Reviewed: October 23, 2004
Released: September 27, 2004
Another title among many Star Wars games of varying quality, Star Wars Trilogy: Apprentice of the Force is a (mostly) platform side-scroller designed by Ubisoft Montreal, the studio responsible for Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. As its name suggests, Apprentice is based on the original Star Wars trilogy, Episodes IV through VI, and includes many tunes and locales that should be familiar to Star Wars fans. Unfortunately, the generally bland gameplay makes this game mostly only worthwhile for big fans of the films.
As I mentioned earlier, Apprentice is mostly an ordinary platform side-scroller. Most of the gameplay consists of moving Luke Skywalker through the usual run, jump, shoot/slash, and collect power-ups routine. The game is basically a string of missions taken straight out of the original Star Wars trilogy, with levels designed after locations in the movies.
The designers included a few Castlevania-like special skills called Jedi Abilitiesólike the dash and double jumpóthat Luke gains as he proceeds through the game. Luke only receives these abilities at predetermined stages in the game, though, so you donít get that triumphant feeling of having earned the new skill. Nevertheless, the additional abilities do give this otherwise vanilla game a little more flavor, as do the new attacks (gained when Luke gets his lightsaber) and powers (including the Force Push and Force Speed found in previous Star Wars titles).
Apprentice also throws in the occasional space-shooter level, bike chase, escort mission, or boss fight for variety, but most of the stages start with a little blurb from Lukeís perspective summarizing that segment of the Star Wars plot, then proceeds directly to a series of long platform levels interspersed with periodic mob fights with Stormtroopers. Quickly laying waste to small platoons of Stormtroopers can be really fun at first, but it soon becomes routine and sometimes annoying, especially since the level design can be somewhat monotonous.
There is also a two-player link cable mode which only requires one game cartridge, so you can play a space-shooter-type game with a GBA-equipped friend without having to buy another copy of the game.
Overall, the game is playable and fairly decent, but it lacks innovation and mostly just plays like any old side-scrolling platform game. Many levels become just another tedious hurdle to jump before you get to the much more entertaining boss fights. Luckily, the game isnít too hard, and if you die, you just start over at the beginning of the screen, so getting through the game isnít as frustrating as it could have been.
The graphics are definitely one of Apprenticeís pluses. The game sprites are very clear, and though the sharp outline surrounding them is a little hard to get used to at first, it really does help enhance visibility by leaps and bounds. The animation is surprisingly smooth and lifelike, especially impressive when Luke tears into things with his lightsaber.
The backgrounds are very detailed and smoothly rendered. The only drawback is that itís sometimes hard to tell which platforms Luke can actually jump onto and which objects he can climb or otherwise interact with. Otherwise, the gameís graphics are clear and easy on the eyes.
The music and sound effects were largely taken from the films and have been directly adapted for the GBA with pretty good results. Of course, the BGM doesnít match up to the orchestral quality of the original soundtrack, but the midi-fied versions arenít all that bad considering the GBAís limitations. Most players will recognize many of the themes (including the Cantina song and other memorable tunes) and sound clips (like the Jawasí distinctive chatter and the crackle of the lightsaber).
Apprentice will probably take most gamers 5-10 hours to finish, depending on skill level, but itís not a long or especially hard game. Later on, you can replay the better parts of the game (like the boss fights and mini-game-esque segments) without going through the tedious stuff in the middle, and you can unlock a gallery of bonus material (sketches and artwork) as well.
The Star Wars franchise does enhance the value of the game, in my opinion, but the question you should ask yourself is: is it worth it to you to run through a number of dull missions just to get to the good stuff? Unless youíre a big Star Wars fan, you might not find the extras or replayable mini-games worth the effort.
In short, Star Wars Trilogy: Apprentice of the Force is a decent but mediocre game, though the familiar Star Wars flavor does help make this lackluster title a little more enjoyable. While Apprentice isnít lacking in small challenges, the hardest part about getting through the game is having the patience to move through all the more boring sections, since it does get pretty repetitive after a while. Donít get me wrong; this game isnít bad, but unless you simply love Star Wars, you might have more fun playing another platform game.