Not the first, five, or twentieth game that graced my eyeballs but it holds a key place in my heart. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was a remake of a classic Nintendo 64 game that became a launch title for the ill-fated, Gamecube. A console that by all accounts came third out of the battle between Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, yet still calls my name whenever my feet touch the floor at my Mum’s.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was the third game to be played to its limit in my history of gaming love. The first was Metal Gear Solid, the second, Pokemon Yellow and the third was Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. Each of these games was completed multiple times, to the point where achievements were no more. In the case of Rogue Squadron, this meant ticking off all of those gold medals and unlocking every craft and level. It took hours but didn’t feel like that, always a sign of a game that will remain in your mind for years to come.
The ability to fly
We take this for granted, but for me, Rogue Squadron was the first three-dimensional game in which space flight was possible. To turn with speed and come out close to the target, to open up the laser cannons and fire, completing the mission with the smallest amount of health left was breathtaking. It was something not seen before in games, at least for me anyway and made me want to squeeze every minute out of the experience.
Today, there are multiple games sitting on the shelf, staring back and wishing to be played with but the time is not there. When Rogue Squadron came out, the internet was still focused around dial-up and so playing online was akin to running around a wheel and hoping that you could generate enough electricity to power the house. It was irritation and so experiences were mostly single-player in nature, which helped you focus. Something that is lost today.
Back then, the focus was on a game at a time and the ability to fly was unique. The graphics breathtaking and the story compelling. It is something that has been lost with the latest Battlefront games. This month the second game is free and even though it is free, there is no desire on my side to play again. It has lost the charm of that original remake.
One of the reasons why the game felt so special and still does is the controller. The Gamecube controller is a comfortable companion, so much so that the Switch offers a wireless Gamecube controller in order to play Smash Bros on. Despite the steps that technology has taken to move forward, a near twenty-year-old controller is still the preferred means in which to play a flagship game. This says a lot about Nintendo and thinking ahead.
The controller was comfortable, which helped those hours pass with the minimum of wrist irritation, as you got into the barrel rolls and extreme accuracy needed for the gold medals on each level. Many hours would be my answer for the total time that was poured into the game and they never felt like a chore. Repeating each level added to the love of space and videogames attached to the name. The controller was an extension of this.
Simplicity for me is always key and each level took around half an hour to complete, with no difficulty setting. It rewarded you for playing and learning each craft. All of which was carefully mapped to the controller, with care taken to ensure that the flying of each felt responsive and equivalent. The larger crafts took more damage and delivered more of a kick, whilst the smaller ones were more maneuverable, with the controller perfectly delivering this.
An experience not replicated
Let’s not beat around the bush, Rogue Squadron is not a new experience. The games are not high definition and the levels are on rails. You cannot go beyond the confines of what the developers have created, but this does not matter. Who cares if the experience is geared in one direction, as long as what is on that route is engaging and grabs your attention, that for me, is what truly matters.
The Gamecube and the associated memory card was traded in at the end of secondary school. A decision that is regretted to this day as the console was re-bought years later and all those original games re-added to the collection. Not only was it a waste of money but also of time, as re-playing now, my reactions are sluggish and those gold medals distant.
Rogue Squadron was the last game to be traded and the first to be re-brought. It is a timeless experience that one day will be shared with my children. It is a classic and one that despite multiple attempts, producers have not been able to replicate, with EA’s attempts at Battlefront being style over substance.
If you find that lockdown has provided you with additional time and are looking for a ‘new’ gaming experience then why not give Rogue Squadron ago? It may not jump out of your TV in terms of looks but like in every good relationship, you will take substance over appearance any day.
The Gamecube is one retro console that will never leave my shelf again. It is old but like any long-term friendship, an experience that is cherished. The games are unique, with Rogue Squadron being responsible for taking many hours off of my life. Something that would normally scare people but not me, these were hours well spent.
Star Wars is beloved the world over and the games should reflect this love. Be unique experiences that allow all of us fans to pull the trigger and destroy some tie-fighters in the most effective manner possible. It is something that brings a smile to my face, is satisfying, and allows you to play out your fantasies on the small screen. It cannot make up for the disappointing Disney trilogy but it can accompany you in watching back the original three films.
Rogue Squadron is still to this day on my list of top ten gaming experiences. Alongside Pokemon and Metal Gear Solid, it brings a smile to my face and responsible for taking hours off of my life. Something that when done in such a compelling way, is acceptable and even encouraged. It is an experience for fanboys the world over in twenty years, something that has not been replicated.