I love Star Wars. I wouldn't call myself a fanboy but I nonetheless grew up watching and re-watching the films to the point that when given a minor bit of the score I can identify the scene it originated from. I know, that's child's play compared to what some folk can do, but it's always been something I've been proud of.
While there are any myriad of reasons to like the original trilogy over the prequel films, the thing that generally irked me about them was the general lack of good spaceship action. Sure, we had the battle over Naboo in Phantom Menace
but that was kind of marred by a baby faced Anakin Skywalker yelling “Whoa!” every six seconds. Attack of the Clones
had a bit as well but nowhere near enough and when it comes toRevenge of the Sith
, I have two words that describe the epic fail of that sequence “buzz bots.”
What I loved about the ship to ship, fighter to fighter action of the first three films was really the hopelessness that often followed the rebels wherever they went. It was all pure space opera, so of course the good won eventually no matter the odds, but generally watching the trench run and the Battle of Endor I always just loved how those X-Wings, no matter how cool they may have been, were always outnumbered by oodles and oodles of Tie Fighters. You always got the sense that the people who did survive these firefights generally did so by the seats of their pants. It was an experience I always wanted to opportunity to partake in, virtually speaking of course.
While for many, the defining opportunity for this would come in the form of the X-Wing
and Tie Fighter
games, mine would be Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
. While I cannot remember quite how I came into possession of the game -I have a gnawing feeling it involved my brother Nick- I can recall with real clarity just how much I played the game. For a time, I literally lived Rogue Squadron
. I played every level more times than I could count. I earned every medal, unlocked every ship and level. Essentially, I made the game my bitch, and then some.
In Rogue Squadron
I found all that I had been looking for. The chance to fly the starships of my dreams. The chance to re-enact some of my favorite movie moments and most of all the opportunity to do so without be blown all to hell. Truth be told, I had the opportunity to play X-Wing
around the same time as Rogue Squadron
and though I enjoyed it, my young self was turned off by the fact that death was far more common than victory. I liked to fancy myself a skilled gamer back then. In reality I was pretty average and still am today. Rogue Squadron
was a bit more arcade and therefore suited me a bit better.
Which wasn't to say the damned thing wasn't hard. I can't count the number of times early on that I would choke at the last second. The Imperials always seemed to be one step ahead of me, blasting the evacuation shuttle out of the sky in The Search for the Nonnah or destroying the damned AT-PTs in Escape from Fest. The latter was one of the most frustrating missions I've encountered in any game, especially when I was trying to earn a gold medal in every mission. No, Rogue Squadron was difficult, it just wasn't quite as hard.
What's funny, is that looking back at Rogue Squadron
the things I remember the most are the things that annoyed me. Aside from the aforementioned cheapness of some missions (damn you Escape from Fest!), there are a lot of small details that always bothered me. I hated how none of the missions really took place in space. You were always, always skimming some planet or moon. Even the stage dealing with the Death Star completed ignored all the preliminary action and just focused entirely on its own weird take on the trench run. It didn't ruin the game by any means, but my favorite memories of Star Wars was the pure chaos of the space battles. Fighters weaving between mammoth warships pounding away at each other. The intense dogfights between determined Rebel pilots and their evil Imperial foes. Rogue Squadron very much captured the hit and run nature of the Rebellion's actions, but never really encapsulated that feeling of epic engagement. Other games would capture that later on, Battle for Naboo
and the later Rogue Squadron
sequels, but the original game kind of failed in that respect.
There were other minor qualms. I despised the inclusion of missile launcher turrets. I never recalled seeing them in any of the Star Wars films and saw their inclusion Rogue Squadron
as an awful turn from canon. The fact that they killed me more than anything else in the game, of course had no bearing on my feelings toward them.
That said, for the most part Rogue Squadron
was everything I had ever dreamt of in a Star Wars games and remains today as one of those remarkable titles that more than a decade later remains infinitely playable. As the Star Wars universe veers more and more toward the prequels in focus, I love to look back on that game as part of a time of innocence, where Star Wars meant Darth Vader and not Anakin Pusswalk...I mean Skywalker. Ah, those were the days. read