Star Wars: Episode I Battle For Naboo Hands-On

Lucasarts is making a Rouge Squadron-like fighter that ties in with the latest Star Wars movie, but is it just a repackaged Rogue Squadron, or does it have its own merits?

We recently had the chance to play around with some of the titles in Lucasarts' upcoming console lineup, including its Rogue Squadron-powered Star Wars: Episode I Battle For Naboo. Battle For Naboo has a completely original storyline that helps explain some of the movie's plot points - specifically, what happened on Naboo while Princess Amadala was out making goo-goo eyes with the young Darth Vader.

Developed by the same team behind Rogue Squadron, Battle For Naboo certainly feels similar to the last Lucasarts N64 fighter. There are a few differences that help set Battle For Naboo apart from its parent; in Naboo you pilot several types of vehicles - boats, tanks, and hovercraft, and starships - over several different terrain types. The game also features new enemy AI, enhanced graphical and audio effects, and a revised physics engine. Still, I found that, after playing Rogue Squadron to death, it was difficult to play Battle For Naboo for any long period of time.

Naboo's graphics have been refined slightly over Rogue Squadron's. With the Expansion Pak, the game looks fairly clean and detailed. At this point, the game is choppy at times, and there are a few problems with polygonal breakup, but Lucasarts should have plenty of time to put the finishing touches on the graphics before the game ships. Additionally, the sound isn't too hot, but the game's producer insisted the sound will be top-notch by the time the game is final.

A feature I really liked in Battle For Naboo is your ability to change your craft midmission. Some levels have hangars that, if flown into, allow you to choose another vehicle. Naboo uses this to its advantage, giving you missions that force you to change your craft several times before you can complete all the objectives.

One of the cooler missions in the game takes place on a river. The Trade Federation has mined the river, and you, as a huge, well-armored battle boat, have to clear a path. The mines are magnetic, and there are plenty of turrets hidden in the side of the cliff walls, waiting to fire at you if you cross their lines of sight. I took my time, clearing the mines away and checking every wall for turrets. When the river finally opened up into a bay, I found myself smack-dab in the middle of a huge enemy base. Twenty or thirty guns locked on to me and my game was quickly over. I thought it was pretty lame until the game's producer told me about a secret - hidden in one of the caves along the cliff edge is a power reactor. Destroy the reactor before you encounter the base, and its guns will be silent. I tried the mission again, blew up the reactor, hit the base hard, and came out with barely a scratch.

At this point, Battle For Naboo seems like a worthy successor to Rogue Squadron. Although the game may feel a bit repetitive at points, and it doesn't exactly jump light years ahead of the last game, Battle For Naboo is still a solid fighter that gives Star Wars fans another way to stick it to the Empire.

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