Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles for the Playstation 1 is a game that I had located in a bargain bin about a year ago. After watching the trailer for The Force Awakens the other day, I decided to dig it out and finally give it a chance. I’m not too sure that was the best idea. My time could have been better used cleaning my attic, garage, or simply zoning out at the wall.
You begin the game by choosing one of five Jedi Knights: Plo Koon, Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Adi Gallia. After you receive word from the chancellor concerning shipping to Naboo, you then take your character to battle through ten levels, all with different settings (Trade Federation Battleship, Swamps of Naboo, Tatooine, etc). Throughout these levels, you must overcome several different instances of platforming, enemy swarms, short-lived escorting, and incoming motion hazards (rolling boulders and animal stampedes, for example). In addition, this must all be done while blocking enemy blaster shots, managing terrible controls, and dealing with a limited amount of force powers. Lives are replaced by credits, giving a nostalgic arcade feel, which makes it seem only right for a buddy to hop in and copilot the game for the duration.
The visuals are actually quite impressive for the Playstation 1, and would have been moreso, had it been released a few years earlier. Being an early 2000 release brought its wow factor down considerably, but not so much that it hurts the eyes or distracts much from the gameplay. There is a great deal of strange texture rendering, however, especially in the Naboo swamp. What I mean by this is that you can clearly make out grass ahead of you, while the ground is blurry underfoot and behind. Then, when you approach the rendered section, it becomes blurry, and the places you were just inhabiting become fully clear. It’s not a huge deal, but it did catch my eye whilst destroying droids in that particular level. The character models (especially those based off of the actors appearing in the film) look decent, but had a few quirks. For example, Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu, looks incredibly confused the entire time, and Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn is strangely missing his neck. The in-game animations are carried out just fine, though, save a few awkward running motions.
The music, being seemingly brought straight from The Phantom Menace, provides a very nice soundtrack to slash enemies to, and appears to actually fit specific scenarios. This is a big plus for me, as too many games I’ve previously endured had randomly generated scores and tracks that just did not fit the scene. This really takes away from the immersion of the game. Thankfully, though, this is not the case with JPB.
While making your way through the levels, you will pick up power-ups that accumulate points, and fleeting upgrades to your light saber. The points are then attached to skill and level. You don’t have the option to manually level your character, from what I can tell, but it does help your character’s health and force pool throughout the game. Each time you pick up a goodie, you hear a little snippet from Yoda, addressing his pleasure from your exploring. It’s not much, but it is amusing (the first few times, anyway). Eventually, the slashing gets a bit old, but for a good while, it is rather satisfying.
What really turned me off from this game was the frustrating 2.5D platforming. You have no idea where you’re jumping until you see a tiny shadow on the targeted platform, letting you know that you’re on the mark; or you simply miss, falling to your death. Perhaps if the aggressively laggy controls were a tad more responsive, this wouldn’t be quite an issue. However, the final product we are left with will drain your credits quicker than a rigged arcade cabinet at a sketchy pool hall by the docks.
Star Wars Episode 1: Jedi Power Battles for the Playstation 1 is a frustratingly platformed beat ’em up that does a couple of things alright, but mostly just falls short. If you discover this game in a bargain bin or garage sale for a shiny nickel, and you have a competent copilot in mind, you may want to pick it up. If you’re looking for a good Jedi-themed game to enjoy alone, I wouldn’t recommend it, as there are much better choices out there.