Star Wars has had ups and downs with its films, depending on who you talk to. But one aspect that most agree on is that the majority of the games are fantastic. Even the mediocre ones.
When Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, it had the most polarizing reception of any Star Wars film, but the games seemed to be the most-remembered during this time, especially with this writer.
Games such as Phantom Menace, Jedi Power Battles, Starfighter were all fun in their own right, but there was a racing game, inspired by the now-infamous Pod-Racing sequence, that stood out, all on its own.
That was Episode 1: Racer. A fun game which was announced in a Nintendo Direct earlier this year to be getting a port for
thanks to Aspyr, who released Jedi Academy earlier this year. We took 'Racer' through its paces to see how it stands up, twenty years later.
Gameplay - Score 96
As soon as the game boots up, you feel like you’ve been transported back twenty years, and that’s a good thing. Ported to display in a native widescreen resolution, everything looks clean and crisp, with a smooth 60 frames-per-second from start to finish. Compared to playing this on the Dreamcast (and this was tested alongside the Switch version), it runs like butter compared to the version released in 1999.
Everything is here as it was before, just in higher resolution, and many aspects of the UI being re-done to accompany this. It’s slightly odd to see the UI that you will see 90% of the time not get a face-lift, and that’s what you see when you’re trying to get to first place. A strange omission, but it’s not stretched out at least, it’s still readable and does its job.
You can race through ‘Tournament’ and ‘Free Play’, where you can race as a variety of characters, through twenty-five tracks, each with their own unique take from the Star Wars universe. The controls work well here, with ‘
’ to accelerate, ‘
’ to repair when your pod-racer sets alight, with the directional buttons to change views if you wish; simple and straight-forward, and a great layout for the Switch controllers.
HD Rumble is also here, and it works surprisingly well; you can tell that the developers have put in a lot of thought into this port, and with every bump, every boost, every explosion, you get the reverb, especially when playing in handheld mode.
Overall it just plays as expected, and that’s a great thing here for Episode 1: Racer. Everything is smooth, the ‘Tournament’ mode can be short, but the method of upgrading parts for your pod-racer just keeps you coming back for more. A fun game can speak volumes, regardless of how short it can be, and it can keep calling the player back for more; that’s entirely the case here, and we had, and are still having so much fun in all the game’s modes here.
The game was released on Dreamcast, N64 and PC, with the main differences being higher resolutions for Dreamcast and PC, while the N64 version would benefit from more textures when the ‘Expansion Pak’ was in the console. Also on the PC port, there was LAN Multiplayer, being able to race up to 8 players.
In 2020, split-screen multiplayer is here, which is best played in docked mode, and it works as expected. There’s no lower frame rate and resolution; everything looks great. It’s simply a shame though, that there’s no 4-player multiplayer or even online. To have this on the Switch would have been a great improvement, especially with the speed that this game provides, but for a quick two-player match, it does its job.
A fun game can speak volumes, and that’s entirely the case here.
Sound - Score 98
We suspect that it’s a port from the PC version, as that’s known to have higher-quality sound effects and music, and using headphones when in handheld, alongside having it in docked-mode hooked up to a TV with a sound-bar, it all sounded crystal clear.
The music is thankfully kept, with all the soundtrack cues from Episode 1 intact, alongside Jake Lloyd’s specially-recorded lines for this game all abound.
Every sound effect took this reviewer back to playing the game on PC, especially when playing the ‘Mos Espa’ track, and the fact that they’re all as clear as can be here is a really nice touch.
Everything sounds crystal clear here, from headphones to a soundbar.
Value - Score 97
It retails for £12.29 on the UK eShop, and for what it offers, it’s a great deal. Considering that it runs at a constant 60 frames-per-second in native-widescreen, with everything intact; it’s a good deal.
For £12.29 it's a steal for what it offers.
- Still fun to play 20 years on
- Remastered visuals with widescreen is very welcome
- Makes great use of the Switch features, such as Rumble HD
- No Online-Multiplayer is a shame
- While redone UI is welcome, the HUD when racing is bizarrely unchanged
This is a fantastic port of a twenty-year-old game. It’s a great case of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality, as the gameplay itself is still incredibly fun, and that's helped thanks to the smooth 60 frames per second.
The native-widescreen is a great touch too, especially when the Switch is docked, and when trying out multiplayer.
It’s a shame that not all of the UI was updated to the higher resolution alongside any online-multiplayer, but you get an incredibly fun game, with the Episode 1 soundtrack to boot throughout all the twenty-five tracks, unlockable characters and the depth of improving your pod-racer.
’ is a remaster done right. Let's just hope that Rogue Squadron is next on Aspyr’s list to give it the same attention and love
that series also deserves.
Can Rogue Squadron be next?