It’s not very often that we get new Star Wars video games in today’s market but that wasn’t how things always were. If you go back around 20 years there were all kinds of Star Wars games ranging from shooters, flight simulators, Jedi power battles, and racing games. While I’m a big Star Wars fan I missed out on playing many of those older Star Wars games. That’s why I’ve been thankful to see developer Aspyr work to bring back some of them to modern platforms. They’ve already released Jedi Knight I & II and now they’ve given us what we all really want: pod racing.
Star Wars Episode 1: Racer originally released on the Nintendo 64 and PC back in 1999. It was based on the The Phantom Menace movie where we first meet a young Anakin Skywalker who has a passion for pod racing. The part of the movie was hands down one of the best things about it so who wouldn’t want to play a video game where you get to take control of a pod yourself. When you get into the game you can choose to try out the Tournament mode, time attack, free racing, or split-screen racing. Sadly there is no online multiplayer included which is shame as pod racing against others online would’ve been awesome. The Tournament mode is where I spent most of my time even though it doesn’t last long. There are three different tournaments here and each one consists of seven different races.
Since this is a racing game, you’ll be taking control of over 25 different racers from well-known characters such as Anakin and Sebulba to others who I think may have just been made up for this game. Once you pick who you want to be and the tournament/track to race on you’ll watch a short CG cutscene and then start the race. This is where the first improvement in this remastered game is made apparent: the controls. On the Dualshock 4 Episode 1: Racer performs very smoothly so no complaints there. The racing itself is pretty simple as there are no weapons or anything like that. It’s just you, the other racers, and the track out there. Your pod can get damaged if you end up crashing into things but other than that you have little to worry about. As you progress through the races you’ll be able to upgrade your pod racer in various ways although I didn’t really feel like I needed to. This is because I rarely had any issue beating the AI in the game outside of a couple rare instances of a difficulty spike.
The game has a nice variety of courses to race on with many of them having short cuts and alternate paths that you can discover. I thought I was putting up some good times and then I’d figure out a hidden short cut and put up an even better one. Also, one of the best things about a racing game is when it actually has that sense of speed to it and this game absolutely gave me that feeling. The other main improvement in this game is of course the visuals which still aren’t great. They absolutely look better than what they did on the Nintendo 64 but it’s just not that drastic of an improvement. The audio side is a mixed bag too as I enjoyed listening to that classic Star Wars score but the rather poor sound effects in this game left me a little unsatisfied. Those seeking to add another Star Wars Platinum trophy to their collection though will find a rather easy one here.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer takes the classic Nintendo 64 game and brings it to modern platforms with some nice improvements. The visuals are still flawed as are some of the audio bits but don’t let that ruin this game for you. There is a nice variety of tracks here to race on and with the improved controls, flying around in your pod racer has never felt so smooth and responsive.
*Star Wars Episode I: Racer is available now on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.