Review by Tenshi No Shi

Reviewed: 11/01/99 | Updated: 07/05/02

High speeds that make F-Zero X look slow!

Any new game based on Star Wars is at the top of my must have list. Over the past couple of years, LucasArts has, for the most part, made some damn good games based on the crown jewel of George Lucas' empire. The thing that really made this one even more enticing was the fact that its one of the first games based on The Phantom Menace to come out.

Basing a game on one of the most intense scenes from the movie seemed like a logical choice : Anakin's pod race that not only wins the money needed for repair of the Queen's ship, but also his freedom. The problem is, how do they turn a 15 minutes part of a movie into a full game? Well, during the movie, Qui-Gon mentions having seen a pod race on some other planet. So, this game turns pod racing into an inter-galactic circuit of sorts, spanning 8 worlds and 25 races.

The graphics on Episode I Racer are almost breath-taking. Bright and vibrant, they grab you and really make you feel like you're in the movie. The courses, pods, and backgrounds are all very detailed and realistic looking. However, some of the special effects aren't all that great (such as Sebula's flame exhaust).

When you first start up the game, you'll hear now familiar Duel of the Fates while selecting your options. Unfortunately, Duel of the Fates is now associated with the final duel between the two Jedis and the Sith, so it seems a bit out of place but is still cool. Another thing that struck me as odd was that you only hear music during the final lap of the race. I guess they were trying to go for the tension in the movie, but it seems strange in a game. The sound of the pod engines are faithfully reproduced as well as voice samples from the movie and all new recordings (like insults in Huttese).

Pod Racer actually controls rather well. You use the analog stick to steer your pod, the left and right 'C' buttons flip your pod on side, and the 'R' shoulder button repairs your pod. Then you have your basic thrust and air brakes on the 'A' and 'B'. The really innovative thing though is the boost. You have to charge your boost by pressing forward on you stick and when the gauge is full, press the thrust button. You hold it down as long as you want boost, but if you hold it too long, your engines will over-heat and explode.

The whole game is very well designed, from the look of the different worlds to the feel of the game engine. LucasArts tried, and succeeded, in adding many original and unique features (such as the a fore mentioned boost system). You really feel like your playing a completed game, a feeling you rarely get when playing this type of racing game (can anyone even remember any of the story to F-Zero X or Wipeout 64?). You do more than just race, you take part in a story that expands far beyond the movie.

There are a lot of little things found in this game that really stand out. First, there are 21 pod racers in this game (the movie only had 18). Also, the ability to upgrade your vehicle is a welcome feature that many games lack. I should also mention the length of the tracks, which is long. Even cruising at 500 m.p.h., it'll take you between 3 and 4 minutes to complete most laps! On top of all that, the programmers recorded all new voices for the game. Oh yeah, did I mention that this game has the one thing lacking from Star Wars : Rogue Squadron? 2-Player mode!

Naturally, I'm a tad biased as I am a huge Star Wars fan, but I tried to look at this game as if it weren't a SW game. I have to be honest, I still think its the best futuristic racer available on any system. It offers so much in the way of replay value I don't even know where to begin. If you are a fan of Star Wars or a fan of high speed racing games you owe it to yourself to try this game.

Rating: 9

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