Ubisoft will probably take some flak over the Nintendo DS version of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, since it's just the GBA version of the game with a handful of 3D starfighter levels thrown in. Be that as it may, the 3D levels and the multiplayer mode that's built around them are more than good enough to justify the 10 extra dollars that the DS game costs. Meanwhile, the 2D beat-'em-up levels that make up the main portion of the game offer a fun, albeit brief, romp through two different variations of the film's narrative.
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 29 levels. Of these 29 levels, 21 are side-scrolling and organized so that each character has to go through five shared levels and then eight levels that are unique to that specific character. The other eight levels are 3D starfighter levels that are split evenly between the two characters. 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.
The side-scrolling 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 attacks that are 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 don't have many attacks, and they're generally not very good at defending themselves. But what they lack in individual strength they make up for in numbers. Often, 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, automatic security guns, and so on).
Wiping out the same enemies level after level does become tiresome after a while, but there's enough variety built into the combat to keep things saucy. 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, along with 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.
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 what combinations you used along the way. These "Jedi style" points can be used to purchase new Force powers and to upgrade existing ones. 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 Nintendo DS version of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith also includes a number of 3D starfighter levels, which, once they're unlocked in the story mode, can be played right from the main menu--either against CPU-controlled bots or against as many as three additional DS units via wireless link. Different teams and scoring rules can be set, and there are dozens of different ships and paint schemes to pick from. The controls are quite welcoming. Steering and pitch are handled with the directional pad and shoulder buttons, while throttle, guns, and missiles are handled with the various main buttons. The environments are free roaming, so dogfights are often drawn out and topsy-turvy. To make things interesting, there are weapon and shield items hidden among the debris and buildings that make up the surrounding atmospheres and cities. Your ship and the surrounding environments are shown in the upper screen, while the lower screen holds a radar display and various informational readouts. The graphics in these levels are remarkably detailed and really show what the DS is capable of. Also, the frame rate is silky smooth, even when there are three other ships and a large star destroyer viewable in the crosshairs.
For the most part, 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 2D levels in the DS game are identical to the ones in the GBA game, but the graphics are nevertheless 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. If anything, the development team probably should've added an extra background layer or more visual effects to the 2D levels to take advantage of the DS's extra horsepower. 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.
All told, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith for the Nintendo DS is a fun beat-'em-up, but its real value lies in its 3D starfighter levels and the accompanying multiplayer mode that are exclusive to this version of the game.