Title  : Star Wars Episode I Jedi Power Battles
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast
Publisher  : LucasArts
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 7.3
Review by  : Ken Gagne

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." 

A good motto — not only for video gamers, but also for game publishers, as LucasArts demonstrates with Jedi Power Battles, their second attempt to adapt the latest Star Wars movie into a Sony PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast action game. [PSX version reviewed here] 

This game is similar in style to last Fall's release of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace," an overhead action-adventure game, also from LucasArts for the PlayStation. Jedi Power Battles may seem redundant, but considering that TPM was a gameplay failure, it can be overlooked. Featuring more action, two-player simultaneous play, better control, and crisper graphics and sound, there's little reason to choose TPM over Jedi Power Battles. Yet, compared to everything else on the market, there's little reason to choose Jedi Power Battles, either. 

In this game, players can choose to play as one of five Jedi Knights, including Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, each with unique strengths and combination attacks. Following the movie's storyline, players advance through the levels, destroying wave after wave of enemy droids and parts of the scenery, pausing occasionally to survive a series of precarious leaps. There are no puzzles to solve, and plot development is restricted to each level's mission objective. 

A few gameplay and control issues are part of what keep Jedi Power Battles' fun factor down. When players lose a life, they are forced to restart from an abstract continue point, which could be dozens of droids back. As a consequence, enemy bosses must be defeated in one try. Several adversaroes can be hit only by reflecting laser shots back at them, but there is no method for controlling the exact angle of reflection. Players must be on guard with their lightsabers and wait for a lucky shot. 

Characters can't do a quick turnabout; they must turn the 180 degrees between them and their back. Since attacks go in the direction the Jedi is facing, not the direction being pressed on the controller, you'll usually end up running a quick lap in order to strike a back-stabbing droid. 

The combo moves are easy to string together, and new combos can be learned after each level. But with a swarm of droids punching, kicking, and shooting you, chances of completing a combo are unlikely. A better bet is to lure the droids into each other's crossfire, or to knock them down with the Force and retreat. 

The graphics are better than TPM. The Jedi and other sprites are neatly detailed, often resembling their movie counterparts, and flow cleanly between actions. Force attacks and clean strikes are animated with effective special effects. Yet there are some hit-collision problems, especially when making those uncertain jumps from platform to platform: it may look like you landed okay, but the appearance of safety won't keep you from falling to your death. Moving into the screen toward what appears to be a deserted location may reveal enemies and items only as you approach. And some levels are decidedly lacking in detail; for example, you won't see your reflection in the shiny floor of the first level's ship. 

John Williams' movie soundtrack is present throughout the game, as are the standard saber and blaster sound effects. There is little, if any, voice acting. 

It's a wonder the earlier action game, The Phantom Menace, was produced first, as this same-genre title excels in almost every way. Yet there is still room for improvement: it is possible to have more varied action without becoming the thumbsore TPM was; fairer challenges and the controls to execute them would also have helped. As is, with gameplay, graphic, and control issues, the Force still with this game.


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 05-Jun-00