Star Wars Episode 1 Racer Review – Feel, Don’t Think. Use Your Instincts
Star Wars Episode 1 Racer
Developed By: LucasArts/Aspyr
Published By: Aspyr
Price By: £12.29/$14.99
The fan favourite racer is back featuring motion controls!
Take control of a podracer speeding through flaming methane lakes, Tusken Raider assaults, anti-gravity tunnels, and much more in a pulse-pounding, do-or-die fight to the finish line.
Chariots Of Fire
For those unfamiliar with Star Wars Episode 1 Racer, the game is based on the first film in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, specifically focusing on the podracing scenes in said film. Podracing is a highly dangerous, high octane sport consisting of racers of all different species from all over the galaxy. Each podracer is built to the same configuration, with twin jet engines at the front towing the cockpit via power cables that resemble Roman chariots.
Choose from a total of 25 different and unique looking podracers – most of which are unlockable through campaign progression – each with their own colourful pilots including fan favourites Anakin Skywalker and Sebulba. Then take them for a joyride at eye-watering speed across 8 different planets including the Spice Mines of Kessel, the methane lakes of Malastare or the Boonta Eve Classic track on Tatooine which featured in the film.
Along the way, you’ll be required to upgrade your pod if you are to stand a chance of keeping up with the pack. This can be done by visiting Watto in his parts shop. Buying lots of upgrades can be quite expensive, especially at the start of the game, so it’s worth knowing that you can purchase parts directly from the junkyard. Whilst these parts are of inferior quality, they should get the job done until you can save up your credits.
If It Ain’t Broke…
Essentially, this is an HD remaster of the original N64 game in all its polygonal glory! I still own my N64 and my copy of Star Wars Episode 1 Racer, which I recall playing for hours. So understandably I was excited when Aspyr announced that they were giving it the HD treatment for modern-day consoles. With their recent quality ports of Jedi Academy and Jedi Outcast, it was safe to assume that Racer was in good hands.
It’s hard to say whether it was a budgetary choice or they simply didn’t want to mess about with the source material too much for preservation’s sake, but I feel this may be lost on younger gamers that have no knowledge of the original. So with that, all the original, flat, muddy textures are still here, the rather blocky look to the pods and pilots return and even the dated-looking cutscenes before each race have remained.
But with all that said, I still loved it and it filled me with nostalgia all over again! What you do get, however, is a super stable locked 60fps and crisp picture quality that, if I had to guess, was 1080p or very close to it. The game has never felt so fast and responsive, it caught me off guard at first and took some adjusting to.
Search Your Feelings
Aside from sharpening up the visuals and locking the framerate to 60fps, which I feel is crucial for this style of game, Aspyr has also managed to implement motion controls and HD Rumble to great effect. Now you’ll be able to feel every bump, crash and boost in far greater detail.
As for gameplay, the campaign is the meat ‘n’ potatoes of the game as it’s here that you’ll unlock the rest of the leagues (4 in total) and also acquire the rest of the pods. While most will be able to blast through the campaign in a single sitting, it does still offer a fair few hours of fun, especially when the difficulty starts to ramp up.
In the latter half of the campaign, I found myself having to strategise a lot more. Drive too recklessly and your engines will accumulate damage. While you can repair them mid-race at the touch of a button, the various parts will still degrade after each race and you’ll be relying on your Pit Droids to repair them, so you’ll be wise to buy extra droids to boost your repairs post-race!
Did You Hear That?
By far, one of the most impressive aspects of the game is the soundtrack. Each of the tracks you compete on contains a John Williams score lifted straight from the films. The pods themselves sound authentic to the source material, the various taunts and yelps from the pilots, Watto’s dry quips and everyone’s favourite twin-headed commentator’s lines are all here too.
However, much like the rest of the game, these remain mostly untouched so still have a rather low-quality compressed sound to them that won’t be to everyone’s taste. One thing to note though, I did have to turn both music and sound effects volume down a little bit as they seemed obnoxiously loud and seemed to almost drown each other out.
Star Wars Episode 1 Racer is still so much fun to play, even decades after its original 1999 debut. The inclusion of motion controls and HD Rumble was a nice touch and the decision to keep in the rather low-fi cutscenes that weren’t in the N64 version, the crisp 1080p visuals, the removal of most of the “fogging” and the silky smooth framerate really make this the definitive version.
Some of the younger audience that has grown up around far more powerful hardware probably won’t enjoy the retro-looking assets or the compressed sound bites, but if they can look past these misgivings, there is a truly memorable game lurking within.
The campaign doesn’t outstay its welcome either. Most will get through it in a few hours, but at least there is still a fun 2 player split-screen mode to challenge friends and loved ones. The added strategy and resource management when it comes to swapping out parts and the risk versus reward system if you forgo repairs adds some welcome depth to the races.
I had a mainly smooth experience aside from a few odd visual glitches, such as parts of the pod or the pilot themselves occasionally failing to load in properly. Whilst, not game-breaking, it was rather funny to see. I’m not even sure if this was a glitch that occurred during the porting process or whether they were in the original game, so I don’t know if it can be fixed with a patch!
At just £12.29 or $14.99, I think Star Wars Episode 1 Racer is priced fairly. Aspyr has knocked it out of the park once again. They’ve given a known classic a new lease of life, bringing it into the 21st century, leaving the retro quirkiness mostly untouched, but sharpened up and smoothed out with added features for the Nintendo Switch.
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Reviewed by Micramanic for the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Aspyr.