Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader | Retro Review | GameCube - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Friday, November 25, 2022

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader | Retro Review | GameCube

Console launches are an important time to show off what systems can do visually. In 2001, the GameCube was no different. While Luigi’s Mansion and Wave Race: Blue Storm were the big titles from Nintendo, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader from Factor 5 really showed what Nintendo’s purple lunch box was capable of. While the game is still one of the best looking games to have graced the platform, is it still fun to play all these years later? That’s exactly what we’re here to talk about.

Rogue Leader features a very arcade-like feel and is tailored specifically for the GameCube controller. Of course, control of the ship is handled with the analog stick, the A button is used for the primary weapons, B is for secondary weapons (proton torpedoes, etc), X changes the view and holding Y brings up the targeting computer. The D-pad allows you to give orders to your wingmen, for example, to attack certain targets or to form up. Alternatively, when you are near death, you can press any direction on the d-pad to have your on-board droid repair your ship. The analog triggers slow down or speed up your ship. For the X-Wing or B-Wing, a full press closes the ship’s S-Foils. The C-stick is used to slightly move the camera and look around while in cockpit view. 
Everything here feels extremely tight no matter which ship you are piloting. Each ship does have their own feel here as well. The X-Wing is more of an all around kind of vessel, the A-Wing is speedy, the Y-Wing is a bit slow but packs a punch with the weapons, etc. Other interesting touches are thrown into the controls, too. Of course, when blasting enemies, you can just hold the fire button, however, it’s much more effective to tap the button as your shots will deliver more powerful blasts with each press.

While I do really enjoy the gameplay and controls in Rogue Leader, I do have a few gripes. The ability to repair your ship shortly before it’s blown to smithereens is great, however, the window for doing this is extremely short. Having a bit more time to make use of this would have made for a better overall experience. 
Another issue, which can be a bit annoying in tight spaces, happens when you have enemies close on your tail. This doesn’t happen all the time, but occasionally when in situations like this, the camera will pan back far from your ship with the intention of giving you a look at the enemy. While this is a cool idea, I’ve found this to be problematic in practice. This sometimes makes it difficult to judge your surroundings, resulting in accidental deaths.

The missions on offer here range from scenes taken straight out of the movie to scenarios that would (or in some cases, kind of did) appear in the Expanded Universe. Things here are varied and are usually pretty fun. Of course, the game does get quite difficult the deeper you get in, however upgrades to your ships and just the fair difficulty progression keeps things balanced.
A medal system is in place here that takes into account several parameters including clear time, accuracy, lives lost and more. The medals unlock points which can be used to unlock a handful of secret stages. Of course these days, if you’re feeling impatient, you can just go into the game’s passcode system and unlock things that way. On the topic of unlocks, Rogue Leader even includes an unlockable “Making of”  mini documentary as well as commentary that can be ran while playing the game. Simply put, there are some great secrets here in terms of stages and extra content. 

Visuals, Audio & Performance
Everything about Rogue Leader in terms of visuals and audio is spot on. Factor 5’s close relationship with Nintendo and their work on the GameCube itself put them in an advantageous position. The development of the game was well documented, however, it can’t be said enough how impressive of a game that Factor 5 was able to put together in their short nine month development period. To top things off, the game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second, something that was a bit of a rarity at the time.
The menus are slick and resemble various ships from the original Star Wars trilogy. On top of that, video clips from the movies are playing in the background, which was an extremely nice touch for the time. Things like this might not be a huge deal for modern games, but back in 2001, it was kind of a novelty. Not only that, but with the exception of The Phantom Menace, the original Star Wars trilogy was only available on VHS and Laserdisc at the time. Having these higher quality digital clips on the GCN was really something special. 

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader originally released on the GameCube slightly ahead of the November 18, 2001 system launch. I picked up my copy of the game (and a memory card) on November 13 and poured over the instruction manual and pawed over the case multiple times a day leading up to the release.
Of course, the game also saw a release in Japan on March 22, 2002 and was followed by a PAL release corresponding with the GCN launch there. The Japanese box art is slightly different from its Western counterparts as the Death Star is replaced with Darth Vader. The reason for this was to probably make it stand out more. While a lot of hero characters like Luke or Han are known to fans in Japan, an iconic masked character such as Vader would stand out more more than the Death Star in my opinion, hence the change. The game itself is exactly the same outside of the Japanese voiced localization.
Rogue Leader was not only a great launch title for the GameCube, but also one of the best games that is available on the platform. At the time (and even for years after), it served as a visual benchmark for what was possible on Nintendo’s hardware during that generation. The snappy controls, fast paced action and excellent attention to detail make this game a treat to play even all these years later. There are a few minor niggles, but it’s still awesome. If you somehow haven’t played this game, you need to pick this one up immediately. If you’re looking to go back to the game for the first time in a long time, you won’t be disappointed. 

originally posted on November 23, 2022, 8:13 p.m.

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