The Final Word game review
There are two kinds off people, the ones that think the Pod Race scene in "Episode I" was too long and the movie was inferior and those who thought it ruled the Galactic Senate and thought the movie, as a whole, was fun and successful. It's a good thing that both these kinds of people can enjoy Star Wars: Episode I Racer. This is a fun little title brought to us by LucasArts that follows more in the vein of WipeOut and games of the like.
The story is like this: race. Keep racing. Finish at a respectable place and keep racing. There are more than three circuits you can race on, each of which has seven tracks, some more similar than the others but all bringing something new to the table. More circuits open up as others are completed. Who needs story when you can scream through Beggar's Canyon at 578 mph?
While you won't notice it when you are cruising around at 600 mph, the environments are rendered wonderfully well in this PC to Dreamcast port. Visual effects are equally as stunning. While pulling down a respectful 30 frames per second (fps), the Dreamcast is more than capable of making this game look good on your TV. One gripe with the graphics is the lack of originality given to the Pod design. This is really not a huge deal because you'll be concerning yourself so much with the course and beating Sebulba, you really won't care too much about what the tail end of your Pod looks like. Overall, the graphics here are impressive, no.... most impressive. (Mandatory Star Wars reference for this review.)
The sound has its problems, but we'll focus on the good first. You've got a soundtrack composed by one of the greatest musical geniuses of out time, Mr. John Williams, so the music is covered with all your favorite Star Wars ditties. The effects are okay, althought the Pods lacked their signature sounds they had in the movie. Sebulba's Pod does not make that cool "thunking" sound and I was horribly disappointed by that. Okay, not really, but it would have been better if it was there. Overall, the effects were lackluster. Now the real issue. You've got over a dozen pilots and only one, Anakin, is human. For some reason, LucasArts put a "Taunt" command in the game so, I imagine, you can taunt a friend when you scream by him in a head-to-head race. The problem is taunting is really not effective if you don't understand the language that is being used. I don't speak "Bocce", although I think Mom had a Protocol droid that did back in the day. My point is, in a race you have all these pilots yelling all sorts of nonsense as they whip by you. It can be really annoying. The only good that comes of this is that you can tell when Anakin passes you because he's the only one that says anything you can understand. Then you can key on beating him before he becomes a Sith Lord and chokes you using that "Force" thing.
The gameplay and control here is pretty good. The game handles a lot like Jet Moto which is fine. It has simple straightforward controls that anyone can handle. However, Sega had its own Episode I Racer in the arcades that used twin sticks. I seem to remember those controls being the "biggety-bomb" to use the words of a friend. For a game that has the depth that Episode I Racer has, the twin sticks could have been a huge plus. Instead we'll make do with the lowest common denominator, which in this case, isn't bad at all. Be advised though, there is a learning curve that gets pretty steep suddenly when you get midway through the second racing circuit. If you haven't been tricking out your pod with your winnings in just the right way, you may be racing for nothing. With all the options to add to your pod, you would think someone would have thought to buy a bow caster and hide it in the cockpit.
Hopefully the games for "Episode 2" will allow for the hero to get his hands a little dirtier. Until then, go and grab Episode I Racer and keep it around so you can embarrass your friends when they are over. Right now, I'm going to go practice using that cool "force choke" thing.
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