Review by DandyQuackShot
How Do You Survive Racing One of These Things?
In a galaxy far, far away someone got the bright idea to mix speed and insanity into a type of race. The result was Star Wars Episode I: Race for the Nintendo 64. This is a spin-off game from the first Star Wars in the series that focuses on the pod racing that Anakin Skywalker does to win his freedom from a big flying bug. Face it folks, Star Wars Episode I was a kid's movie and there is not going to be anything logical about turning such a race from the movie into a racing game. The game is playable enough, but as you play this game you will run into control problems and repetitive game play issues that make this game just not as fun as other racing games. There are quite a few annoying things in this game and I dont mean a six year old kids taunts either. Although Anakins taunting is very annoying. Some features help as you get to upgrade and buy parts for your favorite pod racer, but being able to unlock better pod racers offsets this upgrade feature. Sure it is the only Star Wars racing game out there, but the Force is definitely not with this game.
The question about this game that I have is how could such a disastrous race become a circuit racing sport? As if the race in the movie did not show how killer pod racing is the break neck speed is definitely an indicator that one lone racer could never survive doing a circuit. However you get unlimited lives when you crash in this game and you will crash a lot in this game. You are much safer driving into oncoming traffic than flying smack into a wall which is basically the point of this game. The race circuits only get more difficult as you go along with some very and almost near impossible levels. Of course the other racers will also miraculously survive to the next race as well. Finishing circuits and single races will allow you to unlock other circuits, racers, and be able to buy parts and robots to work on your pod. The courses consist of small and simple tracks to more complex tracks with plenty of obstacles as well as a few short detours that you can take for shortcuts. The whole tournament finishes up with an extended and very difficult Boonta Classic (the race seen in the movie). Its not the racing tournament I have ever done and it is definitely not as believable as just having the one race on Tatooine.
Ive mentioned the ability to upgrade your vehicle and unlock other things throughout the Tournament mode, but some of the things about this game really make you wonder why they were ever added to it. The controls are relatively easy to master, but there is some awkward button pushing when it comes to having to slip through a small crack in the race. You have to press the left or right C-Button to turn the pod racer sideways and this is very tough when the A button is your accelerator. There is a repair system on your pod as featured in the movie and this can be a huge help during races. Your pod will take damage and when you see one of your engines on fire then you know you are in some huge trouble. An overview of your pod will show where your pod is most damaged and once it is in the red the pod will drag to the side where it is most damaged. This is a very unique feature, but then there are some features that just do not make any sense. The taunting system especially. Tapping the R button will make your pod racer shout out taunts. Now going at 500-600 MPH I highly doubt you would be able to speak much less have anybody hear you. But along with Anakins pithy remarks all of the other alien racers will shout their own phrases which nobody will understand. So that is a very useless feature. Crashing is very easy to do and you wont survive a more complex race. So it is a very unbelievable racing experience when you have to be reincarnated a couple of times in each race. There are also a Free Play mode and a Time Attack mode where you can just speed around in practice or try to beat a record time on a course. Its not all that amazing beyond your standard racing games.
The graphics and sound are not that amazing either. Even with the expansion pack you can tell that there is no crowd effect at the Boonta classic. Unfortunately there is not that much detail to the courses either. The pod racers are somewhat detailed and the graphics are mostly detailed in your upgrading and character selection screens. Ive always felt that there was something wrong with the sound in this game. The sound effects for the game are fine, but the music sounds faint and there is not that much music to go with this game. Nothing takes away from being able to play this game through again after playing a next generation console. Star Wars Episode I: Racer still gives you that same crazy racing experience that you had when you first played this game.
Replay Value 7
There are plenty of things to do once you, or I should say if you are able to beat the Tournament mode on this game. This game can last for a long time and your progress will carry you through a lot of upgrading and a few frustrating courses to get this game done. The Free Play and Time Attack modes will give you a standard reason to play around with Racer once you have finished the Tournament. You also have a lot of things to unlock with Racer. You have to complete courses in the top ranks to be able to move on and unlock the next course and finishing a course will allow you to unlock better and faster pod racers all the way up to Selbulba himself.
Final Recommendation 6/10
A casual gamer will not like Star Wars Episode I: Racer as much as a gamer who really appreciates a challenging racing game. It is not a very believable game especially for any Star Wars fan and most definitely does not carry any more weight with it as far as the Star Wars storyline goes. This is a game that only bears the Star Wars name and a really weird racing experience to go along with it. It is the only the Star Wars game that carries no extended plot with it and so it limits the audience that would want to get this game. In the end it is a great challenging game to play and fans of high speed racing will probably like it. There are some annoying things about this game that make it more challenging than it should be but just the concept of this game is going to have you splattering into a wall at 600 MPH. The concept is not the greatest idea and this is definitely not a type of racing that would be considered for a circuit race tournament. This is just something that the sadistic Hutts thought would be cute to bet money on. How it got turned into a video game is beyond me. So Star Wars Episode I: Racer is probably not worth the buy. You have to be a special fan of high speed and challenging racing games to really enjoy this game.
Product Release: Star Wars Episode I: Racer (US, 05/18/99)
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