When it comes to exploiting a franchise, for good or ill, LucasArts is in the game industry's most enviable position. Star Wars is the gift that keeps on giving, and so the gift has been given yet again in the form of Star Wars: Episode 1: Jedi Power Battles for the Dreamcast. The game is a direct port of the original PlayStation version, and not surprisingly, only minimal improvements have been made.
Jedi Power Battles is a fairly standard action game that, as the title suggests, focuses on the Jedi Knights featured in Episode 1. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, two of the film's protagonists, are selectable, as are Jedi Council members Mace Windu, Plo Kloon, and Adi Gallia. Each character is armed with a lightsaber, and each commands a unique set of fighting techniques and special Force powers. The standard hack-and-slash is livened up a bit by several preset combos, but for the most part, flailing on the attack buttons will get you through the game's ten droid-filled levels.
The gameplay in Jedi Power Battles is centered on the "battles" part. Levels are presented from a pseudo-overhead perspective, and finishing each level is as simple as mowing down every enemy in your path with your lightsaber. Several standard action-game power-ups are scattered around, from health and Force power enhancers to a simple score bonus. Also available are a few vehicles with which to wreak havoc, such as the hover tanks used by the Trade Federation in the movie. For the most part, though, you can look forward to level after level of running, jumping, and slashing until the final clash with Darth Maul.
Because of Jedi Power Battles' use of familiar characters and setting and especially lightsabers, the game is initially amusing. Admittedly, there's something giddily appealing about swinging a lightsaber around; it's every geek's dream, after all. The endless combat becomes tedious eventually, though, as do the difficult jumping obstacles, camera problems, and shoddy collision detection that the game also features. By the end, it's almost a chore to play.
Since Jedi Power Battles is a port to a superior system, the graphics were noticeably improved. The low resolution, unfiltered textures, and generally aged look of the PlayStation version have been replaced with high resolution, filtered textures, and a newer look. Yes, there's little that's very new here; the game has simply been brought up to current Dreamcast graphical standards. That's not to say the game looks particularly bad, but it's not visually stunning either. Unfortunately, the game's graphics are hurt by occasional glitches, like textures popping in and out of view.
Jedi Power Battles is a reasonably fun game if you're a fan of Star Wars or if you're into vegetating in front of a standard action game for a few minutes at a time (or especially if you're both). Just be warned that what you get in the first level is essentially what you'll get throughout the entire game. Those looking for more complexity in their action games, though, will definitely want to look elsewhere.