This was one of the first games released for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2001. It's the sequel to Rogue Squadron, an action-packed 3-D space shooter for the N64. Classic Star Wars starfighter action just doesn't get better than this. Although other LucasArts games have been fun, I've never had a truly cinematic experience. Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II changes that. You will live the movies.

The game is played from the perspective of either Wedge Antilles or Luke Skywalker, depending upon the mission. Aspiring Rogue Leaders can fly either:

The actual missions themselves aren't anything new, but they're still damn good fun. Gamers are invited to refight classic battles from the Star Wars movies, including the destruction of the first Death Star (which was somehow chosen to be the first mission) and the aforementioned Battle of Hoth. The other missions are standard starfighter fare. Players will find themselves destroying enemy installations and starships, defending Rebel Alliance convoys, and performing deep-space reconnaissance. Each mission is well-designed, neither too challenging nor too simplistic. A merit system allocates either a bronze, silver, or gold medal to skilled players at the end of each mission. A gamer's weapon accuracy, mission time, and total targeting computer usage are factored when deciding whether they receive a medal or not. Accumulate enough medals, and special bonus missions and new ships can be unlocked. The addition of these secrets adds greatly to Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II's replay value. Graphics-wise, this game is amazing and is a fine example of Gamecube's raw processing power. On the Death Star, every metallic outcropping is detailed exactly. Soldiers on the ground are animated in full 3-D and move independently or in squads, futilely firing their blasters into the air as enemy ships zoom overhead. Environmental textures are crisp, and the lighting effects must be seen to be believed. Most of the music is taken straight from the Star Wars soundtrack, further adding to the feeling that players are actively playing out the movies. The game is full of little details that add to the fun. Last night I played the Tattoine training mission and the desert was covered in a veil of darkness. The next morning, I attempted the same mission, but Tattoine's twin suns were just rising above the horizon. The game realistically changes the position of the sun to match the time set on the Gamecube when it is first turned on. Overall, I was very impressed with this next installment in the Rogue Squadron series. The gameplay itself is outstanding, and great graphics add a final touch. A multiplayer feature would've been nice (making the Death Star trench run with a friend defending you from TIE's, perhaps). However, if you have Gamecube and are a fan of Star Wars or starship combat, this is a definite must-purchase.

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