Stay Far, Far Away
Star Wars has always been something that has been able to appeal to an audience of any age. Still, the younger fans seem to have been seeing significantly more attention from the property in the years since the prequel trilogy wrapped up. This has led to things such as the 3D, computer animated Clone Wars series and the various games based on it as many fans’ only options for new content based on the universe.
At least in the context of The Clone Wars games, they tend to suffer from the same things that plague most licensed games made for the younger crowd. These common issues include but are not limited to; little to no difficulty, tons of repetition, and more often than not the general sense of being a rushed and unfinished mess that does nothing more than exploit the name on the box. Unfortunately, Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes does little to buck this trend but instead just becomes another casualty of it.
The story of Republic Heroes takes place between season one and season two of The Clone Wars animated series and serves to bridge the gap between them. Players are put in the role of numerous Jedi characters from the series including Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Obi-wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, as well as some Clone Troopers, but more on that in a bit. Regrettably, unless you’ve been a religious watcher of the animated series, you may find the story more than a little difficult to follow. Almost every level you’ll be controlling a different character as you jump around from story fragment to story fragment, perhaps never entirely certain about how these seemingly disparate segments fit together. You are treated to a few well done cinematics with an over-the-top announcer voice that attempt to sum up what is going on, but for the most part, you’ll have to make do with in-engine cutscenes that seem as vague as they are graphically unimpressive.
Sadly, that’s likely the first thing you’ll notice about Republic Heroes. This game looks like it should have been released on the PS2 early in the console’s lifecycle. The environments are fairly drab and unremarkable and the characters look rough even while going for an animated appearance to mimic that of the cartoon series. Another thing about the presentation that may irk some players is the poorly done lip synching. In most cases it looks like they took the fabled Mister Ed approach and smeared peanut butter on the characters gums to make them chew, so it would give the illusion that they were actually talking.
The game itself is made up of over thirty levels in which you’ll play as either Jedi or Clone Troopers on missions for the Republic. Jedi levels consist of a steady mix of combat, platforming, and “puzzle-solving”. The combat is both very simplistic and incredibly repetitive. You have one button to perform a force push, which is sadly your only force power, and one button to swing your lightsaber. Mashing your lightsaber button will form combos while holding the block button then hitting the button will result in a circular lightsaber throw that is useful for clearing out nearby hordes of droids.
Droids are basically your only opponents in Republic Heroes, and almost every type can be ridden and controlled by the player. By double jumping on top of a droid and hitting your lightsaber button you’ll be given brief control over it. Once controlled, their attacks can be used to help take out more enemies or to clear paths that you’ll need to progress, which is about the only form of “puzzle-solving” you’ll experience. While atop a droid, you can also use your force button in order to instantly kill your robot ride. This seems like a cop out since it makes killing robots that would be somewhat imposing during a lightsaber fight, like a droideka, just as easy to dispatch as the completely disposable “Roger, Roger”-spouting battle droids.
Of course, if you’re looking for a real challenge, then look no further than the platform jumping required in the game. Early in the game Yoda explains that jumping from one platform to another is easy for a Jedi because they can land on even the smallest of objects. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While the game does attempt to make your character essentially stick to nearby platforms, it is ridiculously inconsistent in its implementation. One jump will have you landing safely on a platform while the next will send you plummeting into a pit of death. Keep in mind it’s also often difficult to tell what is an actual platform due to poorly placed, fixed camera angles and platforms that visually blend in with backgrounds. This makes it nearly impossible to determine where to jump much less when you will or won’t stick to a platform, creating the perfect recipe for frustration. The game attempts to temper this somewhat by having absolutely no downside to dying except the few seconds it takes you to respawn, but that just winds up feeling like a lazy fix for a broken portion of the game.
The Clone Trooper levels fare a little better because at least there’s no platforming or cheap one hit droid kills to be had. The clone portions of the game play like a third-person right stick shooter; strafing enemies while continually firing your blaster. You’ll also find some temporary secondary weapons to make use of such as thermal detonators and rocket launchers. The only downside is that aiming these secondary weapons is extremely clunky. You’ll need to hold down a button and manually aim an on-screen reticule, all while eating droids’ blaster fire because you’re unable to move while doing so. There’s also a host of repetitive and simplistic mini-games found throughout almost every level that don’t really seem to fit and serve only to take you out of the otherwise passable, action-oriented firefights.
With two players on-screen at all points, Republic Heroes is clearly supposed to be a co-op game. Admittedly, the game is slightly more enjoyable when playing with a human-controlled teammate but only because the A.I. teammate is so inept. Whether they’re standing in a corner while you’re being assaulted by a wave of droids, running in the opposite direction you wish to go, or missing almost every jump and waiting to respawn until the next checkpoint, they are just distracting and virtually useless. Human teammates also make the instant challenges scattered throughout every level that pit you against one another in brief contests of collecting the most shiny objects or killing the most droids at least somewhat enjoyable and much more interesting.
Whether you’ve got a friend playing with you or not, Republic Heroes likely won’t hold your interest the entire way through. Sure, the game is fairly long, but every level feels the same as the last, as you kill wave after wave of the same few droids types and continue to fight with the game’s biggest challenge: its poorly implemented platform jumping. Being able to play as both Jedi and Clone Troopers was an interesting idea and one that I think could have worked, I only wish it had been tried in a better Star Wars game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 1.9 Graphics
It’s hard to believe this isn’t supposed to be an early PS2 title. 2.5 Control
The buttons feel responsive but what you’re trying to do isn’t always what happens. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Republic Heroes has the same voice actors from the animated series as well as some iconic Star Wars tunes. 2.2 Play Value
The game may be long but every level seems the same as the last, making it feel more like a repetitive endurance run than a game. 2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.