It is time to revisit the Star Wars universe with this week’s retro review of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron! Originally released on the Nintendo 64 and PC back in December of 1998, Rogue Squadron was met with remarkable success. It’s an understatement to say I like this game. My YouTube features full gold medal run videos and a video walkthrough on the way. But just how good is this old-school flight sim?
It has been six months since the Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the Death Star. Luke Skywalker, with the help of Wedge Antilles, forms Rogue Squadron: an elite squad consisting of the best pilots in the Rebel Alliance.
Rogue Squadron is an arcade flight simulator with numerous missions, ships and secrets. There are no multiplayer modes in Rogue Squadron so all your time with the game is going to be spent fighting the Empire in story mode. When you start the story, you are brought to a briefing room to select your mission. Each mission consists of objectives ranging from destroying certain targets to protecting friendly units out of hot zones. Out of 19 total missions in the game, 16 are normal story missions while the remaining 3 are unlocked by earning the level medals. Medals are earned by beating missions within a certain time, killing a certain number of enemies, and finding hidden upgrades. Earning all bronze medals unlocks one bonus mission, all silver gets you the next, and all gold the last. Aside from unlocking the bonus missions, medals also unlock special ships like the Millennium Falcon!
Rogue Squadron is an arcade flight simulator, making flying simple, if you don’t use mouse and keyboard which will provide a less-than-ideal experience. The game is very much meant to be played with a analog stick. Each craft has its own unique feel, abilities, weapons and shields. Weapons and aiming can be very inaccurate at times, so unlocking homing missiles as you progress through the game helps. The missions assign you a specific craft to utilize the first time through, making it a fun experiment to go back and play previous missions with different ships. If you want an extra challenge play every mission you can with the unlockable Tie Interceptor; it has no shields and no secondary weapons!
While secrets and Easter eggs are nothing new to gaming, I love how many are hidden in Rogue Squadron. In-game passcodes allow you to unlock a harder difficulty level and even a flying Buick! What is probably the greatest secret from the original Rogue Squadron was the inclusion of the Naboo Starfighter from Star Wars: Episode 1. Coming out roughly five months before the movie, the Naboo Starfighter remained secret until a month after the movie release!
For an N64 game Rogue Squadron featured an impressive amount of voice work. Because of the limited space on cartridges, the developer, Factor 5, created a new form of compression to use on audio work to fit more into a game. Later games on the N64 like Pokémon Stadium would implement this technology to add in voice work! Like most Star Wars games, music is based on the movies with a few original tracks being mixed in.
Rogue Squadron has nice graphics for an early 3D title. All craft are nicely modeled and have decent textures. Environment textures, while bland and repetitive, don’t look ugly and environments have a decent amount of modeling so they aren’t just flat spaces. Unfortunately, to compensate for these better graphics, Rogue Squadron has a poor draw distance. After what feels like 100 feet in front of you, the world is completely obscured by fog.
Despite a few shortcomings, Rogue Squadron is a wonderful flight sim and Star Wars game. Providing some great missions and one not so great mission (I hate you Fest!) and enough challenge to keep you coming back, Rogue Squadron is a worthy addition to any collection.
TL;DR: A great flight and Star Wars game!
Alright, I convinced you, huh? How can you play this game?! Star Wars: Rogue Squadron is available on Nintendo 64 and PC.
N64 (~$8) – The N64 version runs at a resolution of 320x240 but can utilize the N64 Expansion Pak to have a resolution of 640x480.
PC ($9.99) – Available on Steam or GOG, the PC version of Rogue Squadron is virtually identical to the N64 version except it can be played at higher resolutions.