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Star Wars - Shadows of the Empire (N64)

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    10 Reviews
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      14.01.2011 00:05
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      Get the PC Version Instead!

      Surely I can't be the only one who thinks that this title is better than a 3 Star rating? Released in the late 90s on PC and N64, this game was mass promoted by Lucasarts as though it were a movie title. The game puts you in the shoes of smuggler Dash Rendar as he helps the Star Wars cast stop Black Sun head Prince Xizor from having Skywalker killed.

      The graphics are a rather mixed bag which can be blamed somewhat on the reduced pallet of the N64. While the levels are well designed for the most part and there are some intriguing puzzles, the 'fog' that often plagues N64 titles does affect the gameplay somewhat in the later levels, almost to the point of hindering. Having said that, some of the levels are actually well constructed. The opening level fighting AT-ATs, the Junkyard and the Gall Spaceport all deserve mentions here. The cut scenes some odd reason aren't FMV like the PC version but seem like they are drawn. There's no excuse for this, the N64 could handle FMV no problem!

      The music here is very Star Wars, big orchestral tracks with the obligatory Star Wars theme being present. For some reason the voice acting that the PC version has is not present here. Once again there is no excuse for this and does dampen the gameplay somewhat. The blasters make a satisfying sound however when you hit an enemy.

      The gameplay here is mostly in the 3rd person, except for when you're using vehicles in four of the missions. This makes the levels reasonably varied, although the effectiveness of each is depends on the level's structure. The plotline is rather intriguing though is better explained in the tie-in novel of the same name which expands a lot on what the game tell you. The controls are reasonably easy to get a grasp of although turning Dash around can be a bit of a chore due to the clunky system used. Controlling the vehicles are relatively easy although the Speeder can sometimes go too fast for its own good and you'll end up smashed into a wall! There's a diverse range of ammo available for your blaster which have different effects on your enemies. My personal favourite is the Rockets, best saved for the Bosses!

      Actually you know what? This version is only worth 3 stars. It's far inferior to the PC version, has clunky controls and could be better graphically. There is a solid game here however so try and get over these faults as there's fun to be had here for those who persevere.

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      24.08.2010 17:41
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      O.k. game with some big weaknesses

      One of the first releases on the Nintendo 64 was Shadows of The Empire. A Star Wars game set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I think the first kick in the nuts for Star Wars fans was that you didn't play as any of the major characters. Instead the player took control of a man called Dash Rendar (who?), apparently a smuggler delivering supplies to the Rebel Alliance.

      Seeing as the game was still Star Wars many gamers dived in to try it. The game starts on Hoff, the snow battle, and the immense joy of taking down ATAT walkers is amazing. Flying over the blocky landscape of the early 64bit era, seeing the distance emerge as you flew closer, was incredible.

      After flying you go on foot and find Leia has been captured by Prince Xior. Who? A criminal figure who runs the Black Sun crime syndicate. O.k. so story line doesn't feel very Star Warsy, more out of a pulp crime pop-up but the game proceeds and each level will either be on foot, flying or speeder bikes, fulfilling the Star Wars geeky urge to put yourself in elements of the franchise. A highlight of the game is that you fight IG 88, the metal bounty hunter robot thing in Empire Strikes back who you see for a brief nano-second. He has to be one of the hardest bosses ever created in gaming, until you realise there is an extremely easy way of killing him and you kick yourself for not working it out before hand.

      Difficulty wise the game has four modes, easy, medium, hard, Jedi. I have never completed the first level in Jedi mode.

      All in all an o.k. game with awkward controls, slightly weak plot, but a lot of elements from the franchise fans wanted to try.

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      15.08.2008 16:39
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      Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire for N64

      The N64 game of 'Shadows of the Empire' - a multimedia project where the story takes place between 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Return of the Jedi' - is a mix of genres, with the player assuming the role of Dash Rendar.

      The opening snowspeeder level was seen to be a highlight of the game - to be able to trip an AT-AT with a harpoon and tow cable was like a dream come true for the Star Wars fan. To their disappointment, there was only one other stage of similar style, but the makers must have took note of this - two games of the type would be released ('Rogue Squadron' and 'Battle For Naboo').

      I hated the stage where Dash had to ride the Swoop through Mos Eisley - it felt too fast for it's own good! Thankfully, much of the game sees the player in control of Dash Rendar on foot, viewed from either a third- or first-person perspective. These were perhaps my favourite sections of 'Shadows of the Empire', however, there is no auto-fire and the default weapon has to recharge - though this is to prevent use of turbo-fire. Also, auto-aiming takes out precision shooting, but because the visuals can appear blurry it's not so bad. The control of Dash with jet pack on is well handled.

      With single button strafing there's no running rings 'round the enemy. As such, and unfortunately, boss battles can feel like a race of attrition, especially with the lacklustre weaponry. Whilst a loss of life allows the player to resume as they mean to go on, I do feel that there are fights where it would be impossible to avoid doing so (at least once and on the higher difficulty settings). Since the bosses are a significantly greater challenge than its preceding level, there being no save points in the stage is a shame, and players might consider building up the number of lives by performing well on a previous level.

      I've only been able to complete this game on Easy (much to my dismay), but I've found 'Shadows of the Empire' to be a decent enough game.

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      04.04.2007 22:55
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      Star Wars fans may enjoy the 'experience', but it's really not a very good game.

      The Star Wars franchise and videogames are a frustrating combination. While George Lucas’ tale of a Galaxy Far, Far Away has inspired some thoroughly fantastic videogames, for every Knights of the Old Republic there seems to be at least 3 Rebel Assaults. Likewise, what has become known as the ‘expanded universe’ of Star Wars, the many books, comics and side-stories licensed by Lucasfilm but not considered canon is notoriously hit and miss in terms of quality. Shadows Of The Empire is a bit of an oddity, in that while technically an expanded universe property, was actually instigated by Lucas himself.

      Shadows is actually not 1, but 3 separate projects, all parts of the one story. Set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The JedI, a novel by Steve Perry covers the main story, introducing the evil Prince Xizor, a reptilian-like human who intends to oust Darth Vader from the Emperor’s side by killing Luke Skywalker, but also introduces Han Solo’s old smuggling buddy Dash Rendar as, on order of the Rebellion, he tries to track down his carbonite frozen buddy and wrestle him from the clutches of Boba Fett. There was a Dark Horse Comics series, which mainly focused on Fett and the tribulations he faced in getting Solo to Jabba the Hutt, and finally today’s subject, the videogame produced for the then fresh Nintendo 64.

      The idea behind the project was that you needed to read/play all 3 to get the full story, and the game thrusts the player into the role of Dash Rendar, from his first run in with the Rebel Alliance, as they take on the Empire at the battle of Hoth, right through to taking on Xizor at the Battle of Skyhook. The plot of the game doesn’t have a great deal of depth, while I’ve never read them, I’m certain the book and comics will go into more, but we basically have a decent enough plot to take Dash through all the familiar Star Wars locales like Ice Planet Hoth and Desert Planet Tatooine, as well as the obligatory space battle. Dash is basically Han Solo 2, your swashbuckling mercenary with a heart of gold, who pilots the Outrider, a similar ship to the Millenium Falcon, which Dash believes superior. Needless to say the game focuses more on the blasters and battles aspect of the series than the Force and Lightsabers, we don’t even see Darth Vader.

      The game has 2, technically 3 modes of play to it. The first, where you start off, is in control of a ship, starting with a snow speeder on the icy planet of Hoth, is arguably the highlight of the entire game, and I recall playing it on a pod in a shop upon the game’s release and being blown away by it. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Star Wars, I mean I grew up with the original trilogy constantly on in my house as a kid, so I definitely appreciate it, but I can genuinely say I’ve never tried to use the force (well not often), with this said, zipping about in a Snowspeeder, tripping up AT-AT walkers with a tow cable is the kind of thing I dreamed of in a Star Wars game since I played the JVC NES game, and by god it doesn’t disappoint. Sure you’ve got to blast some droids and AT-ST walkers, but let’s be honest, it’s all about the tripping up of AT-AT’s. Further flight levels put you in the seat of Dash’s Outrider, first of all under the control of his droid-companion Leebo, with you taking the Gunner’s seat, and in full control in the climax as you try to take out Xizor’s Skyhook space-station and destroying his Star Viper forces. These levels also pack an enjoyable punch, especially the finale, as you make runs on the core of the Skyhook, dodging obstacles and launching missiles. It’s probably the most enjoyable depiction of space combat the franchise has seen since the marvellous Star Wars Arcade.

      Sadly, these sections only take up 3 out of 10 stages in the game. Boo. 6 of the others see the player take control of Dash himself, in a Third-Person Adventure style affair (shockingly, often referenced as a Doom-style game…and while you can adopt a First-Person-View, you certainly couldn’t play the entire game like that) where you basically run around, flip some switches, jump across platforms and shoot robots, Stormtroopers, Wampas and so on. Dash can shoot, pick up a variety of weapons, such as seeker missiles or stunners, jump, strafe, and generally act like any other Third-Person-Adventure game hero of the era, only with the addition of a jetpack in some levels. Sadly it’s these stages in which the game falls apart a bit. You see, in theory, it’s a playable if thoroughly by-the-numbers adventure game for it’s time. Granted the enemies get very repetitive (sand wampas? Come on, you can do better than that), and it has some lame touches like all Dash’s attacks coming from the same pistol, but where it falls apart is the looseness of the controls. See the response of the fire, jump, jetpack and so on are simple to pick up, and respond fine…but the actual analogue control of Dash is at best workable, and at worst infuriating. Jumping and sliding right off an edge isn’t uncommon in the game, which makes me wonder if the entire Star Wars universe is coated in Teflon. The enemies are repetitive, and in the worst possible way, with the small, spherical, droids being the most frequent, and worst of all, the most deadly. I swear the average one of these inflicts more damage than the majority of bosses. Speaking of bosses, they start off really cool, dodging around an AT-ST Chickenwalker and taking it down, fighting the robot bounty hunter IG-88 and the infamous Boba Fett and his Slave-1 spaceship, but end up taking a turn for the lame in the latter part of the game, fighting generic robots that could have come out of any lame Sci-Fi shooter.

      What rounds off the game’s 3 game types is easily the worst of them all, where you take control of a Swoop speeder bike, and pursue and have to defeat swoop-pilots through the streets of Mos Eisley. In theory this could have been a neat little stage, but if I thought the controls were bad in the Dash mode…good lord, nothing prepared me for this. If you can beat this level…there shouldn’t be much in any game, ever you can’t achieve. It’s easily one of the most painful things I’ve ever endured in a videogame.

      So of the game’s 3 gameplay modes, one is very enjoyable, one is passable yet annoying, and one is thoroughly disgusting, put together it doesn’t make for an altogether enjoyable experience. It’s far from the worst game, or even Star Wars game, out there, yet at the same time, I’m not sure why anyone besides the biggest Star Wars fanatic, would want to try it, especially in this day and age, and even the biggest franchise fanatic probably couldn’t bring themselves to really enjoy it, the 3 piloting levels aside.

      Graphically the game is sound enough for a first-generation N64 title, and still holds up decently, naturally the piloting levels being the stand-outs, but they are the ones that require the least work graphically, being set to backgrounds of either an icy wasteland or outer space. The other stages really vary from one to another, the indoor, space stations and so on look good, and really capture that Star Wars ‘feel’, though the outdoor levels can leave quite a bit to be desired, with the limitations of the N64 really showing up. The character models aren’t the worst I’ve seen, yet they do move in a fairly stiff manner, especially Dash’s hilarious dull manner of holding a gun and shooting.

      Sonically, the game is actually very impressive. I’m not sure if it’s actually John Williams’ score, but it sounds a great deal like it, and contributes to the atmosphere greatly. What’s also impressive about it, is the implementation of it. The game doesn’t have music consistently ongoing, which can actually add to the atmosphere when in a desolate setting like the desert. Sound effects seem ripped straight from the movies, which keeps up an authentic feeling.

      If I’m being honest, I wouldn’t say I regret playing through Shadows Of The Empire, I’ve endured much worse, but at the same time, I’ll probably never play it again, and certainly wouldn’t go as far as ever recommending it to anyone else. The only people who’ll really take much out of it will be the true Star Wars fanatics, who have/plan to play the game on virtue of license already anyway. For the common gamer, the N64 has better action titles, you’d be better looking elsewhere.

      Review also posted on Epinions.com

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        10.01.2001 20:12

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        This is quite possibly the worst game I`ve ever played that makes use of the Star Wars license. The graphics are poor, the sound isn`t much better and the gameplay isn`t too hot either. There are a variety of levels in the game, which vary from having you run round the Hoth base just after the Millenium Falcon escapes to flying through an asteroid belt, and on again to flying a hoverbike through Mos Eisley. There are plenty of other missions where you run round shooting Storm Troopers, which are OK but can get quite annoying. In fact I think they`ve overplayed the running round angle - too many sections have you doing this which gets more than a bit annoying since it`s the worst part of the game. The other sections involve doing stuff that no other game at the time let you do in the Star Wars universe. I mean, most other games let you run round and shoot Stormtroopers, but how many let you ride a Speeder bike round Mos Eisley? How many let you fly through an asteroid belt? Not many, which is this games only real selling point. Basicaly this game isn`t worth the money unless you absolutely LOVE Star Wars. If you`re not an obsessive fan then you`ll probably be quite disappointed by this game.

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        25.11.2000 09:51

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        This isn`t the best use of the star-wars license I`ve ever seen. The game is OK, but it would have been appauling if it didn`t have the liscense. the idea behind the game is that you are a bounty hunter style chacter, who is taking on missions to kill Xzior, who is conspiring with the emporer (and who has designs on Darth Vader, but that isn`t made very clear in the game). You take part in the defence of the Hoth base from the imperials, a speeder bike chase, a flight through an asteroid belt and a few normal walk round and shoot sections. The game isn`t very consistent in its difficulty - it goes from very easy to next to impossible between levels, which can be very annoying. If you liekstar wars and want a cheap game to kill some time then you could do a lot worse than this. It is old and therefore cheap, although you will be getting what you pay for in this case.

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        19.10.2000 02:50
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        If you buy this, it'll take a while to completely finish this game. The game itself is a good idea, it's a on-foot shooter and a space shooter. Unfortunatley, the graphics and movement don't exactly sparkle. I laugh at the way Dash jumps! They could've done a little more work on the graphics. The music perfectly suits a star wars game, and the sound effects are realistic. The envirorments were well thought out. You're Dash, one of Han Solo's mercenary buddies, as well as a racing rival. You were hired by the rebelillion to take a position in rouge squardron. After the hoth fight, it centers around Dash, a forgotten character in the sw series. Shadows of the Empire takes place in the middle of Empire SB and ROTJ. I did not really enjoy this game, so i would recommend that you rent it first.

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        07.09.2000 08:15
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        This game is worth renting, once. The only decent part is the second level's battle of Hoth, where you pilot a ship and take out AT-ATs and other flying meanies. The rest of the game gets its genres confused, with the third-person platfrom type levels often horribly irritating, and rarely rewarding. The second level really is worth the bother, though - I played it over and over again, and even rented the game again for the same purposes. A precursor to Rogue Squadrom, it seems, this level is the only one with gameplay to match the excellent presentation of the game.

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        15.07.2000 18:23

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        Shadows of the Empire is, at best, a mediocre Star Wars game, and in my opinion, not worthy of the license. It is a mis-shapen amalgam of different game styles, none of which are really pulled off very well. The best part is the opening "Battle of Hoth" level, abut the game gets worse from here on. Despite the poor gameplay, it does have the wonderful Star Wars music and authentic sound effects, so fans of Star Wars may find something of interest in the game, otherwise, stay well clear of this game, there are many much better to spend your money on.

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        16.06.2000 08:59

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        This is quite a good game but doesn't work too well on the games console. Its still very enjoyable, but call me boring but I like to use the good old mouse and keyboard cos I think by and large it is alot easier to control the game with, and you don't have to fiddle around with lots of difficult buttons and button combinations. Games consoles also don't offer you as good sound, speed and graphics as most modern PCs do. But this is not giving you information on the game which is what you really want, yes? It is basically your averege Doom style shoot em up bases loosely around the events leading up to the Starwars Triliogy. You play a mercinary who is employed by the rebels to carry out various missions against the Empire. This may not sound very good but it is actually quite a good game to play. However, this is one of the few games where the sequel (Jedi night) is actually better, mainly because it has better levels and a better storyline. Shadows of the Empire is worth getting at a knock down price or borrowing but I wouldn't pay more than £25 for it.

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