Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
|Star Wars: Rogue Squadron|
The game's N64 boxart shows a hand-drawn dogfight, while the PC artwork features a CGI-rendered scene
|Series||Star Wars: Rogue Squadron|
|Distribution||128 Mbit (16 MB) cartridge,
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (known as Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D on the PC) is an arcade-style action game co-developed by Factor 5 and LucasArts. The first of three games in the Rogue Squadron series, it was published by LucasArts and Nintendo and released for Windows and the Nintendo 64 in December 1998. Rogue Squadron was one of the first games to take advantage of the Nintendo 64's Expansion Pak, which allows gameplay at a 640 × 480 display resolution, instead of that system's standard 320 × 240 resolution.
Set in the fictional Star Wars galaxy and inspired by the Star Wars: X-wing Rogue Squadron comics, the game takes place primarily between events in the films Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. The player controls Luke Skywalker, commander of the elite X-wing pilots known as Rogue Squadron. As the game progresses, Skywalker and Rogue Squadron fight the Galactic Empire in sixteen missions across various planets.
Rogue Squadron received generally positive reviews. Critics praised the game's technical achievements and flight controls, but its use of distance fog and the lack of a multiplayer mode drew criticism. The game's sales exceeded expectations; by August 1999, more than one million copies had sold worldwide. It spawned two sequels developed and released for the Nintendo GameCube—Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader and Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike—as well as Star Wars: Episode I: Battle for Naboo, a spiritual successor released for Windows and Nintendo 64.
Unlike the Star Wars: X-Wing computer game series that emphasizes space combat simulation, Rogue Squadron is a fast-paced, arcade-style action game. Each of the game's sixteen levels introduces mission objectives that must be completed to progress to the next level. These objectives are divided into four categories: search and destroy, reconnaissance, rescue, and protect. Enemy aircraft are primarily composed of TIE fighters. Ground defenses are more varied and include three different walkers, laser and missile turrets, tanks, probe droids, shuttles, stormtroopers and speeder bikes.
The heads-up display features a health meter, a radar and an ammunition count for secondary weapons. The player can control five craft: X-wing, A-wing, Y-wing, snowspeeder and V-wing. Each vehicle offers a unique armament arrangement, as well as varying degrees of speed and maneuverability. The game initially restricts the player to a particular craft for each level; however, after a level is completed, it can be replayed with any available craft. Levels set on non-atmospheric moons expose the player's craft to space; thus disallowing the Speeder and V-Wing (which are repulsorcraft) from being used; but as on other levels, the craft is vertically confined. Nine bonus power-ups are hidden in different levels throughout the game. These bonuses improve a craft's weapons or durability and are applied to each eligible craft for the remainder of the game.
The player's performance is measured throughout the game, and performance statistics are checked after each level against three medal benchmarks. Each benchmark contains five categories: completion time, number of enemies destroyed, shot accuracy, number of friendly craft and structures saved and number of bonuses collected. If a player's performance exceeds one of the level's three benchmarks in all five categories, a medal—bronze, silver or gold—is awarded on completion. Acquiring these medals promotes the player's rank and helps unlock hidden content.
Rogue Squadron includes a number of unlockable secrets. The player can unlock three bonus levels: "Beggar's Canyon", "The Death Star Trench Run" and "The Battle of Hoth". These levels are made available when the player obtains all bronze, silver or gold medals, respectively, on each level. Alternatively, they can be unlocked via password. Unlike the game's primary levels, the bonus levels are adaptions of events from the Star Wars films. "Beggar's Canyon" allows the player to reenact the race mentioned in A New Hope, while "The Death Star Trench Run" allows the player to execute an alternate version of the movie's climactic battle. In the "Battle of Hoth" bonus level, the player can join the Rebel Alliance's combat against Imperial troops, as depicted in The Empire Strikes Back.
Several craft are also available when unlocked. Both the Millennium Falcon and a TIE interceptor are initially present in the craft selection screen. However, neither may be selected until the player enters the correct passwords or achieves all bronze or silver medals, respectively, on the bonus levels. Two other craft can be unlocked, but each is confined to a specific level. One is the T-16 Skyhopper in "Beggar's Canyon", and an AT-ST is playable in a basic demonstration level unlocked only via password. A playable model of a 1969 Buick Electra 225 based on a car owned by the game's sound designer, Rudolph Stember, is also included in the game as an Easter egg.
During Rogue Squadron's development, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace—the first new Star Wars film in more than 15 years—was less than one year from its scheduled release date. To take advantage of this marketing opportunity, Factor 5 included content from the upcoming film in Rogue Squadron. LucasFilm provided the developers with design art for the Naboo Starfighter, a ship prominently featured in the new film. These designs were used to create an in-game model. Because the game was scheduled to be released six months before the film, Factor 5 was required to keep the ship's inclusion a secret. As a result, most of the game's development team at Factor 5 and LucasArts were not informed of its inclusion. A complex scrambling system was also developed to help hide the ship's code from gamers using game-altering devices such as GameShark or ProAction Replay. More than six months after the release of Rogue Squadron, LucasArts unveiled the code to unlock the Naboo Starfighter as a playable craft. The code has been named the Nintendo 64's most well-hidden code because of the length of time before its discovery.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron is set in the fictional Star Wars galaxy, where a war is fought between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. The game's first fifteen levels occur six months after the Battle of Yavin—as depicted in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope—and before the events of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. As the Empire gathers strength for an all-out assault on the rebel forces, Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles form Rogue Squadron, a group comprising twelve of the most skilled X-wing pilots from the Rebel Alliance.
The sixteenth and final level of the game takes place during Dark Empire, six years after Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi's Battle of Endor. The Rebel Alliance has established the New Republic, which now controls three quarters of the galaxy. After the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, the Galactic Empire collapsed, but was reborn under a mysterious new leader (who is actually a clone of Palpatine). Rogue Squadron, now under the command of Wedge Antilles, continues to fight the Empire to protect the newly formed Republic.
The story is divided into four chapters, each of which starts with an opening crawl resembling those featured in the Star Wars films. Further story details are presented through the game's instruction manual, pre-mission briefings, character conversations during the game and in-game cut scenes. The game begins with Rogue Squadron briefly encountering the Empire at the Mos Eisley spaceport on Tatooine. The team then executes escort and rescue missions on Barkhesh and Chorax, respectively.
The Rebels learn that Imperial officer Crix Madine wishes to defect to the Rebel Alliance. The Empire launches an attack on Corellia, where Madine is stationed, to prevent his departure. Rogue Squadron, with the help of Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon, fights off the Empire and helps escort Madine safely off the planet. Soon after, Rogue Squadron is joined by Gold Squadron, a group of Y-wings now led by Crix Madine; they are dispatched to the moon of Gerrard V to aid its quest for independence from the Empire. They encounter the 128th TIE interceptor Squadron and disable Kasan Moor's TIE. When Rogue Squadron tells Moor that she has been taken prisoner, she offers to defect and provide the Rebel Alliance with Imperial intelligence.
With the help of Kasan Moor's intelligence, the Alliance launches three consecutive attacks on Imperial bases throughout the galaxy. After an assault on the Imperial Enclave, a facility on Kile II supporting the Empire's Naval operations, Wedge Antilles is ambushed by a group of TIEs and is taken captive. The Rebel Alliance tracks Wedge to an Imperial prison complex on the planet of Kessel. The remaining members of Rogue Squadron travel to Kessel and rescue him and other Rebel prisoners.
With Wedge Antilles free and Rogue Squadron again at full strength, the Rebel Alliance turns its attention to a new Imperial threat — Moff Kohl Seerdon. Seerdon is consolidating Imperial power in preparation for an attack aimed at capturing Thyferra, a planet which produces the healing substance bacta. Rogue Squadron is ordered to disrupt his operation with hit-and-run missions against key targets on Taloraan and Fest. In retaliation, Seerdon attacks and holds a city on the planet of Chandrila hostage. Rogue Squadron and the Alliance strike back by initiating a Kasan Moor-engineered raid on an Imperial base located inside a volcano on Sullust. While still on Sullust, however, General Rieekan informs the Squadron that Moff Seerdon has used their raid as a diversion and begun his attack on Thyferra. With Seerdon in control of the planet's bacta and their own supply threatened, Rogue Squadron quickly reaches Thyferra, kills Seerdon and frees the planet.
In the final chapter, the game moves into the future, six years after the Battle of Endor. Rogue Squadron, now under the command of Wedge Antilles, continues to fight the wounded Empire. On the planet of Mon Calamari, new Imperial weapons called World Devastators are destroying the planet. Rogue Squadron is deployed, disables all three Devastators and destroys the Imperial presence.
After the success of Shadows of the Empire on the Nintendo 64 in 1996, LucasArts began planning a follow-up. At the time, Factor 5 was developing a game engine to create large terrain maps. LucasArts, pleased with earlier collaborations with the company, decided to use Factor 5's engine for its new game. The game's focus would be space combat; this direction was inspired by a level of Shadows of the Empire in which the player flies a snowspeeder during the Battle of Hoth. Rogue Squadron and Factor 5 production manager Brett Tosti stated, "That whole scene was actually the genesis for Rogue Squadron because everybody said, 'Why don't you do a whole game like that?' So we did." Factor 5 initially pitched a concept to allow gamers to play through missions similar to the fans' favorite action sequences from the Star Wars films. This proposal was rejected, however. At that time, LucasFilm was not comfortable with video games drawing directly from the films.
During the early stages of development, the designers at LucasArts were inspired by Rogue Squadron and later Star Wars: X-wing Rogue Squadron, a series of books and comic books set during the years of the original film trilogy. They began developing the story and gameplay  with a similar setting that would include characters from the films participating in new, original missions using Factor 5's terrain map engine as the base. In May 1998, a demo of the game was displayed at E3, but the game was so incomplete at the time that Tosti considered it a tech demo. It rendered a basic heightmap and an immobile AT-AT model, while TIE fighters lacking artificial intelligence flew and fired in a predetermined path. When "playing" the demo for audiences, Tosti followed a very specific flight path of his own to give the illusion that he was actually battling with the TIEs. Despite the demo's barebones presentation, response from gamers was largely positive.
Factor 5 appealed to Nintendo to use the Nintendo 64's newly developed memory Expansion Pak. Nintendo was reluctant, expecting the technology to be reserved solely for hardware peripherals. However, after Iguana Entertainment used the Expansion Pak to achieve a higher display resolution for Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, Factor 5 was given the green light. The Expansion Pak is used to increase Rogue Squadron's N64 resolution from 320 × 240 to 640 × 480.
LucasFilm was hesitant to grant access to the Star Wars library of sound effects for the game's sound designer, Rudolph Stember. As a compromise, the company provided Stember with sounds sampled at the relatively low rate of 22 kHz, half the standard rate. Stember objected, claiming that the clips sounded worse than effects he had lifted from VHS tapes for a previous Star Wars project. The game includes voice work from several notable persons, including screen actors Olivia Hussey and Raphael Sbarge as well as voice actors Bob Bergen, Neil Ross and Terence McGovern. Instead of using Nintendo's default sound drivers, Factor 5 developed its own tool called MOsys FX Surround. The Factor 5 drivers use Nintendo 64 processors, but tax them less; advanced compression techniques were also employed. As a result, the game includes over 80 minutes of high-quality stereo sound.
In November 1998, a month before the game's scheduled release, LucasArts signed a worldwide agreement with Nintendo concerning three new Star Wars video games. It granted Nintendo the rights to market the games and hold exclusive, worldwide distribution rights for five years following each release. Rogue Squadron was the first game released under this agreement.
Many reviews compared Star Wars: Rogue Squadron to one of its inspirations, the Battle of Hoth flight combat level in Shadows of the Empire, considered one of that game's best elements. GamePro remarked that Rogue Squadron "enhanced the flight model with true pitch, roll, and bank mechanics". IGN praised its inclusion of "upgrades, more enemies, better sound, and stunning second-generation graphics". The Nintendo 64 version received mostly positive reviews, and received an aggregate score of 85 percent from both GameRankings and Metacritic. GamePro named it one of the best games released in 1998. In a 2008 retrospective, IGN's Levi Buchanan stated that the game revived the Star Wars license on consoles through well-paced gameplay, a story tied into the Star Wars canon and visuals that made it "one of the generation's top stunners".
The game's technical aspects were singled out for acclaim. Its visuals were called "respectable" in the standard resolution, but highly praised in high-resolution mode (achieved via the Nintendo 64's Expansion Pak). GameSpot remarked that in a higher resolution, "[the] textures of the landscapes, the ships, the lighting effects—everything looks so much better," while IGN's Peer Schneider said, "After playing the game in the optional high resolution mode (640 × 480) once, it's impossible to go back to the still respectable standard resolution." Citing details such as decals, Rebel markings, R2 units, cockpit views and exhaust flames, Schneider described the game's 3D ship models as "gorgeous". IGN's Matt Casamassina said that the game was the best-looking Nintendo 64 game to date.
Reviewers also praised the game's sound design. Powered by the new Factor 5 audio drivers, Rogue Squadron features about 40 minutes of speech and 40 minutes of music. GameSpot's Ryan Mac Donald believed that the game's inclusion of extended voice work helped create a "movie-like" atmosphere. IGN noted that in addition to being technically impressive, the game's Dolby Pro Logic surround sound was an important gameplay element. The audio signals helped players determine enemy positions and direction of travel. IGN awarded the game three sound awards, including Sound Effects, Best Voice and Best Overall Sound of 1998 on the Nintendo 64.
Some reviewers complained about aspects of the game's visuals; critics disliked the heavy reliance on distance fog. Another common criticism of the game was the lack of multiplayer modes. GamePro 's review called the omission a "serious, unforgivable sin"; Schneider believed that while adding these modes would have extended Rogue Squadron 's replay value, the game was still enjoyable for its medal reward system and large number of secrets and unlockables.
Although nearly identical, the game's PC version garnered lower review scores than its Nintendo 64 counterpart, with an aggregated GameRankings score of 80 percent. This version enjoyed many of the same praises for its gameplay, but handling and graphics were cited as problematic. Directly comparing the two versions, AllGame's Brad Cook wrote that PC version's handling is more difficult than the N64 version. He believed the PC's "choppy" feel made it difficult to target enemies. In contrast to its opinion of the N64 version, IGN's PC review was not enthusiastic about the game's visuals. IGN staff remarked that Rogue Squadron 's "graphics and special effects aren't spectacular" and that they had "seen better graphics" on the PC.
When Rogue Squadron was released in early December 1998, the title's Nintendo 64 incarnation was the second-highest-selling video game for the first half of the month (behind Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) and the holiday season. Delayed until after Christmas in the United Kingdom, the game was released mid-January and debuted as the second-best-selling game of the month, ahead of Ocarina of Time. In August 1999, Nintendo added the title to its best-selling Player's Choice collection, while the PC version was re-released as a part of the LucasArts Archive Series in May 2001. Rogue Squadron's retail success was not anticipated by the game's producer Julian Eggebrecht, who said that the game sold "about 100 times better than anybody expected". The Nintendo 64 version sold over 1 million copies in the United States, and over 44,000 in Japan.
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- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: The Battle of Calamari. "Chapter IV Dark Empire: Six years after the Battle of Endor, the fight for freedom continues. Even without the thousands of Jedi Knights who formed the backbone of the Old Republic, the Rebel Alliance has managed to control three quarters of the galaxy. Darth Vader is dead, but a reborn Empire under a mysterious new leader strikes back at the struggling Rebel Alliance, hoping to crush the fledging new Republic. Massive World Devastators, more powerful and unstoppable than the Death Star, ravage entire planets. Rogue Squadron, which is now commanded by Wedge Antilles, persists in mounting daring missions throughout the galaxy ..."
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- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Defection at Corellia. "General Rieekan: I have repeat word an Imperial officer—Crix Madine—wants to defect."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. "Defection at Corellia Briefing: Imperial officer Crix Madine wishes to join the Rebel Alliance, but the Empire will do anything to stop him."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Liberation of Gerrard V. "General Rieekan: Gerrard V is attempting to gain its independence, but the Imperial governor is looting the city. Rogue Squadron, you must protect Crix Madine's Y-wings while they disable the escaping ships."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Liberation of Gerrard V. "Wedge Antilles: Luke, this is Wedge. I'm on the other side of the planet. We've got trouble. It's the 125th TIE interceptor Squadron."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Liberation of Gerrard V. "Kasan Moor: This is lieutenant Kasan Moor of the 128th Imperial to an unidentified Y-wing: Are you quite done? My vehicle has been disabled for a good two minutes now."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Liberation of Gerrard V. "Rogue Squadron: Kasan Moor, consider yourself a prisoner of the Rebel Alliance. / Kasan Moor: Well, if you'd quit shooting at me, I have a proposal to make. One that would serve us all."
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- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Assault on Kile II. "Wedge Antilles: Luke, it's an ambush! I don't know where they came from. I don't have nav-control anymore. Can't ... steer ... straight ... Main computer offline, targeting computer offline. Ahh ... we just lost Rogue 7! I can't ... / Luke Skywalker: Get out of there, Wedge! Hobbie, what happened? / Hobbie Klivian: Wedge made it, but he's gonna be captured for sure."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Rescue on Kessel. "Kasan Moor: Kessel—its a mining colony, but the Imperials often keep political prisoners here too. There should be an armored hovertrain nearby transporting captured Rebels to a central station before moving on to the prison. I'm sure Wedge is with them."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Battle Above Taloraan. "Chapter III The New Threat: With the rescue of Wedge Antilles, and Rogue Squadron at full strength, the Rebel Alliance turns its attention to a new Imperial threat—Moff Kohl Seerdon. Preparing to capture Thyferra, with its precious supply of healing bacta, Seerdon is now consolidating his power for a massive attack. His success could very well break the fledgling Rebellion, and surely doom the galaxy to Imperial rule. Luke Skywalker and Rogue Squadron are assigned to disrupt his operation with swift hit-and-run missions against key targets such as he Imperial mining operation on Taloraan ..."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. "Blockade on Chandrila Briefing: Moff Seerdon has chosen to hold Chandrila hostage in an attempt to make the Rebellion pay for its raid of Fest. You must help the innocent people of Chandrila protect the supply train and stop the Empire."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Raid on Sullust. "Luke Skywalker: Alright, here's our chance to hit them back for Chandrila. Kasan, did General Rieekan brief you? / Kasan Moor: Yes, the location of this Imperial base was supplied to us by Borsk Fey'lya. It's a crucial link to the rest of the Sullust system, so it's also well protected—hidden inside this volcano. They use the volcanic activity to power a geothermal generator, which is regulated by a shielded central capacitor. But inside the volcano several transmitters are feeding thermal energy to the capacitor. Destroy the transmitters ... / Luke: ... and we take the shield down. Kasan, you lead the way."
- Factor 5, LucasArts (December 7, 1998). "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron". Nintendo 64. LucasArts. Level/area: Raid on Sullust. "General Rieekan: Rogue Squadron, I'm afraid you'll have to cut your celebration short. Moff Seerdon has begun his attack on Thyferra."
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