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Blast From The Past
Blast From The Past: Star Wars Rouge Squadron II: Rouge Leader

When the Nintendo Gamecube arrived on our doorsteps nearly ten years ago in May 2002, a certain game came along with it that – whilst not totally changing the gaming playingfield – showed just how serious a contender the console was. That game was Star Wars Rouge Squadron II: Rouge Leader.

Rouge Leader was a sequel to the N64 space fighter Rouge Squadron. Like its predecessor it focused on the original Lucasfilm movies, and it played out like an arcade game than the semi simulatory  styles of Tie Fighter or X-Wing. Its storyline focused upon the actions of Rouge Squadron, a group of rebel fighters composed of the best pilots in the galaxy, and took it’s inspiration from the series of comics by the same name, as well as the Star Wars films. However it’s all well and good knowing where its origins lay, but what made this game an absolute must play is just how well it put the Star Wars experience into your hands.

Starting out with the biggest battle from the original Star Wars films, Rouge Leader sees you taking on the Death Star for the first time right from the word go. Taking control of Luke Skywalker himself you have to take down Tie fighters and cannons whilst also protecting your fellow fighters. Then you navigate the equator trench, fight off Darth Vader and his Tie fighter support, and then take that all important shot right into the exhaust port. It’s a beautiful way to open a game, not only is it the closing moments from the first film, but it empowers the player and sets them up perfectly for the events that follow. The game then moves onto the transportation of a Rebel convoy from Yavin IV to Hoth, upon where they are attacked in the Ison Corridor. Next a battle to save Rebels from The Maw comes up and then Skywalker is tasked with defending the Blockade Runner and it’s careful payload. Rogue Leader really kept the pace up the entire time, and it followed the events of the films wonderfully, it chose moments that happened in between scenes you see in the films just to add that little bit more of believable backstory. Indeed it seems that they filled in the gaps that Lucasfilm couldn’t have done on the big screen at the time the films were made.

Rogue Leader was also jammed full of unlockable fun. Not only could you pilot even more crafts, including the Slave I, Millennium Falcon, TIE Advance and an Imperial Shuttle, but there were also hidden levels that allowed you to play as Darth Vader against the Rebels, or Han Solo piloting the Millennium Falcon. To gain access to these levels and crafts though you had to earn it via the games medals system. Not only were these incentive enough to go back and try an event again and again, but it really showed you how you could improve  – as it provided a complete breakdown of what criteria you didn’t meet for the next medal. Even then though you could finish with everything on gold and then have to face ‘Ace Mode’ and another tier of medals to tease you with. If you wanted content, then you’d have no reason to complain at what Factor 5 offered up for you here.

The real triumph for Rogue Leader was the circumstances in which it was made. Unlike its predecessor, this title was mostly developed and designed by Factor 5, with minimal assistance from Lucasarts. It took a team of just 25, and two freelance developers, just two years to create the game, and during that time they had been working on another title for PC. Factor 5 not only managed to rectify the problems that faced the original title, most notably the poor draw distance, but they also improved upon the gameplay and level design in every single way. They created a game demo and opening cutscene that wowed the press at the now defunct Nintendo Spaceworld showcase. The team tried, and succeeded, in replicating an experience as close to the movies as possible. They utilised the same sounds and voice work from the originals, they even got in Wedge Antilles’ voice actor Denis Lawson to record new lines for the character.

Even though the Gamecube was never as popular as it deserved to be, it had a catalogue of games that were absolutely incredible to play, and couldn’t be obtained anywhere else. Rogue Leader gained another sequel in the form of Rebel Strike, which only added more to this already fantastic pot, it was once again released on the Gamecube and took a look at bigger battles and larger set-pieces, including the battle for Hoth. However, Rouge Leader is a title that needs to be played as it was the first game to arrive on the Gamecube, and it shows off exactly everything the console meant. It was about recreating the experiences found in your favourite films and books and other media, it was about pushing the boundaries and doing something different. If you only ever manage to play one Gamecube game, even if it’s through the Wii and not the Gamecube itself, make sure you play Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader.

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