Red-Faced Neckbeard, standing by

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (2002)

Well, I’ve officially lost count of all the Star Wars spin-offs. Of course it’s nothing new, once the nerds got hooked in the 70s and 80s, it was expanding faster than Mark Hamill’s waistline in the late 90s. And speaking of the late 90s, I’ll give you a little original trilogy memory that’ll mean nothing to you really, because why would you care about someone else’s nostalgia, but you might find it slightly cosy.

It was Christmas Eve, and we were suffering a power cut, as seemed to happen around my way a hell of a lot in the 90s. Primitive times or what? Anyway, this was putting the entire Christmas under threat! How on earth was I to play the N64 the next day with no leccy?! It was back to candles and family chat for us, that’s how bad it got.

Eventually the electricity gods, Thor or Zeus or one of those mad fellas, took pity on us and brought us back to civilisation. Well, it was probably some well-trained electrical engineer, and here I am thanking the gods. Some guys just don’t deserve power, huh?

When the lights did come back on, the soap operas were already over. So what else left to do then, but for my dad to stick on the first of the Star Wars original trilogy, part of the Special Edition. Of course, if I want to stay popular with the meganerds, I have to pretend that the Special Editions were hopelessly hokey, crowbarring in all sorts of stupid additions and generally taking a Wookie dooky on the original cuts.

But can’t you imagine what seeing those films for the first time as a kid is like? Well, of course you can – a zillion kids have done likewise, and there’s going to be grown-up children of the future who hold Star Wars nostalgia, getting nostalgic over the even worse Blu-Ray editions, so we’d better get used to that.

Of course this was all in anticipation of the prequel trilogy, the series of movies that was going to bring the sci-fi space opera genre into the 21st century with a hell of a lot of laser blasts, not to mention a blaze of green screen. Or was it? We’ve all gone over this before, but the prequel trilogy turned out to be the dampest squid since the Bloopers in Mario Sunshine. A proper waste of three cinema trips, you know.

And because I’m an old sod now, in my thirties which is ancient by pop-culture standards though ripe for the picking in marketing standards, there was yet another trilogy to get through, making for nine episodes of Star Wars in total. In the end, it was another waste of those cinema visits, plus a quiet game of Fortnite if you wanted to get the full story.

If that’s not enough for you, and I mean if you really hated your free time, you could get onto the various spin-offs like Solo, Rogue One, The Mandalorian, and… no, leave it out. As I write, three more TV series will be commissioned. Wicket the Ewok will get one at this rate. And yet my beloved Gonk droid won’t.

Honestly, you’d get sick of all these spin-offs, desecrating that poor horse and bloating an already grossly overweight franchise even further. No, I’m saying end it here and now, when it comes to Star Wars, just forget about all the excess fat – it’s the original trilogy and that’s it. After that, you’re only fooling yourself.

And it’s the same logic I apply to Rogue Squadron II on Nintendo GameCube. Sure, this was an exciting time for the Star Wars franchise, but it was similarly exciting for Nintendo fans as well, with the new GameCube console to sink one’s midichlorians into. Alright, the unfortunate truth is that nowhere near as many people were as excited for GameCube as there should have been, but nonetheless, as a launch title, this was the showcase of what the console could do. After all, not everyone has a Luigi fetish, you know what I mean?

And sure, the graphics here still look good, the music and sound is right and overall Rogue Squadron II doesn’t play too badly, but there are definitely problems. Really, and I found that this affected the first Rogue Squadron game on N64 as well, but is it just me or can these games just be so dull and boring a lot of the time? I seem to get prolonged periods of flying around with nothing much going on, and your mind just wanders.

That ain’t right, is it? Do you reckon Luke Skywalker, old Red 5, do you think he let his mind wander during the mission? It should be epileptic light shows, blinding laser blasts and deafening noise morning noon and night, and even if you survive you finish the mission not quite sure what’s happened – that’s a proper Star Wars space battle.

Other than that though, the real problem I find tends to be the setting. It’s great when you play a level that actually happened in the movies. Opening the game with the famous Death Star mission and trench run was a proper wow moment back then, and must have assured thousands of gamers of their console purchase all by itself. That is pretty impressive. 

But then, when you go onto the next level, and it has you piloting that Y-Wing jalopy in some completely unheard of location for a made up mission, suddenly your interest is gone, and I do mean suddenly. It certainly doesn’t help that the instructions to actually beat the mission can be quite unclear, necessitating plenty of trial and error. Everyone knows you can’t take the AT-ATs head-on in the Battle of Hoth, for example, and you gotta use your tow cable (well… that’s if you know how), but when it’s fanfiction stuff and you get it wrong, you’re just left annoyed. 

And it gets worse, because you could be 10, 20 minutes into the mission, but a sudden failure because you misinterpreted something and you gotta start right back at the start, with no checkpoints… oftentimes I’m flying completely clueless out there, nobody coming to my rescue with a quick tap on the shoulder and a reminder.

Then a radio message finally whines through, telling you that you’re out of time and we’re all dead, and it’s a trip back to the very familiar Game Over screen for you. Well gee lad, I wish you’d have said something, I might have fired off a photon torpedo or something.

Or maybe it’s just me, and I’m the thicko here? I know the stakes are high, and I know they got the voice of Wedge Antilles in, along with some other fairly big name voice actors for the time actually, but I’m sorry, I simply do not care. I want lasers, lasers pew pew pew, while John Williams belts out at maximum volume. Unfortunately, what’s left in Rogue Squadron II is just decent, which is better than most of the sequel and prequel trilogy I’ll admit.

But would you have the time for all that? It’s not 2002 anymore, we know the GameCube didn’t really blow people away, the spaceship has well and truly sailed. Just stick with my adage, the original trilogy or nothing, and you’ll be alright. I’d rather watch some other fool go out there and take on the Star Destroyers anyway.

27 January 2023

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