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Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles

Score: 75%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Fighting/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles are vastly improved over its PlayStation counterpart, but they still have some serious issues. The character models and enemies are a lot more detailed, and the maps are cleaner and crisper, but graphical glitches abound. From the floating polygon-trash cloud in the first level (and the weird effect on the crosshatch floor) to the random clipping issues in the later levels, Jedi Power Battles has the feel of a game rushed out too quickly for its own good. The abruptness of the level ends, the somewhat dull boss designs (most of them seem to be regurgitations of previous bosses, although that starts to change once you hit Darth Maul), and a general sameness about the whole thing, makes it all feel a little too cookie-cutter.

This can be especially evidenced in the sound. Queen Amidala has the same ĎHelp me!í sound as all of her handmaidens. Ugh. The blaster effects are good, though, and the various light saber sounds are nice. The voice-acting, consisting of some of the original actors (but mostly other people), is passable, but far from superb. Perhaps Iíve been spoiled by playing too much of the PC release of Metal Gear Solid, though.

While not atrocious, JPBís graphics and sound arenít particularly top notch. With a few too many flaws in each level (visible seams in polygons? I thought we finished that with the PlayStation), it never quite coheres as an experience.


Gameplay:

And with too many flaws in the gameplay, it never quite coheres here either. In Jedi Power Battles, youíll find yourself running through roughly a dozen levels as one of the various Jedi -- Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, or three from the Jedi Council (probably added just so you could play as a light saber-swinging Samuel L. Jackson) -- roughly following the plot of the movie. And while itís fun at first, reminiscent of the old Super Star Wars series, it soon becomes a frustrating and, in the end, unfulfilling experience.

The game starts out innocuously enough, on the Trade Federation Spacestation, just like the movie. Youíll have fun swinging your light saber through the various baddies, and generally ripping droids apart. Then you get to the spider-type droids from the movie, and they kill you. Hmm, you wonder, perhaps I should play the training missions?

So you load up the training missions. The first two are simple enough, but the third pushes you rather hard to make exacting jumps.

And, alas, here appears one of Jedi Power Battleís major issues -- control. Making precise jumps is an exercise in futility, and I can no longer count the number of leaps my characters made into bottomless pits because they decided they wanted to make a short jump instead of a long jump. Why? I donít know, and it bugs the hell out of me.

Once you learn how to reflect laser fire, the game becomes considerably simpler and actually entertaining again. And then you start encountering the weird bugs that plague the whole thing. Going off screen for too long kills your character. Jumping too soon after dying from falling kills your character... at least in Coruscant. You can get stuck between two items and die, even though youíre still on the screen.

After a while, you start to realize that the game just doesnít quite gel. As you beat each level, you get to choose to extend either your health or Force meter. But Force powers are rarely useful, until the endgame, and itís much better to keep yourself healthy as possible. Why? Because the game takes cheap shots. It places troopers right out of your line of sight, letting them shoot you while you canít attack them back. Ugh.

You also learn new button combos as the game progresses, and I must admit that Obi-Wanís Y+Force leaping death combo is a joy to execute. But in the end, itís much more efficient to wail away on the X button, slicing through your enemies with abandon.

The game offers a few more interesting options -- the aforementioned training levels, which has a seventh level thatís a major pain in the butt; a Two-player mode, which is interesting in theory but more frustrating than entertaining in practice; a Versus mode, where you can wail on your buddy, which has been done much better in other titles.


Difficulty:

You can pick between Jedi and Easy Mode at the beginning of the game, and thereís a good bit of difference between the two. Of course, sometimes I couldnít decide if, for example, the tank in Theed wasnít taking damage because of the Easy difficulty level or because of a bug, but perhaps thatís just me. The levels vary from trivial (the first few) to having major pain-in-the-butt jumping puzzles (the castle for one, and a few sections in Coruscant for another). With a little dedication, however, the game can be beaten fairly easily.

Game Mechanics:

Besides the weak controls and the clumsy graphics, Jedi Power Battles seems to have a few issues with core mechanics as well. Why does the tank not take damage in Theed? Is it a difficulty level thing? Why, when I try to save in Training mode, it thinks Iím playing a two player game? Things like this make me wonder just how extensive the testing was before the game got released. The menus are understandable enough, but theyíre decidedly plain as well, getting the job done without much flair.

In the end, Jedi Power Battles never manages to really impress. With its good but not spectacular graphics, decent but definitely weak controls, and uninspired gameplay, thereís nothing to really keep you hooked. Despite being set in the Star Wars universe, it never quite captures the majesty of the whole thing. And itís not just because it was based on a subpar movie -- look at the Star Wars Episode I racing titles for games that made good with the first Episode. As an attempt to bring back the fun of the old SNES platformers, Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles falls short. Definitely rent before you buy, as chances are good you wonít be keeping this one for long.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Sega Dreamcast Grandia II Windows Chris Sawyerís Locomotion

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated