In Replaying the Classics, StarWars.com revisits Star Wars games of yesteryear, examining why we loved them then and why they stand the test of time.
Rogue Squadron has a lot in common with Episode I: Racer — it’s one of the best Star Wars titles of the Nintendo 64 era, it’s still easy to pick up and play, and age hasn’t dulled its magic in the slightest.
Here’s a game — an aerial shoot-’em-up inspired by the Rogue Squadron comic books of the mid-‘90s — that was uniquely suited to the N64’s single-thumbstick gamepad in its day. Plug your favorite controller or joystick into your PC now, and flying into battle still feels both effortless and intuitive; just choose a configuration that prioritizes precision aiming. One analog stick is all it takes to steer your X-wing (or other starfighter) in all three dimensions, so you’ll be shooting down TIEs in no time.
In the aftermath of their victory at Yavin, the rebels find themselves on the run from a vengeful Empire in this Legends-era story. Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles have established Rogue Squadron, made up of the Alliance’s very best star pilots. Playing as Skywalker, you’ll lead the Rebellion on 16 story-driven missions across the galaxy, recruiting Imperial defectors like Crix Madine to your cause, scrambling for resources, and — following a late-game time jump to the New Republic era — saving Mon Calamari from a trio of planet-killing World Devastators. (For more context, read Dark Empire, written by Tom Veitch and illustrated by Cam Kennedy.)
Most of your favorite starfighters are available for you to take into battle, keeping in mind that the game launched in 1998, before even The Phantom Menace had made it to theaters. You’ll start off in Luke’s T-65 X-wing, then gradually earn access to fan favorites like the A-wing, Y-wing, Naboo N-1 starfighter, Millennium Falcon, and a Legends version of the V-wing airspeeder, seen mainly in Dark Empire and this game. Each vessel has its own set of unique abilities and attributes, introducing more fun and variety into engagements as you make your way through the story.
Things start off on familiar ground with a brief return to Tatooine’s Mos Eisley, which has been overrun by Imperial Viper droids. But there are also plenty of worlds never before shown on-screen, as well as planets, such as Corellia and Mon Cala.
Rogue Squadron is a beautiful, thrilling game. It’s visually reminiscent of Shadows of the Empire, and a perfect complement to the experience of that earlier N64 cartridge. Like Episode I: Racer, Rogue Squadron takes one essential aspect of Star Wars and turns it into a faithful and inviting simulation — in this case, aerial combat. It’s one any fan is sure to love, for the exciting dogfights and for the flying-ace story.
Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Fangoria, Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.