaters. Of course, if you can't seem to wait that long you can always pick up Jedi Starfighter to tide you over and keep you coming back for a little more Force wielding fun.

Jedi Starfighter isn't a Force enhanced leap over Starfighter, but I had very little to complain about then, so it's not much of a problem. I did notice that Nym's fighter, as well as a few of the other ships and locations received a nice shine up (compare Nym's base from the first one to now), but if you're expecting Rogue Leader, don't hold your breath. I did notice a few areas of slowdown in areas, mostly before a capital-class starship blows up. Even though this can become a distraction, I also found it to be a nice quick breather during intense firefights. While most of the story unfolds during missions, from time to time cut scenes help to push the story along even more. For the most part I liked them; some of the characters look a little too lanky and unfed.

As sort of a nice 'perk', Jedi Starfighter also gives fans looks at some of the new ships making their debut in Episode II like the Geonosis fighter and Republic Gunship. The Republic's starship should also bring a smile to fan's faces.

Sound does not disappoint, but then again that is usually the one part most Star Wars games get right. In addition to the requisite laser blasts and engine sounds, most of the soundtrack contains fully orchestrated music from Episode I. There are a few missions with music I haven't heard before, but whether this is from the new movie or just something Lucasarts made up, I couldn't tell you. The voice acting, once again, is top notch, although the voices from some of the main 'known' characters (i.e. Mace Windu) sound a little off from their movie counterparts. I also ran into a problem with the music track skipping from time to time - especially at the end of the levels. This is usually a really quick occurrence, but it's enough to make your heart skip a beat thinking the game has locked up.

Set before and during Episode II, Jedi Starfighter is the story of two unlikely allies and their intertwining missions. Since this is probably the main question on most people's minds - yes, Jedi Starfighter does give away one or two spoilers from the movie; but otherwise it is its own side-story to the movie. Of course, a familiar face may hunt you down during your mission.

As the Republic begins to slowly crumble, Count Dooku makes a deal with Captain Cavik Toth and the Trade Federation in order to make a grab at the resource-rich Karthakk system. In response to this threat, Mace 'I'm one bad mutha in another movie' Windu sends Adi Gallia to investigate the system. Meanwhile, the space pirate Nym, still a thorn in the Trade Federation's side, is already in the system leading the resistance. From there, Starfighter spins off into an interesting tale that, in an eerie kind of way, reflects a few current news stories.

Jedi Starfighter is laid out in roughly the same way as the original, only now the missions aren't nearly as tedious. Also, in a new and interesting twist, two-players can fight side-by-side in missions. While I didn't get much of a chance to play with this mode, from what I saw it was really fun.

During the missions with Adi, you will have control of the fast, but under-powered Jedi Starfighter. As Adi's connection to the Force becomes stronger, she will gain new abilities like Force Shield and Force Lighting. The powers add an interesting twist to the game, but except for the devastating Force Lightning, the powers are mostly useless. While some missions are built around the use of certain powers, like Force Reflex, I was able to complete the mission without them.

Nym, on the other hand, uses the tried and true method of blowing things up to take care of the Trade Federation. Nym's ship isn't nearly as fast as Adi's, but what he lacks in speed and agility he makes up with armor and all-out power. I found Nym's secondary weapons to be much more effective and useful (not to mention fun) than Adi's powers.

Jedi Starfighter encompasses roughly 15 missions, with a few to unlock after meeting certain mission goals. There are also a few other surprises to be found, such as the hilarious 'My Day at Work' and 'Outtakes' sections, so there's enough to keep you coming back for at least a little while. As good as Jedi Starfighter is, it does have a few flaws - mainly having to do with the story. It's not a big deal - but there is at least one sub-plot that left unresolved (and no, it has nothing to do with the movie). I also found the frequent memory card checks/saves to be annoying. I swear the game must have looked at the memory card at least 3 times before starting up the game. This isn't enough to ruin things, but it's annoying.

This had to be one of the most frustrating, the rewarding, then frustrating gaming experiences I have ever had. Some of the missions are an absolute breeze to play, while others are frustrating and will cause many controller throwing restarts. The neat thing is, after you complete a difficult mission you actually feel like your skill has improved and that you're a better player. Other than Maximo, a game hasn't done that for me in awhile. The one thing I didn't get was why the enemy AI was so dumb defensively. When ships are approaching a target, they stay in tight formations and just take the laser fire. Sure, this made my job a hell of a lot easier, but it also sucked some of the fun out of missions.

Game Mechanics:
Those familiar with Starfighter's controls, and even those who are not, will find them as easy as switching on a lightsaber. The only drastic change, and one that is easy to get use to, is the wingman commands. If you remember in the original, pressing on different directions on the D-pad would result in different commands. The same goes for Jedi, only now the D-pad also controls your secondary weapons; so giving wingman commands must be toggled by pressing L2 in addition to the directional command you want to give. It's awkward at times, but it's the best way they could have done this. One of the buttons I really wanted in Starfighter was a 'lock on primary target' one. Unfortunately Jedi doesn't include this button either, and you are forced to cycle through sometimes 20 different ships to find the one you're looking for.

One of the trickiest parts is using the Force. Instead of using it as a 'point and fire' weapon, you instead have to concentrate and focus the energy. This is done by timing your button press to a swirl of dots that appear around your target. Press the button when they're white, and you'll unleash the full power of the Force; hit it when you're pink and it's a nice jolt but nothing too spectacular. It sounds tricky, but it really isn't.

Since I've told just about anyone who would listen about some of the unlockable features, I'd feel bad if I didn't tell you lucky readers as well. Even if you aren't one to unlock things in a game - I would make an exception and at least unlock 'My typical day at work' and the outtakes section. Both of these features are completely worth the effort in unlocking them and even though I was hoping to unlock an Episode II trailer - they're still a blast. Fans are definitely going to want to pick this one up.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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