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Written : 05/26/05

It's been a long time coming, and almost three decades later, the Star Wars saga draws to a close. Well kind of, what with this one being in the middle of the story and all, but you know what I mean. While my plans to catch the first showing of Revenge of the Sith were foiled by... well, me, for never putting them into action, I will eventually see it. Heck, by the time you read this I may have already seen it. But that's besides the point. My point, is that there are new Star Wars games, and they kick a lot of ass.

Make no mistake about it, I was a fan of Super Star Wars and its ilk (though I could never make it too far...), but they weren't all too amazing, being just standard side-scrollers. The various flying games like the Rogue Squadron are all well and good, and then there are the various other Star Wars games that I've never played, which the public seems to have mixed feelings about. But nobody I've talked to (maybe about three people) has disliked their experience with the Revenge of the Sith games. Most (which includes all of: my brother), in fact, proclaiming their want to purchase the console version after a scant five minutes with the demo.

Yeah, the console version is pretty sweet. It's got plenty of action and the ability to customize your Jedi's abilities just the way you want them. But it's one of those games that likes to use all the buttons, and after playing LEGO Star Wars, which is uber-simplified, it was a bit of a hassle. So no big deal normally, but I found myself constantly pressing the wrong buttons. So back to the task at hand, today I'm reviewing the Nintendo DS version of the game, which is essentially the GBA version with some awesome upgrades.

Firstly, and most importantly, this game is crafted really well. It is a pretty basic brawler, but with the additions of lightsabers and Force powers, it manages to mix things up just enough to avoid being a Double Dragon clone. Not to say that's a bad thing... I love Double Dragon. Anyway, for most of the game, you will be moving right and beating up enemies to progress. Not a whole lot if you're looking for variety, but it's really good for what it is. Me myself, I prefer platformers to brawlers (they tend to be faster-paced), but RotS has captured my attention like... well, many others.

So anyway, the game follows the story of the movie pretty much down to the dialogue. There are only like one or two levels that aren't somehow featured in the movie. Of course, I use this a little loosely, because Obi-Wan and Anakin didn't spend much of their screen-time running down endless halls smashing endless numbers of Battle Droids, Clone Troopers and Jedi. You can probably understand what I'm trying to say here, but I just can't fins the exact right words for it. Essentially, it follows the story perfectly. No "extended missions" like in the console version. Or at least very, very few of them.

The game starts off with a simple choice: selecting your language. Manage to get past that one, and you'll be catapulted into a frenzy of Jedi action. Or something to that effect. The first real choice you'll have to make is whether you want to play as Anakin or Obi-Wan. Each has his own style of play, dictated by simple attacks, Force powers, and super moves. They're similar, but you'll have to master the little facets of each character's style to do well. After you pick your character, you pick either Padawn (easy) or Jedi (normal), and you're on your way.

Next, the obligatory scrolling Star wars intro, and some cutscene, and then you get your map screen. Here, you can see your progress through the game. Once you've passed a stage, you can play it whenever you want to collect power-ups you may have missed the first time through, or just to have fun. also, you can check your clear percent on each stage so you know which ones you have to scour for power-ups. Also, you can choose to play against bosses you've defeated, because the boss fights are pretty fun, and somewhat intense.

Choosing Anakin will lead you down the path to the dark side of the Force, and playing as him can prove to be a challenge, if a little more fun. His story missions span General Grievous' flagship to the streets of Coruscant to the Jedi Temple, and finally to his duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar. The bosses on this path include Count Dooku, Mace Windu, and Jedi Master Cin Drallig and his padawan.

Anakin isn't exactly easy to play as. He has more moves that leave him open to attack than Obi-Wan does, and that can get you turned into mincemeat in seconds. Being bound to the dark side, he cannot use the Force to heal himself, and therefore has to rely on pickups to replenish his life. This can make the game pretty tough, but in turn gives him more offensive powers. These include the ability to throw his lightsaber, choke enemies, and suck their life out to replenish his fury meter. And on that note, it's time to look at this fury meter and what it does.

During normal stages, the bottom screen will display four boxes. Each one represents a special attack that your character can perform once his respective power gauge is full. While Anakin's is referred to as the "Fury Meter" and Obi-wan's in called the "Focus Meter", they both work the exact same, and even the moves are similar. You start out with one super attack that will kill all on-screen enemies, but will deplete all your Fury/Focus, and will acquire one more move for each boss you defeat. Obviously, touching the panel will execute the move, but you can also input a button combination for each.

Anakin's starting move is Vader's Wrath, and like I said, eliminates all enemies that are on the screen. the next move learned in Plo Koon's round, which will knock over enemies close by. Afterwards is Tyranus' Uppercut, which will kill all enemies close in front of you. Finally comes Sidious' Hate, which is similar to Vader's Wrath, but won't necessarily kill your foes, though it does use less fury (though not much less...).

Obi-Wan's path is debatably easier, but also poses its share of challenges. While Obi-Wan has the power to heal himself as long as he's got some Force left, his library of offensive moves is limited. While both Jedi can use the Force to push and pull enemies, Obi-Wan is left with no other offensive moves, having the abilities to stun enemies, move faster, and shield himself where Anakin could choke, throw his lightsaber, et cetera.

This isn't a terrible problem, but it does make it a bit hard to score well. See, the game has three ways of giving you power-ups. Firstly, there are ten hidden green orbs in each stage. Sometimes enemies have them, sometimes they're tucked away in the background. Then you can also get five points for speed. This is no problem. But the last ten points for each level are based on your Jedi style. The more Force powers and such you use will increase this bonus, and since you'll be using mostly physical attacks with Obi-Wan, you'll often ignore your somewhat useless force powers and have trouble getting a perfect score in this category. Or at least that's a problem I have.

The quest to stop the Sith is a different one than that to further the influence of the dark side, obviously. Obi-Wan will trek through Grievous's starship, search the tunnels of planet Utapau in search of the General, brave the clone-infested Jedi Temple, and finally confront his former padawan on the fiery surface of Mustafar. The bosses you'll encounter on this path are comprised of Count Dooku, General Grievous, and two of the General's bodyguards. Of course, the last mission in each story is a duel with the opposing character.

Obi-Wan's focus moves are very similar, if not exactly the same as Anakin's fury attacks. Obi-Wan's Sense is your basic screen-clearer, though it is a lot more fun to watch than Vader's Wrath. Yoda's Teaching is the exact same spin attack that Anakin has, just going by a different name. The Knight's Slam has the same effect as Ani's uppercut, but varies aesthetically. And lastly, the Jedi's Devotion will extend Force waves all over the place and knock over all your enemies. So yes, the moves are all the same, they just look a little different. On top of that, Obi-Wan's focus will increase depending on how much force powers you use, and how much of the environment you break, while Anakin's fury will increase when you do pretty much anything.

As I may have mentioned before, the boss battles, or duels if you will, in RotS are a lot of fun. They're pretty simple when it comes down to it, but still plenty of fun, and are pretty intense as far as 2D brawlers go. And that's a point of interest alone. Rather than the semi-3D stages you'd normally go through, you're set on a strictly two-dimensional plane for boss duels. Your freedom of movement is restricted to moving toward your opponent, and slowly backing away. Imagine a 2D Soul Calibur. That's what it's like.

The fights are pretty easy, as the key to winning is observing your opponent's moves and waiting for an opening in their attack pattern. They'll either attack high or low, or a combination of both that could include up to eight or so blows, so you just have to learn to see which move they're about to execute, and you should be fine. Jedi bosses will also use their Force powers against you, which can be promptly absorbed by holding your own Force button (which is R). As easy as they may be after a little practice, I still think that the duels are awesome. I've played the Grievous duel about ten times over because it's just so enjoyable to play.

And that's pretty much what you'll get if you play either the GBA or DS versions of the game, minus the touch screen options, of course. There are a couple of big differences in the main games, however, besides this little one. Firstly, I hear that the music quality is like five billion times better on the DS, with the music being actual songs from the movie, as opposed to the GBA version's crappy synth stuff. I'm ready to believe this one. Also, I hear that there are a couple extra cutscenes in the DS version. I think it a bit odd, but plausible. Can't think of any off the top of my head that couldn't have been done on the GBA, but I'm sure there's something in there somewhere.

The biggest addition to the DS version of the game is easily the special missions. In between every few stages, you're presented with a sweet 3D space flying level! most of the time, anyway. A couple of them are in the "streets" of Coruscant. These may not seem like huge additions on paper (or maybe they do, I guess it's a subjective matter), but I find that they add a lot to the game. Not only do you get six extra missions to play, but you also get to hearken back to the days where you played Rogue Squadron for hours on end. Or maybe it's just me again. Anyway, the flying is really well done, and it's barrels of fun, plus once you've beaten the respective stage each is in, you can play it any time from the "special mission" menu.

The final difference between the two versions of the games is the multiplayer. If you plan to use these modes a lot, it probably wouldn't be such a bad idea to buy both versions of the game, seeing as they're so different. The GBA version offers a two-player cooperative mission mode, and a Last Jedi Standing mode, in which you and a friend fight against an endless stream of enemies until one of you falls. And then the DS version comes along and replaces those modes with... 3D space flying!

While it's no co-op mode, the space flying... Aw, who am I trying to kid? The space flying kicks total ass! Especially for those of us who grew up playing Rebel Assault and got into the whole space flying thing early (even if Rebel Assault was mostly on rails, it was still space flying!). The only fault is that it's only got a limited (you're forced to play with a kill limit) deathmatch mode. Also, I'm pretty sure the DS could handle more than four players, but that's sufficient enough, I guess. Everything else about it is awesome.

Firstly, there are eight arenas to play in. Two are in the skies of cities, with buildings and such to avoid. Four of them are placed in free-range (all arenas are free-range, but you know what I mean) space, and one of those arenas, I'm certain, is that nebula level from Rogue Leader where you have to defend the medical frigate. Or it might not be, but it sure bears a striking resemblance. And the last two are more surface maps, but on Tatooine and Hoth! Hooray!

The absolute best part of this mode is the selection of ships they present you with. there are a total of sixteen ships to choose from, and while some fun choices were excluded (Naboo Starfighter, V-Wing, 1969 Buick Electra), there are plenty of great ships to choose from, including several different Jedi Starfighters, the Slave I, a couple TIEs, an X-Wing, and the Millennium Falcon. You have to unlock a few of the really cool ones by beating the respective bots in skirmish mode, but it's totally worth it. Ooh, ooh! And the explosions look absolutely excellent! They're kinda like the explosions in Zelda: the Wind Waker in that they're really cartoony, and they look a bit out of place as such, but I love them. Best effect ever. EVER.

Dun dun dun. Review time. Graphics in Revenge of the Sith are excellent. The main game's graphics are pretty, but lack a little animation for some enemies. Main characters and boss characters are done well though. There's plenty of colour and my only gripe is that every part of the environment busts the exact same way as the rest of it's kind. They could have at least put two different "broken" images for each object. Flying mode is beautiful. The ships are a bit blocky, but it's forgivable cause it's no so bad. And the explosions make up for any other shortcomings I may have overlooked. So pretty...

Sound quality is nothing less than perfect, as the music is apparently taken straight from the movie. As I said before, I'm willing to believe that. It is of rather high quality. The sounds are great too, and nobody will have to guess what you're playing when they hear a lightsaber swing or a blaster go off. Voice samples are very limited, but they're got the Battle Droid "Roger roger", so it's all good.

The gameplay is excellent. The basic brawler premise may turn off a few (like me, until I heard it was really good), but the added Star Wars nuances like Force powers really help it to stand out in the crowd. The ability to develop your Jedi's powers however you like is another added bonus, as you can customize the game to suit your playing style just a little more than most games allow. Beating the game will unlock a new hard mode, which is really is hard, so that will probably keep you coming back for a while. Also, the space flying gives it tons of replay value, even if you can only really play deathmatch. The hard bots are actually quite good and will give you a run for your money if you're not playing at the top of your game. Not to mention that playing against or with other people will double your fun.

Overall, I'm more than satisfied with Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. It's proven that you can make a really repetitive game genre fun, you just have to add some fun boss fights, and maybe some magic powers to top it off. I would very much recommend this to anyone looking to round out their DS library, or even to grab the GBA version if you're one of those "I'm too good for two screens" types. Though the DS version does have at least two solid advantages going for it. Those advantages being the flying and the music, for those who couldn't figure it out. Either way, I'm sure you'll be satisfied. If nothing else, it's a ton of fun to make Battle Droids explode with a wave of your hand. This one gets an A.

~Ryan
E-Mail: Mr_Hotshot64v2[at]hotmail[dot]com

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