Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster | Review | Switch

The masters of their craft over at Nightdive Studios have been at it again, this time breathing new life into the classic PC shooter Star Wars: Dark Forces. Using their incredible KEX engine, did the team do enough to make this game feel fresh? Not only that, but is the Switch version worth taking a look at? We talk about all of this and more in this review. Let’s get into it. 

Dark Forces puts players in the role of Kyle Katarn, a former imperial officer turned rogue. Hired by the Rebel Alliance, Katarn aids the Rebellion by taking on a variety of missions to gather intel. While doing this, he stumbles upon secret imperial plans about the development and deployment of a new foe, the dreaded Dark Trooper. Alongside his partner Jan Ors, the two go on a variety of missions across the galaxy. 
Although the action in the game is in first person, the story is conveyed through text and animated cutscenes. Some of these feature 3D ships, while the more character based story beats feature a semi-animated comics complete with voice work. Throughout the experience, players will see plenty of familiar faces, such as Dark Vader, Jabba and Crix Madine and also be introduced to new characters, such as the brutal imperial general, Rom Mohc. It’s definitely a bit crude by today’s standards, but there is an interesting story to unravel. 

Controls & Gameplay
Fans of first person shooters will feel right at home with Dark Forces. Controlling Kyle is simple, as the joystick is used to move him around and ZR is used to shoot. The game offers a wide range of weapons - from Kyle’s Bryar Pistol, stormtrooper rifles, thermal detonators, mines, a rocket launcher and of course, bare fists. These can all be changed by holding R and choosing your weapon of choice with the joystick. Aiming feels great and the Switch version of the game offers both aiming with the right stick and gyro. I found the gyro to be a nice addition as it allows for subtle movements to fine tune aiming. General control and combat here remains excellent. 
Other secondary items are also implemented into the game, such as shields, a flashlight, infrared goggles a gas mask, map and ice boots. A number of these cannot be used indefinitely, such as the IR goggle and flash light. When using these, players have to keep an eye on battery usage, which could be a little bit annoying. When first starting out, I didn’t realize this and found myself traversing pitch black corridors with nothing but the on screen map to help. Speaking of the map, this can be accessed by pressing down on the D-pad at any time. For a more in depth look, pressing Select will bring up the entire stage. You can also check mission objectives, weapons and your currently inventory. General control in Dark Forces feels fresh, fast paced and responsive. 
There are a total of 14 levels in Dark Forces and they all offer a variety of locations. These aren’t all interior based missions, either. Some missions will take place outside as well in the likes of an ice covered landscape, an imperial city and more. There is also quite a bit of verticality to the levels, which wasn’t so common at the time. Even with that said, some of the levels can be a little bit confusing, even with the help of the map. Most of these can be figured out quite easily, however others will definitely require you to comb levels for something you might have missed. 
Overall, the level design here is quite nice, and quite different from a lot of games from the era in the same genre. You’ll, of course, come across tons of familiar enemies in the form of stormtroopers, commandos, imperial officers and creatures, such as Gamorreans, Trandoshans, Grans, Dark Troopers and more. LucasArts nailed the Star Wars aesthetic back in the day and Nightdive did a fantastic job updating the game for modern platforms. 

Visuals, Audio & Performance
Of course, being a remake of a game from 1995, things look very much like they did in the past. This time around, the HD coat of paint make Dark Forces feel incredibly modern. Fans that are looking for a look more in line with the original are in luck. The game can be toggled to feature either the new updates or the old visual style at any point during gameplay. Just as an aside, I spent most of my time playing Dark Forces Remaster in handheld mode on my Switch OLED. Things remained as fluid as they did on the big screen and ran great. Whether you are looking to play on your TV or in the palm of your hands, the game looks awesome.

In terms of framerate, Nightdive Studios targeted 60 frames per second in this version of the game. In the few tests I ran, the game consistently met this, however, Digital Foundry found that the game can sometimes dip a few frames below their intended target. I should note, that I mainly played the game with the default settings, which turned off both anti-aliasing and bloom, which seem to be the root of the issue. 
Sound is also great here. The in game tunes do a great job of recreating what was found in the movies (and other original scores) and the sound effects are perfect. Other additions, like imperial troops telling Kyle to stop in his tracks, or probe droids buzzing around capture the essence of Star Wars perfectly. Dynamic music is also present here. This was in the original release thanks to the LucasArts developed engine called iMUSE, which stands for “Interactive Music Streaming Engine.” While common in games now, this really helps Dark Forces feel more like a movie as musical cues transition seamlessly between each other. Wondering through a seemingly safe area of a stage only to be greeted by enemies is always a bit nerve wracking, but even more so with this excellent musical implementation. This just goes to show how forward thinking LucasArts was back in the day.

Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster is a fantastic remake of a classic game. The game looks absolutely fantastic, sounds great and runs pretty well on the Switch. The updates that Nightdive Studios made to the game visually and the subtle changes to make the controls feel modern are amazing. Aside from the some confusing levels, the game shines as another excellent remaster from the studio. If you played the original back in the day or are looking to experience it for the first time, this is the best way to experience this classic. 

But let’s turn things over to you. Did you pick up Dark Forces Remaster? What platform? Did you play the game back in the day? What’s your favorite weapon? Sound off in the comments down below. We’d love to hear from you!

No comments: