Monday, 19 January 2009

Review - Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels

  • Game: Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels
  • Format: Wii
  • Other Formats: None
  • Developer: Krome Studios
  • Publisher: LucasArts
  • Genre: Fighting
When Nintendo first announced that they were making a console powered by waving a TV remote around like an idiot, there was one game that everyone wanted to see. The very concept of the Wii seems perfect for a lightsaber game, right down to the remote speaker for making "vom vomvomvom vom vom vom BZZZT!" noises. Well, two years on, LucasArts have finally remembered that they like money, with the release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels: Attack of the Colons, but can it possibly live up to the dream?

The basic set up is pretty much what you would expect. Two characters from a selection of ten Clone Wars characters go into an arena and proceed to kill each other with lightsabers and Force powers. For solo players there is a story mode featuring clips from the series, and a challenge mode in which you need to win whilst fulfilling certain objectives (usually use all the combos or finish in under three minutes), but it never really departs much from the main concept.

The most important thing about this game is probably the control system. Sadly, any hopes for full one-to-one movement of your blade are quickly dashed, instead lightsaber attacks are limited to slashes in four directions and a forwards stabbing motion. This does at least mean that the controls are much more reliable than many Wii games; even when making multiple moves in quick succession the game can pick up exactly what each swing is supposed to be and act accordingly, so you'll never end up losing the game just because the game confused your Ultimate Sith-Killer Combo for the "decapitate self with own lightsaber" command.

There are a few more complications to the fighting system, such as each character having their own Force power and super move, using the Force to throw debris into your opponent's face, and the ability to parry attacks by holding block and swinging in the opposite direction to your opponent, but overall there is nowhere near as much depth to the combat as something like Soul Calibur.

One feature that comes up a lot is the saber lock system where at seemingly random points in the battle the two combatants will lock blades, trade insults and then set off one of three mini games... or just go straight back into the fight leaving the players wondering what all that was about. The mini games are quite fun actually, but it would be nice if it didn't feel like the game was deciding whether or not to give you one on the basis of a coin flip.

"Wait, why are we doing this again?"

The cast of characters contains most of the lightsaber-wielding stars of the Clone Wars series, with the surprising omission of Yoda who I can only assume was left out to avoid having to deal with the height difference. This unfortunately, includes Ahsoka Tano, the irritating teenager who has quickly become my most hated Star Wars character ever since Darths & Droids made Jar Jar Binks awesome. It's also a shame that there are no characters from outside of the Clone Wars time period; OK I understand that Qui-Gon Jinn fighting Darth Vader in the story mode would make no sense whatsoever, but a few original trilogy and Episode I characters as unlockable multiplayer characters wouldn't have hurt.

The actual choice of character to play as makes disappointingly little difference to the actual gameplay, with the main changes being a slightly different combo list and Force power. The real difference is in the voice clips played as the fight goes on. In a nice touch, the speech changes depending on your opponent, so for example Obi-Wan will accuse Count Dooku of betraying the Jedi Order and vow to bring an end to this insignificant rebellion, whereas Obi-Wan versus Anakin sounds more like a friendly sparring match. This helps to give the fights a more cinematic feel and make the sound clips actually make sense in context, but the downside is that by limiting the number of possible lines the chances of repetition inevitably increases.

Lightsaber proliferation reaches dangerous levels - coming in 2010: Star Wars Episode VII: Invasion of the Octopus People

The arenas are a nicely varied bunch, all with their own hazards. Clone troopers and battledroids fight it out around you (and get stabbed to death if they get in your way), electric discharges and blasts of flame can incinerate careless players, and one level takes place above a Sarlacc which reaches up to eat the tasty Jedi above. The arenas also have a tendency to change between rounds, such as a platform on the edge of a space-station that gets detached at the beginning of round two and spends the rest of the battle in freefall.

Overall, The Clone Wars is not the lightsaber game you imagined when you first saw the Wii remote, and in all likelihood it was never trying to be. Instead, what we have is a fun, technically competent, but ultimately insubstantial beat-em-up. Star Wars fans will likely get a kick out of it for a while, but after a few days they'll be back to Smash Bros. Brawl. Now, if LucasArts were to make a sequel using the MotionPlus add-on the idea could finally live up to its potential.


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