Star Wars: Starfighter was one of the earlier PS2 games and has the distinction of being the first Star Wars-themed game to appear on the system. Taking place simultaneously with the events in the Star Wars: Episode I film, Starfighter put you in the role of three different characters created specifically for the game. Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter is the sequel to the original Star Wars: Starfighter game, which has since made appearances on the Xbox and PC. The new game continues the story of Nym, one of the original characters, and drops the other two in favor of a new character, Adi Gallia, a Jedi Master with force powers. By dropping the two other characters, LucasArts has narrowed the storyline down to Nym and Adi and has put more focus on them by giving you more time with each. The new storyline can be quite engaging, and while the game plays very similarly to the original, a number of improvements have been made. That's not to say that the game is without its own share of flaws, however.
One of the most noteworthy aspects of Jedi Starfighter is that the events in the game occur simultaneously with those that take place in the Episode II movie. This will probably be important to a fair number of Star Wars fans, seeing as the game will be released two months prior to the film. Many will undoubtedly pick this game up while hoping to catch a glimpse of the events in the movie, and for the most part, they won't be disappointed. Not only will they be able to interact with a few of the characters in the movie, but they'll also pick up a number of hints that are dropped throughout the game. They'll also be able to fly a number of ships that, as of this writing, have been viewed only in the Episode II movie trailers officially released by Lucasfilm.
You'll start off in the role of Adi Gallia, who was formerly a student in the charge of Mace Windu, a notable Jedi Master and member of the Jedi Council. In the game, Mace Windu has caught wind of a plot being lead by the mysterious Count Dooku, a man who is attempting to draw star systems away from the influence of the Republic, thereby diminishing their power and reducing the sway of the Jedi Council. Count Dooku has enlisted the help of Cavic Toth, a malicious terrorist with chemical weapons who is bent on taking control of the Karthak system and its rich natural resources. Toth begins his power play in earnest, enlisting the help of the Trade Federation and a group of mercenaries known as the Saboath. Adi Gallia is charged with preventing this invasion, since the majority of the Jedi are drawn away into other mysterious events, which will undoubtedly be revealed in the upcoming movie. One of the first things you'll do as Adi Gallia is enlist the help of Nym, who reluctantly joins in the fight.
The Jedi Starfighter is a new craft, which will also be seen in the movie. Sleek and triangular, it's a craft of simple yet effective design. Rather than using a set of secondary weapons like Nym's Havoc, the Jedi Starfighter offers only basic lasers and agile maneuvering. Adi Gallia's proficiency in the use of the force fills in for the lack of alternate weapons, however. Initially, you'll have force shield available, which brings up a protective field that prevents damage to your ship for a limited amount of time. Later, you'll gain force lightning, which emits a powerful electric blast that can arc from ship to ship, causing more damage. This attack works only on smaller craft, since the larger ships are more insulated and therefore immune to it. Much later in the game you'll gain force reflex and force shock wave, which offer more powerful offensive and defensive uses. Force reflex slows time and lets you inflict more damage on enemies, as well as increase the maneuverability of your ship. Force shock wave sends out a circular blast that damages all enemies in your immediate vicinity.
In the missions where you find yourself flying as Nym, you'll have the powerful Havoc spacecraft at your disposal. Almost the polar opposite of Adi's Jedi Starfighter, the Havoc is a beast, with less maneuverability and much more armor. This ship also has a wider variety of secondary weapons that improve as you progress. You'll start off with energy bombs, of which you'll have an unlimited supply, though they take time to replenish as you use them up. As time goes on, you'll acquire powerful missiles, proximity mines, and cluster seeker missiles as well. Toward the end of the game, you'll even gain control over a planetary cannon, which is particularly devastating when used against larger and slower targets such as Trade Federation frigates and missile boats. This weapon is quite entertaining as well, mostly because it feels as if you have a miniature Death Star at your command.
The control in the game is almost identical to that which was used in the first game, with a few additions. Instead of using the D-pad just to issue commands to your wingmen, as was the case in the first game, you'll also use it to select your secondary weapons, be they Adi's force powers or Nym's secondary weapons. Once selected, secondary weapons are used via the circle button. Selecting commands for your allies is done by holding down the L1 button and pressing the corresponding directions on the D-pad in tandem. The X button fires your basic lasers, while the triangle and square buttons are reserved for your targeting computer. The L2 button slows your ship, while the R2 button causes you to accelerate. Pressing down the R3 button makes your ship automatically right itself with the ground beneath you in the missions where you find yourself within a planet's atmosphere. The two analog sticks are the means by which you control your craft, with the left stick controlling your pitch and yaw and the right stick letting you roll your craft.
As far as targeting enemies is concerned, holding down the square button will encircle all enemies currently onscreen with a red indicator, and bringing your targeting reticle over a selected enemy makes it your primary target. You can cycle through enemy targets by pressing the triangle button repeatedly, which first brings up the nearest enemy or the last one to shoot you. Unfortunately, despite the two different buttons dedicated to targeting, you'll often find yourself frantically pressing the triangle button as you try to bring up targets that aren't immediately visible. This can be frustrating if you're searching for an essential target, and it can cause you to fail to achieve some of the bonus objectives on occasion or, in the worst-case scenario, fail the mission altogether.
The targeting interface is one of the more intuitive aspects of the game, and it relays important information in a quick and easy manner. The targeting indicator reflects the shield and hull integrity of enemy or allied craft. In addition to this, while using the square button to target multiple enemies, the indicators surrounding enemies will go from being nearly transparent to being brightly lit, depending on the distance the enemy is from your current location. Yellow brackets also pop up around any ship that is currently broadcasting communications. Your targeting reticle changes shape according to the secondary weapon you have selected as well, which lets you know which weapon you have selected at a glace, without having to look down at your HUD, which occupies the lower corners of the screen.
The graphics are probably the weakest point in Jedi Starfighter. Ship models and terrain are only mediocre, clad with bland textures that make the game look like less than it could be. These visual flaws are compounded by the ability to zoom in on targets, which makes for an even less savory view when you're up close and personal. Frame rates range from 30 to 60 per second for the most part, but as the screen fills up with multiple craft and displays constant explosions, fog, and smoke effects, these numbers can dip dramatically, especially in the two-player modes. Luckily, the gameplay remains intact throughout, so the visuals are the only thing damaged by these technical shortcomings.
The sound is what you would expect from a LucasArts game, complete with all the appropriate sound effects. The soundtrack is an amalgamation of the Episode I music, along with a few new tracks, presumably from the Episode II score. The voice work for all of the speaking characters in the game is well done, but as was an issue with the first game, there are only a few commands and responses. You'll hear a lot of the same lines over and over again as a result. There is a significant amount of scripted dialogue that takes place in each mission, however, and some of the radio chatter is quite engaging and helps move the story and mission at hand along rather nicely.
Another thing that Jedi Starfighter has going for it is the two-player mode. There are two-player-specific missions, but you can play the game through entirely in a split-screen co-op mode as well. In co-op mode, there are more ships to initially choose from. In addition to the Havoc and the Jedi Starfighter, you'll have access to the ships piloted by allies in the regular missions. Each of these ships is well fleshed out in its own right, so you won't be flying modifications of the two main ships. The two-player-specific levels for the most part are the same as they are in co-op mode, but in some missions you can divide control of the Advanced Havoc, a pumped-up version of Nym's regular ship. In this mode, one player assumes control of the ship, while another mans a turret that has been added to the top of the craft.
Along with the two-player modes, there are also a handful of single-player missions that can be unlocked and played outside of the game's main story mode. Each mission in the story mode has a list of required objectives that you must complete, but there are bonus and hidden objectives lurking in each mission, too. Achieving these objectives will unlock up to nine more ships for use in the story mode (several of which will please fans of the classic movies and games), new single- and multiplayer missions, and DVD-style extras. Some of these extras include trailers for upcoming and recently released LucasArts games, concept art, team photos, and a gag reel like the one seen during the end credits of Pixar's movie A Bug's Life.
In the end, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter is a solid game that fans of the first entry in the series should check out without giving it a second thought. While it's not the prettiest game out there, or the best-looking Star Wars game for that matter, it does offer strong control and entertaining gameplay, as well as the sound and music we've come to expect from a Star Wars game. These merits combined with the multitude of ships and missions that can be unlocked through extensive play further add to the value of the game. While plenty good can be said about Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, the often-bland visuals, sketchy frame rate, and somewhat frustrating targeting control ultimately hold Jedi Starfighter back from being a great game.