By: Jac Bakley, Video Game Critic
Greetings Freshmen and welcome back everyone else. Last December I reviewed Star Wars: Rogue Squadron in honor of The Force Awakens hitting theaters the following week. I realize I’m a little late to the punch for this one, but since The Force Awakens is now the third-highest-grossing movie of all time, I have decided to review another Star Wars game: Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader.
Released in 2001, as a launch title for the GameCube, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II was developed by Factor 5 and published by Lucasarts and serves as a sequel to the aforementioned Star Wars: Rogue Squadron on the N64. The ultimate question is, is it better or worse than its predecessor? Let’s see.
Like the first game, you are first presented with a mission select screen. The entire game is only ten missions, but we’ll get into that later. Throughout each mission, you’ll be given a varied number of ships to pilot, with a different default ship. These ships include the X-Wing, Y-Wing, Snowspeeder, A-Wing, B-Wing and even the Millennium Falcon.
Some missions are based on sequences that happen throughout the original Star Wars trilogy, while others are original events (I give them credit for ignoring The Phantom Menace, even though Battle for Naboo made up for it). You take control of Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, and like the first game, they are up against the Galactic Empire. The first mission is based on the climactic attack on the Death Star from A New Hope, and you start out piloting an X-Wing in all-range mode. Each mission consists of several different goals, which are completed in a specified order. In this case, there are three. The first part of the mission has you flying around the surface of the Death Star, and the objective is to destroy every turret in the area. After the turrets are destroyed, TIE Fighters will attack and the next objective is to destroy them. The screen has a radar at the top left corner that indicates where enemies are, and this is useful due to the fact that enemies are very evasive.
After destroying the TIE Fighters, it’s time to enter the trench and destroy the Death Star. Like the movie, you have to dodge obstacles on your way down, as well as elude the three TIE Fighters that are chasing you. There’s no way to know when they’re about to shoot you, but you can brake to get behind them and shoot them out of the sky (hang in there, it takes a while). Then it’s time to shoot the torpedoes, and this is where we come to one of the game’s issues. The prompts you’re given to fire shots or attack certain enemies aren’t very intuitive, so you may end up failing the mission because the instructions you’re given to complete it aren’t very helpful. I knew I had to fire the torpedoes by pressing B, but where was the exact spot I had to fire them? It doesn’t even give you any indication that you’re coming close, so expect to crash at least once. Fortunately, like Rogue Squadron, you’re given three chances, but once they’re gone, it’s back to the beginning.
So the torpedoes are fired and “boom” goes the Death Star. The second level is just another air raid, but after that it’s time for the attack on Hoth. This is when the game starts to get hard. The first objective is to protect the Rebel Base from attacking AT-ST Walkers, which are moving closer and closer to it. Again, the game isn’t very clear in explaining that you’re only supposed to destroy the AT-ST Walkers and not any of the AT-ATs.
After destroying all of them, you need to go defend the base shield generator from AT-ATs. AT-ATs are too strong for lasers, so you will need to use another method of taking them down: when you are close enough to an AT-AT’s legs, press B to release a tow cable. You can then circle around the AT-AT to wrap its legs in the tow cable, like in The Empire Strikes Back. After circling the AT-AT three times, it will get stuck in the cable and collapse. Do this to the other two AT-ATs and you will progress to the next objective. Again, the game’s instructions aren’t very clear, so unless you’ve seen the movie, you won’t know exactly what to do. Also, I must mention that each objective is on a time limit, but it sometimes doesn’t give you much warning that you’re almost going to fail the mission. That’s not a challenge- that’s just fucking cheap.
Anyway, the last objective is to defend Echo Base from an air raid of TIE Fighters. This time you will pilot an X-Wing, and you need to shoot down all the TIE Fighters before they bomb the Rebel Ships. This objective’s a little easier, but again, no indication that your allies have taken heavy damage, so you’d better hurry and take out those TIE Fighters.
After the Battle of Hoth, the next mission is to invade a facility and aid prisoners in their escape plan. This mission really made me angry; you have to destroy three shield generators in order to invade the facility. But that’s not all; you also have to drop bombs on two groups of laser turrets. These bombs are hard to aim, so you may have to use three on one turret to hit your target. You can fly lower and try to bomb them, but since you can’t see what’s straight ahead of you while dropping bombs, you’ll take the risk of crashing into the mountains and losing a life. You may also risk being an easy target for the turrets. But that’s still not all; you have to drop more bombs onto the prison satellites that are controlling the turrets. Really? Would you in any way know you had to destroy those? As said many times, your objectives are not very intuitive, so you can’t be expected right off the bat to know that you have to bomb each satellite to progress. After that madness, your last objective is to protect the escaping shuttle from TIE Fighters, which is a little easier, though not by much. The worst part about this mission is that you’re on a time limit- I think five minutes. If the Imperial Star Destroyer arrives before you complete the mission, it’s game over.
And the next level… oh, dear. You know, Nintendo sure made the GameCube controller one of the sturdiest of all time. Had they not, I would have broken several trying to complete Razor Rendezvous. In this level, you pilot a B-Wing and need to destroy the shield generators that are protecting an Imperial Star Destroyer. Simple, right? Well, the escaped prisoners are piloting a frigate, which doesn’t aid you in the fight at all. Throughout the mission, you will need to protect the frigate from being destroyed by multiple TIE Fighters. These TIE Fighters do not want you interfering with the Emperor’s plans; they are far more aggressive, and they will constantly follow you around and shoot lasers up your ass until you crash and burn. Once you take out all the TIE Fighters, you can finally go destroy the shield generators. But this Imperial Star Destroyer has cannons covering its entire deck, and there’s almost no way to avoid them. You will get shot down every time you try to approach it, unless you take a very specific path towards the control deck. The two generators on top of the control deck also take a million shots, so you’re definitely going to get shot down trying to destroy them. I didn’t think any level could be harder than Chapter 7 in F-Zero GX, but this came pretty damn close.
So that’s Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Ignoring the obvious graphical upgrade, it is a slight improvement over Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, but it’s also a bit of a step back in terms of gameplay. Like I said many, many times, the missions aren’t very intuitive, so getting at least one game over is a surefire thing. But crypticness aside, this game is also really difficult, and you’re going to need a LOT of patience to get through it. This game goes for about $15 on eBay right now, so if you’re a GameCube gamer, a Star Wars fan, or both, I’d give this one a shot. I hope you’re the patient type. Thanks for reading, and here’s to a great year.