Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith for the GBA is a side-scrolling beat-'em-up that gives players the chance to kick and slash their way through two different variations of the film's story. Just like other games of its ilk, this isn't one that takes a long time to finish. Also, the combat is often formulaic and repetitive. To the game's credit, however, the characters have a hefty arsenal of attacks and Force powers, and the concern regarding length is dealt with somewhat by the customizable upgrades that you can earn and build upon by replaying levels.
Right from the get-go, you have the option of playing as either Obi-Wan Kenobi or Anakin Skywalker. Each character has his own set of attacks and Force powers, as well as his own individual path through the game's 21 levels, which consist of five shared levels and eight levels that are unique to that particular character. Obviously, Anakin's path is the more interesting of the two, since it follows his transition from promising Jedi knight into the universally feared menace known as Darth Vader. Two players can also play through the story cooperatively, using two copies of the game, two GBA systems, and a link cable--which is a very nice bonus indeed.
The levels are set up much like the levels in any other beat-'em-up. Long corridors, made up to look like locations from the film, are filled with hundreds of droid and clone soldiers, which you have to dispatch using the lightsaber attacks and Force powers at your disposal. Enemy attacks take away from your health meter; once it's depleted, you lose a life. Healing items, in the form of bacta tanks, as well as Force power items and additional lives, are frequently dropped by enemies or obtained by hacking away at objects in the scenery. Individual enemies only have one or two different attacks in their repertoire, and they're generally not very good at defending themselves or getting out of the way. What they lack in individual strength, however, they make up for in numbers. Oftentimes, you'll find yourself flailing about in the middle of a pack of as many as six enemies at a time, along with whatever other hazards are around (land mines, security guns, and so on).
Wiping out the same generic enemies level after level becomes tedious after a while, but there's enough variety built into the combat to keep things interesting. Every three levels or so, you'll face-off against a boss character that has his (or its) own unique pattern of attacks and weaknesses. There are also a number of tanklike mini-bosses scattered here and there. Both characters have a hefty arsenal of attacks and combinations, as well as a half-dozen different Force powers. Different attacks and combos can be performed by tapping out various combinations of the B button and directional pad. The other buttons control actions such as Force powers, as well as jumping and blocking. In a decidedly Star Wars twist, the block button can be used to reflect enemy blaster shots back at them. Each character also has a unique fury attack that can be performed once you've destroyed enough enemies or deflected a certain number of blaster shots.
Stylish play is rewarded. At the end of every level, the game gives you free points that you can put toward the characters' health, strength, or Force traits, as well as a number of style points based upon how quickly you completed the level and how many different combinations you used along the way. These "Jedi style" points can be used to purchase new Force powers and to upgrade existing ones. How you choose to develop the characters' traits and Force powers is up to you. One particularly nice thing is that once you complete a level, you can always go back to it and try to obtain a better rank and more style points. The levels you've unlocked, along with all of the upgrades you've bought, are automatically saved after each level, so you don't have to worry about starting from scratch each time you shut the system off.
Star Wars fans should be pleased with how the game follows the film's story and with how it looks and sounds. All of the major events are covered, and you'll run across familiar characters like Count Dooku, General Grievous, and Mace Windu along the way. The game's visual style is more in line with the look of the Clone Wars cartoon show than it is with the movie, but, nevertheless, the graphics are sharp and the animation is extremely fluid. It's fun to watch Anakin and Obi-Wan transition from one lightsaber move to the next and to see battle droids shatter into tiny pieces after every attack. Subtle background details, such as animated waterfalls and passing speeder traffic, are also worth keeping an eye out for. As for the audio, the soundtrack consists of high-quality renditions of tunes from previous Star Wars films, as well as a good selection of various lightsaber, blaster shot, and droid comment sound effects.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith for the GBA is fun to play and accurately follows the events and characters from the film. The game's biggest drawback is that it doesn't take much time to complete--perhaps two hours total for both characters. The customizable upgrade system does provide some incentive to go back and replay levels, though. All told, this is one of those games that's good for an initial long weekend and then for short bursts of play every now and again.