by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on NDS
I remember a time where Star Wars-themed games were in the same low standing that movie tie-ins are today. With the odd exception confirming the rule, any game with the Star Wars name slapped onto it would look, feel and play like a cheap rip-off of its peers in the genre.
This has changed in recent years: Lucas Arts is now far more picky about the games that they release. They also learned the trick of hiring studios with a proven track record for their projects and especially Bioware did well with the franchise. That does not mean that there aren't any turds among Star Wars games so each new title still needs to be judged individually. Today it is Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes' turn.
Of Jedi and Clones
After a great looking opening sequence in the style of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animation series, the player is dropped straight into the action. During the first few levels you will receive hints about how to play. New gameplay elements such as using The Force, climbing walls and firing weapons in their secondary mode are all introduced at a good pace and without slowing down the game. Almost everything is done with the stylus and actions are very intuitive. This in itself is quite an achievement. Many action games on the DS (or any other console) will have you pulling your hair in frustration trying to figure out how to do something that was explained earlier. In my case, not having to pull my hair is a good thing: there's not that much left of it.
You have at least two characters available to you at any time during the game. Some missions can be finished with the starting pair but others require a third character to step in, replacing one of the two you originally started out with. Several different names grace the character roster but unfortunately that does not mean that there is a lot of variation in gameplay styles as there are only two character classes: Jedi and Clone Trooper. Playing the clone you will get to shoot at your enemies as well as the occasional switch to activate a door or object. Jedi use their light-saber to slash at foes or deflect their attacks. They are also able to use The Force but the effects are fully scripted so it is not possible to come up with your own applications of ‘Jedi mind tricks’. Contrary to the Clones who couldn’t jump on a chair in fear of a mouse, Jedi are agile and able to perform high jumps and scale walls. While one can expect Clones to behave the same, it would have been nice if the Jedi characters had some unique tricks to bring some variety to the game.
How she handles
Past action titles on the DS often sported clunky touch-screen controls. I am happy to report that there is no clunkiness here whatsoever. In fact, Republic Heroes offers some of the best and easiest to learn controls I have ever experienced on Nintendo's handheld. Jumping for example, is done by tapping on a green circle that will appear on appropriate (read: pre-set) places. The same system is used to climb up walls. You stand in between two walls that are close together and a green circle will appear, you tap it and as you jump a second circle appears a little higher up. This continues until you are at the top.
In some cases, the green circles are replaced by green-lit fixtures on walls. These can be used by your light-saber wielding characters that can ram their sabers into fixtures, using them to swing from one to another. Only green-lit fixtures can be used though, a color that they rarely are right from the start and never for very long. When they are red, you will usually need to flick some hard to reach switch with one character. Although in some cases it is simply a matter of waiting for the right moment.
Occasionally difficult sequences must be completed within a certain amount of time and often this is too short. When this is paired with having to flick a switch that needs a very specific and somewhat difficult to achieve angle before it can be activated, these sequences can turn into a frustrating mess. Fortunately there aren’t that many of these moments but it would have been better if the developers had avoided them completely.
Republic Heroes' graphics are absolutely superb. Considering the quality and crispness of the graphics, I wouldn't have been surprised if the frame-rate would take the occasional hit but the game ran smooth everywhere. The style of the Star Wars: Clone Wars animation series is proving itself to work very well in a video game and I certainly would love to see this return in future games.
My initial reaction to the game was one of amazement. Yet after playing it for a few hours, this feeling faded considerably. Looking at the individual parts one would have to conclude that Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes is a good game. Great graphics, good controls, playing in the Star Wars universe... it's all there. But in the end, a game should be judged on the sum of its parts and that is where it disappoints. You see, gameplay consists of finding a way to the next area and killing any and all opposition once you get there. There is really not much more than that, which means the game is just not that much fun to play.
If the simplistic gameplay would have been supported by a great background story and solid narrative, I might not have been more forgiving with my score. Yet the story is sub-par and the narrative feels a bit childish. Some of the timed sequences left me with so little time that my hair turned out to be not so safe after all and endangering my hair is not a good thing. Being let down by the gameplay, Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes did not live up to my expectations. As such, I can’t give the game a positive recommendation.
Excellent controls and a quality of graphics that you rarely see on the DS.
Where's the fun?