The Rogue Squadron games are a favourite of mine, ever since I played the original on PC back in 2000.
With the sequel; Rogue Leader’ being a launch game for the Nintendo GameCube in 2001, followed by ‘Rebel Strike’ in 2003, it set a standard for Star Wars games that doesn’t seem to have been matched since.
Sure, you’ve got some fantastic graphics in the recent Star Wars: Battlefront series of games, but nothing quite comes close to piloting an X-Wing, a Millenium Falcon, or even a 1960’s car in many missions.
With the recent announcement of Star Wars Squadrons, here’s why I think the Rogue Squadron games are still some of the best games to come out of the whole franchise.
A Rogue Factor
Developed by Factor 5, they had developed an engine that was able to allow the player to control a variety of vehicles in many scenarios, and after pitching to LucasArts, they were able to create a game about Luke Skywalker between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.
Factor 5 had an incredible way with taking advantage of what the console at the time could be capable of, and they were even the primary developers who convinced Nintendo to release the ‘Expansion Pack’, allowing the game to be run at a higher resolution.
Released in 1998 on the N64 and PC, you could fly through 16 missions where you had to either save a convoy, or defeat a group of Tie-Fighters, or even play moments from the movies, such as the Battle of Hoth.
The game even had one of the best-kept secrets of its time. With it releasing so close to Episode 1, they had one of the ships from the game, the ‘Naboo Starfighter’, in the game, 7 months before release. It was unprecedented as it made the game relevant again, way after it came out, before DLC was even a thing.
It was a fantastic game, and coming from a PS1 era to playing this on PC, really showed me what a Star Wars game could be capable of, and it’s still a game that I’d love to see return again on the Switch.
A Second Rogue Option
I couldn’t write this and not mention the sequel. I had known that one was in development after Nintendo showing a demo in the lead up the launch of the GameCube, and I was amazed by just how good it looked. In fairness, it still does.
Granted, there was a spin-off released between these games, called ‘Battle for Naboo’, but it’s a game that passed me by, mainly due to it only coming out on the N64 in 2001, when I had a Dreamcast and was awaiting the PlayStation 2.
Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader is still a game I regard as a classic. It improved everything. From the orders for your Squadron to help cover you or attack ground forces, to the cut-scenes and level design, everything was turned up a notch. This played like a game that was released midway through the console’s cycle, when developers better understood how to code for it, not as a launch title, so this was very impressive to play in 2002.
I first remember playing the game in a ‘GAME’ store. I was in a queue, wanting to play the GameCube kiosk, and many were failing on the first stage; the Death Star run. Somehow, I found myself at the end of the level, drawing a crowd. The proper, orchestrated music was intact, with Han Solo shouting out to fire the missiles now that Vader was off my back, and it was mission accomplished.
That was what sold me on the sequel as a whole; the experience of feeling like you were completely in that X-Wing, ready to ‘use the force’ and to destroy the Death Star. It was amazing in how well the game ‘understood’ Star Wars, from the music, to the design and the rush of fighting hundreds of Tie Fighters, alongside the huge Star Destroyers.
The eleven levels were fantastic, all varied and never made you feel as though the game was getting stale. It made you feel on-edge, it made you feel that you were helping the Rebellion with your GameCube. The last two levels are ones that I still fondly remember, called ‘Battle of Endor’ and ‘’Strike at the Core’. You would see the Death Star in the distance, and mirroring the film, having to turn round and be faced with a battalion of Tie-Fighters. During this, you would need to take out a ‘Star Destroyer’, and eventually go to the core of the second Death Star in the next Stage, avoiding all of its objects and wrong paths.
There wasn’t a secret vehicle this time, but there were some fantastic secret levels, such as controlling Vader in his TIE Advanced ship in some alternate-timeline missions.
All in all, the game defined what a good Star Wars game could be, better than what ‘X-Wing vs Tie Fighter’ achieved in the mid-nineties. Admittedly, the third game, ‘Rebel Strike’ was a game that I remember renting, but there were so many missteps from that game that it stayed a rental.
A Rogue Misstep
Released in 2003, it offered the player to go on-foot this time, wielding a lightsaber on some missions as well. But it felt clunky, and barely-refined, especially when this was the same year as ‘Jedi Academy’ came out. It was another feat to see the second game return, but as a ‘2 player co-op’ mode, but it just wasn’t enough.
Soon after, Factor 5 decided to create their own-IP, resulting in ‘Lair’ for the PlayStation 3. Unfortunately its bugs and bizarre controls made it a sure-fire rental product soon after, and even though they tried to pitch new Star Wars games such as ‘Dark Squadron’ around the time of Episode III, the company later shut-up shop in 2009.
A Rogue End For Now?
Plans were afoot to have the three Rogue Squadron games as a ‘collection’ for the Wii, as the above video by Liam Robertson shows, but unfortunately it never got approved to be released, even though its was incredibly close to completion.
Looking back, these are games that are still incredibly fun to play, and regardless of how they may look now compared to Battlefront 2, Factor 5 understood just what made a Star Wars game work. It had the ships you always wanted to pilot, it had the music to keep you in the action, and it even had the incredible graphics that made you want to keep going.
With Star Wars: Squadrons now announced to have both a single-player and multi-player campaign, one can’t help but wonder if it’s finally time for the Rogue Squadron games to be re-released.
This player says yes. To be able to play the Death Star missions and others like in Bespin, Maw or Corellia, but on the Switch or PlayStation 5, it’s a tempting thought, and one that I hope Disney sees fit to arrange at some point.