As the Star Wars universe continues to expand, fans of the franchise have been introduced to a rapidly escalating number of names--often those with the borderline unpronounceable extravagance only George Lucas can craft. So perhaps it's a little bit ironic that the latest Star Wars game for the Wii, Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels, cuts right to the chase by putting the word "lightsaber" front and center in the title. But it's hardly a misnomer; Lightsaber Duels is a fighting game that's very much focused on the action, with only a light amount of story to help unravel new levels and characters. We've seen the game a few times before, but we recently spent some time with a near-final build to take one last look at it before the game is released in a couple of weeks.
Lightsaber Duels relies very heavily on the Wii's motion controls to give you the feeling of swinging a lightsaber. Using the Wii Remote to slash up, down, left, or right will produce a similar movement on the screen, and you can also do a forward-stabbing gesture. The characters have a sizable list of combos available to them, and these are generally a series of directional swings. Pulling the Z button and swinging the remote will allow you to do a Force-charge slash of the lightsaber, but you can also use the Nunchuk to perform a couple of other moves that eschew your Jedi sword altogether. Pulling the Z button and swinging the Nunchuk will do a Force push, while doing the same with C instead of Z will let you pick up a nearby object to fling at your enemy. The battles, which are best-of-three affairs, tend to be very fast and frantic with the occasional opportunity to take a break when a lightsaber clash occurs, pausing the action for a bit of brief trash-talking.
The fighting roster includes 10 Jedi taken from the recently released Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated movie. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are the obvious inclusions, but you'll also see a few other less iconic faces, such as Asajj Ventress and Kit Fisto. To help make the list of selectable characters feel a bit different from each other, there are a number of attributes assigned to each Jedi that includes their adeptness in Force attacks, combos, Force energy, and speed. You'll also see certain characters buck lightsaber tradition by wielding two and even four lightsabers at once.
In order to flesh out the entire roster, you'll need to progress through the game's Campaign mode. This is where the game's story unfolds, which follows a similar story to The Clone Wars, right down to cutscenes that appear to have been taken directly from the film. You progress through a series of enemy bosses and locations from the movie, adding both to your game when you defeat that particular stage in typical fighting-game style. These levels tend to feature all the glitz and glamour of Star Wars sets. They are complete with laser beams flying all around, battles going on behind you, and collapsing ground, on which you might even be standing.
Besides jumping into a quick match once you've got everything unlocked, you can refine your skills in Challenge mode. This setting offers you a sequence of distinct challenges that you can play to nab various extra rewards. You'll do this is by completing standard fights with a few devious twists thrown into the mix. For example, there's one where you need to defeat Obi-Wan without the use of any of your Force powers, as well as others that require a specific number of combos, parries, and clashes during the match.
Altogether, it looks like developer Krome Studios has made quite an effort to add some replayability to a fighting game with relatively simple, accessible controls. How well will the whole package come together? Stick around for our review of Lightsaber Duels, which should coincide with the game's November 11 release.