A Star is Bored
The Star Wars franchise never seems to be in danger of becoming a memory. Just when its star seemed to be imploding many lightyears after Return of the Jedi, a new trilogy was unleashed on the movie-going universe. Let’s not discount the impact that video games have on sustaining interest in the franchise, but ultimately it’s theatrical releases that carry the most clout. Case in point is Episode 2: The Attack of the Clones. Regarded by many as the worse of the six motion pictures, it has found a new lease on life through animation.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a full-length animated movie, was released in 2008, and led to an animated series of the same name, and ultimately the video game, Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes. Not to be confused with the more complex Knights of the Old Republic, this PSP game is pure platforming. Unfortunately the execution is rife with impurity. Aimed at a younger demographic, Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes for the PSP did not receive the attention that it should. It was as if the developers had relegated this handheld version to the realm of the ignorant. “Kids that own PSPs shouldn’t expect anything close to the console version. Most of them wouldn’t even notice the difference.” Thankfully for the franchise, a bad game won’t blackhole the Star Wars empire.
It should not come as a shock when I consider Republic Heroes for the PSP an insult. It’s simplistic, repetitious, contrived, and worst of all, dull. There’s absolutely no reason for any Star Wars game to be dull. Does George Lucas know about this? I’m calling him right now, and let me tell you some heads are going to roll… as soon as I can find his personal number that I purchased off Ebay for ten bucks.
Republic Heroes is ensconced in hype, its bubble will burst like an inflated economy when you examine it and put it to the test. You should know immediately that the console versions are touting the co-op mode as one of the game’s best features; sadly, the PSP version is single-player only. You’ll have to suffer this one alone. Having tossed around a series of adjectives that are synonymous with disappointment, I would have to say the main problem with the game is the control scheme and the gameplay mechanics, two elements inextricably linked like partners in crime. Not only are the controls overly simple, with only a few buttons to press and moves to execute, but the commands don’t always register properly. They are sloppy and loose. This is not to be confused with the gameplay mechanics designed to allegedly assist you with more difficult moves such as platform leaping. In order to get to another platform, you have to press the jump button at the exact spot on the side that you want to jump from. The gameplay mechanics does the rest. This system removes you from the action. It feels phony, with no sense of freedom. It’s like a point-and-click adventure game masquerading as a platformer.
Elements of the game are many and varied. As mentioned, there are platforms to navigate in addition to defeating enemies, solving puzzles, point collecting, upgrades, and unlockables. All is held together by a thinly stretched storyline that is all but impossible to follow due to the slow plot development. In Between storyline updates are plenty of unrelated and unrelenting missions, mostly combat. By the time we get to the next bit of storytelling, we’ve forgotten what we’re fighting for. I really didn’t follow what was going on in any detail, since there is nothing to reinforce the story in the gameplay. The gameplay elements don’t feel connected. It’s like a series of mini-games thrown into a gameplay stew, where the flavors never meld.
I hope you like Yoda, because he’s all over this game. It’s inventive to have Yoda act as the guide, giving you suggestions throughout the game. He’s the in-game tutorial and he’s with you from start to finish. You can play as a lot of characters in this game, but you can’t play as Yoda. That’s too bad because that means that you can’t kill him. Jedi characters that you can play as include Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan, and Mace Windu. You can also play as various Clone Troopers, but as you may have already guessed, there’s not much discernable difference among characters, except for the visuals.
Arguably the most fun you’ll have in the game is wielding the lightsaber. It’s good for some hack-‘n-slash action but its use is limited. It’s not the ultimate weapon. Eventually you’ll face barriers and obstacles that will require weapons capable of more devastation. To blast through rock faces and metal walls you’ll need missiles and bombs. To gain access to these weapons, you’ll have to commandeer droids and use their built-in weapons systems. This is accomplished by jumping on their heads, a technique that will allow you access to these weapons for brief periods. The droids are relatively easy to control but the game forces you to do this so often that you feel as though being a Jedi is little more than a hobo jumping boxcars.
Graphically the game suffers terribly. The animation is stiff and there are framerate issues. Just about everything is average, from the likenesses of the characters to the bleak and boring backgrounds. The load times are also annoyingly long. The sounds department is excellent, but there just aren’t enough samples. Sound effects, musical cues, and voiceovers are pure LucasArts, but they are repeated so often that you feel as though you’re on a virtual audio treadmill. There is no question about the quality of the recordings, just that there isn’t enough sounds to go around.
Republic Hero is not a game for anyone looking for a challenge. It’s strictly for newbies, whether young or old. Star Wars fans and intermediate to advanced gamers should stay far away from this stinker. I am hoping that Lucas will play this game, and like the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, decree to hunt down every existing copy and smash it with a hammer.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.3 Graphics
Animation isn’t on par with the cartoon. Framerate issues make it choppy. 2.2 Control
Limited moves. Commands don’t always register. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
LucasArts-quality samples, but the game needs more to keep from sounding repetitive. 2.4 Play Value
There are enough gameplay elements to take your mind off how bad this game is for a while, but it eventually catches up to you. 2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.