Remember the first level of Shadows of the Empire? Remember thinking "Gee, if only the rest of the game were like this, this game would actually be good"? LucasArts heard you and developed an entire game based around the concept. Of course, spending an entire game in the snowspeeder, fighting AT-ATs, is something better left to that old Atari 2600 game, so some more modes of transport have been tossed in to spruce things up.
You play as Luke Skywalker (finally, no Dash Rendars or Kyle Katarns in sight) who leads the Rogue Squadron against the Empire. The game has a very movie-like quality to it, mostly thanks to a lot of voice work and in-game cinemas. The game plays like an action-packed Wing Commander game sans all of the crazy controls. Auto-leveling keeps you from crashing and allows you to get a firm grasp on the control quickly and easily. Once you've gotten the hang of flying the craft, you can disable it. Each of the ships has varying armor and weapon strengths. In addition, the ships maneuver differently, making one type more suited for some missions than others. The missions are composed of rescue missions, defense, escorting ships, and striking targets. Some missions require pinpoint accuracy when shooting, while some require that you simply lay waste to everything that you encounter. This mix of levels really keeps the pace of the game fresh and exciting. In each level you can earn one of three medals. Your performance throughout the level decides which, if any, of the three medals you'll receive. If you collect all three medals on every level in the game you will be handsomely rewarded.
The visuals get a great boost from Nintendo's new RAM upgrade accessory. When using the RAM pack, the game plays in a much higher resolution. The textures of the landscapes, the ships, the lighting effects - everything looks so much better. Without the upgrade, the game looks OK but not nearly as nice. Whether you're playing with the upgrade or not, the game does unfortunately suffer from one major visual flaw: The pop-up is horrendous. Every object in the game is drawn in at an incredibly short distance from your view. This at first seems like a really bad thing, but after spending any amount of time with the game you nearly forget all about it since most of the time you are generally focused on what's right in front of you and your radar.
Rogue Squadron has a ton of speech for an N64 game. Each mission has a briefing to listen to before you go into battle. Then during the action there are voice commands indicating what you have to do next. Plus there's a lot of chatter from the rest of your squadron. All of the voices sound fairly decent and really draw you into the game. Once there, the incredible sound effects, like the scream of TIE fighters zooming past you with their guns blazing, really sound terrific. The game also makes good use of stereo effects. The only thing in the audio department that Rogue Squadron lacks is quality music. Sure, its Star Wars stuff, but the actual quality of it doesn't sound very good.
Overall, Rogue Squadron is a good mission-based shooter. Fans of the film will be pleased with the good usage of the Star Wars universe. Being able to fly by Jabba's palace, over Sarlacc, or to see Han Solo's homeworld is really a treat. Any fan of the first level of Shadows of the Empire really should check out Rogue Squadron.