Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Top 5 Star Wars: Rogue Squadron Missions
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron has long been among my favorite video game tie-ins to George Lucas’ films. I loved how bold the original N64 entry was in exploring new worlds and crafting the narrative of Kasan Moor and Moff Seerdon through the eyes of the more well-known Wedge Antilles and Luke Skywalker. I also appreciated how fine-tuned its Gamecube sequels were, as their dogfights still rank among some of the smoothest-playing I’ve encountered in any sci-fi game that emphasizes ship-to-ship combat. The Rogue Squadron games were special, in that they devoted themselves to an aspect of the Star Wars universe that is far too often overshadowed by the mysticism of the Jedi vs. Sith conflict, and made a home-run with it. Even the third game’s insistence on shoe-horning on-foot missions was a minor setback when infiltrations into Imperial bases via a hijacked AT-AT or a preemptive strike on Imperial shipyards were account for. Below are my five very favorite missions across the three Rogue Squadron titles, and why they stood out so much.
#5 – Assault on Kile II: Some might consider my love of the Y-Wing to be odd, and that my insistence on using it in as many missions as possible over the course of the Rogue Squadron series’ run to border on having a death wish. I’m not sure when my obsession with the slow but heavily-armored Y-Wing began, but one of my earliest memories in piloting it come from the N64 mission Assault on Kile II, wherein Rogue Squadron must keep a low profile as they fly low to the ground, navigating a maze of increasingly narrow valleys. It’s a search for Imperial outposts that must be handled with the utmost care, lest the local patrols overwhelm Rogue Squadron. While the Y-Wing can take more of a beating than some of its brethren, its best to avoid combat while chugging through the tight passageways that link the few more open areas, as just one tailing TIE Fighter can shoot you down very quickly.
#4 – Death Star Attack: I will openly admit that I prefer when the Rogue Squadron games branch out into original scenarios as opposed to revisiting familiar battles from the films. However, as cliché a choice as it might be, there is no denying just how perfect a job the second game did in capturing the Rebel’s strike on the first Death Star. The opening cutscene that recreated the X-Wing and Y-Wing squadrons approach, the buildup to the iconic trench run, and then the tight quarters that the fighter pilots must account for as they race toward the exhaust port - all of this is handled in such a fine manner, and few other Star Wars games have since been able to match its quality in their own depictions of the Battle of Yavin. The chaotic laser crossfire depicted in the background, the huge jump from the first game in regards to super smooth textures of the various towers and turrets littering the Death Star’s surface, the multiple portions of the mission, and the sheer scope of its presentation were a magnificent showing for the first mission of this sequel, and hooked my eleven-year-old self in with wide-eyed wonder at what the rest of the game had in store.
#3 – The Search for the Nonnah: One of the earlier missions in the original Rogue Squadron has you searching for a downed transport known as the Nonnah on a wet and murky world. It’s a race against the sparse Imperial forces who are similarly scouring the area for the Nonnah’s crash site, and was among the first missions in the Rogue Squadron series to peel the focus away from combat. Instead, fighting the Imperial’s local deployed walkers and tanks is reserved for the end-mission climax, with everything beforehand a time-sensitive traversing of deep ravines and the occasional run-in with a small rival TIE Fighter squadron.
#2 – The Jade Moon: In what is one of the first major stepping stones in the narrative of the original Rogue Squadron, Kasan Moor accompanies the veteran pilots of the titular X-Wing squadron to the Jade Moon of the Loronar System. It was the first proper test of Moor’s loyalty to the Rebel cause, as she had only recently defected. At the start of the mission, Wedge Antilles voices his concerns about Moor’s trustworthiness, and though Luke wishes to focus on the task at hand, the eerie track that accompanies this assault on an Imperial Supply depot perpetuates an air of suspense and uncertainty - a tune made so apparently popular, that it saw reprises in both sequel games. It is a mission that pits Rogue Squadron against many different enemy types, from TIE Fighter variants, to AT-PT walkers, to rotating missile turrets, and does a great job at encompassing just how the members of Rogue Squadron behave during more high-risk scenarios.
#1 – Battle of Endor: This climactic battle from Return of the Jedi was exciting in the film, but the cuts back to Luke aboard the Death Star and Han, Leia, and Chewbacca on the forest moon sort of distracted from the true scope of the ship-to-ship combat. In Rogue Squadron II, it is fully realized, a nearly chaotic number of ships zipping in and out, this way and that. Your objectives change rather frequently, keeping you on your toes as you attempt to defend the Rebel fleet before pushing the fight back toward the Imperials. Facing down two Star Destroyers is one of the most immersive moments in this trilogy of games, and the slow approach toward them is the perfect buildup to one of the greatest tests of your piloting skills.