Depending on who you ask, The Phantom Menace is either a misunderstood masterpiece or a steaming mound of bantha turd. Released in 1999, it was the first Star Wars movie in 16 years, and it came with one of the most aggressive marketing campaigns the planet has ever seen. Everything from toothpaste to Pepsi vending machines had the faces of Darth Maul, Anakin Skywalker and Jar Jar Binks.
It was everywhere. Magazine covers, bus side ads, TV spots, radio ads – if there was a blank space or moment of merciful silence anywhere in the world, it was quickly filled with a promo for The Menace. Phantom. Naturally, this relentless sensory bombardment also included games. There’s a long history of great Star Wars games dating back to the 80s, but it wasn’t the series’ finest hour.
PlayStation, N64, and PC were the main platforms of the day, and the Phantom Menace marketing blitz hit them hard– both at the time of the film’s release and for several years after. Despite being responsible for classics like X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, Dark Forces, and Rogue Squadron, LucasArts has generally failed to turn The Phantom Menace into an interesting video game, with only a handful standing out from a bad one. crowd.
The first game, launched just days after the film’s release, was a straight-up adaptation – the kind of big-budget Hollywood movies that would pop up in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Donning Obi’s Jedi robes -Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, this allowed you to play through the film’s story, but with some artistic liberties taken. An action scene that lasted a few minutes in the movie would span an entire level here.
He felt enough Star wars, and slicing up battle droids with a lightsaber was quite enjoyable. But the clunky controls, weird top-down perspective and general lack of polish mean it’s since fallen into obscurity. From the publisher behind cold classics like X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, Rogue Squadron and Dark Forces, this was a big disappointment – and looked very much like the cheap movie it was always intended for. to be.
However, a much better Phantom Menace game was released on the same day. Star Wars Episode I: Racer took the movie’s best scene, the podrace on Tatooine, and turned it into a blazingly fast sci-fi racing game. Developed in-house at LucasArts, it has perfectly recreated the dizzying, razor-sharp tension of podracing, where one mistake can shatter your rickety little space tank into a million flaming pieces.
It was incredibly easy, probably because LucasArts wanted kids to be able to play it without bursting into tears, which was the only brand against it. Get a good head start and you won’t see your opponents again unless you take a corner really wrong. But the racing itself, especially in first person, was fantastic. Considering the developer only had a few short clips from the movie to base an entire game on, they did a fantastic job.
LucasArts has released a few educational games, including an ecology simulator/strategy game called The Gungan Frontier. The Gungan leader, Boss Nass, wants to colonize the moon of Naboo and needs you to bring it to life. It involved releasing plants and creatures into the wild to create a food chain and ultimately a balanced ecosystem. It’s a neat idea and a rare example of a non-action-focused Star Wars game.
Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo, meanwhile, was business as usual. Set during the events of The Phantom Menace, you played as ace pilot Gavyn Sykes, who looks more like a rugby player than a Star Wars character. You’d shoot down Trade Federation fighters, dodge air mines, and pilot a bunch of vehicles, including the very yellow Naboo N-1 starfighter. It was a decent, if basic, half-sequel to Rogue Squadron.
Jedi Power Battles was a clunky fusion of a beat-’em-up and a platformer, with infuriatingly clunky jump sections and repetitive lightsaber combat. The levels included the streets of Theed and Coruscant, Tatooine (obviously, it’s a Star Wars product), and the swamps of Naboo. It was terrible, alas, despite being able to unlock and play as Darth Maul, and I’d be amazed if many people even remembered its existence.
Star Wars: Starfighter was a space combat game based on the events of The Phantom Menace, but despite some large-scale settings, it was extremely average. Star Wars: Obi-Wan, which launched exclusively for the Xbox, was slightly better, letting you twist the analog stick to swing your lightsaber, but it was yet another deeply Okay prequel spin-off, and its platform exclusivity only limited its audience.
Back in 1999, The Phantom Menace was the hottest thing in Hollywood. But like the film itself, the many video games developed to accompany its release were disappointing. But with this source material to work with, I don’t blame the developers. The heyday of LucasArts Star Wars games remains the early to mid-’90s, when it was churning out hit after hit – heights it still hasn’t reached to this day, despite EA’s best efforts.
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