Having now played the game to excess, it is my sad duty to report that Lucasarts have fired another blank into the midst of the console gaming scene. Jedi Power Battles is no less of a mistake than the Phantom Menace games of last summer, despite some genuinely innovative ideas. There's just no clear intent on the part of Lucasarts any more to really achieve. Star Wars is now just a money-spinning device for the big-wigs in America. Jedi Power Battles places you in the shoes of one of five Jedi masters seen in The Phantom Menace last year. You can take on the role of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Plo Koon, or Adi Gallia. Having been cast in one of these roles, you pick up your lightsaber and fight through different stages based on locations in the movie. There's little adventuring to be had in Jedi Power Battles. Fundamentally it has more in common with Final Fight than, say, Final Fantasy. The action really only consists of battling druids and such. There's a lot of platform-jumping, too, for you and one possible companion, as you fight off the threat of the greedy Trade Federation. It seems a little silly for such an action-packed and previously popular concept to flounder and fall flat on itself. The controls have a large part to play in this failure. For example, there's the "Lock on" feature, activated by R1. By activating this, you literally lock onto one of the enemies and duel them in a free-roaming 3D environment. The problem is, this only works sporadically, with the player sometimes locking onto the thin air next to your enemy, allowing a free shot. If you're trying to fight off a group of Droids, this can be most depressing. The controls aren't the only thing that screws up Jedi Power Battles for the player. There's also the somewhat irksome animations, which do little for the overall experience. The fast action of lightsaber battling requires precision and accuracy, not only in the control system, but also in the animation of the main characters. While good-looking on their own, the animation sequences really show themselves up in battle, because they're long and drawn out, and can't be interrupted. Jumping is another important portion of the gameplay in Jedi Power Battles, but thanks to the depressingly imprecise collision detection at work, you rarely learn the distances that your character is able to safely leap. Throughout the 10 large levels that make up Jedi Power Battles, there are an awful lot of jumps to make, and despite this, it's hard to guess whether the jump is actually safe distance. Yet even if it is, the collision detection is so off that you end up dying for the most part anyway. Each Jedi is endowed with his own combination moves, but these moves are too hard to pull off to make them viable options in combat. If you don't use them, you'll get by, but unless you do, you'll probably find the game to be rather too repetitive. Still, should you manage it, it'll rip apart your enemies nicely! There are some pretty cool power-ups in the mix as well, including the one that doubles the length of your lightsaber for a limited period. The background is moderately interactive, but not overly so. Some areas can be smacked about a bit to give you points, whilst others just encourage mindless mayhem with a big glowing laser sword…
Spit and Shine
Graphically Jedi Power Battles does about as much as you can expect from the Playstation, despite problems (including the aforementioned and depressing collision detection). The polygons do overlap a fair amount, but at least that eliminates the tearing effect sometimes experienced in other games. The problems are worsened by the introduction of the second player. Because players can walk in opposite directions beyond the edge of the screen, there are times when there's nothing there at all! The graphics are good relatively speaking though, with some excellent special effects and lightsaber actions. Like the special effects, the sounds are probably one area that Lucasarts can always be expected to deliver in. The musical soundtrack is lifted directly from the movie, which really isn't a bad thing, and in spite of the overly repetitive and loud lightsaber sound effect, the game's audio lives up to its billing.
Although it's built on a solid formula, Jedi Power Battles is another missed opportunity for Lucasarts to climb out of the hole they've dug themselves in the past few years. While home to a few redeeming features, it falls flat on its face with bad collision detection, overly elaborate character animations and rather poor execution on the whole.
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