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star wars episode 1: racer

by Luke Farrugia • 5 September 2020

Within the duel of doves gaming channel, we have recently been discussing retro games, Nintendo 64 and our favourites from back in the day. The Nintendo 64 was a staple console in our house, generating so many unforgettable multiplayer moments. Thinking back to the mammoth catalogue the N64 boasted, from Goldeneye to Banjo Kazooie to Zelda:  Ocarina of time, there were so many classics, and one of my favourites, Star Wars Episode 1 Racer, was just re-released on the Nintendo Switch. 

When this game came out in 1999, I remember renting a copy from the local video store and diving into this high-speed racer for hours. Upon starting the re-release, I was pleased to learn that the game contains all of the original 25 tracks, as well as the large cast of playable characters. 

Episode 1 Racer is based on the pod-racing sequence from the film Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. This game expands upon the pod-racing concept allowing you, as the player, to gain a glimpse into this diverse lore. We take control of pod-racers and speed through flaming methane lakes, Tusken Raider assaults and anti-gravity tunnels gaining a sense of tremendous speed, which has not changed in the slightest with this Switch version.

As I play the game again, I realise that there is a surprising amount of depth; you can upgrade the stats of your pods by using in-game money to purchase new parts. Further to this, there is also a damage system, which adds a risk and reward element to the game. The damage system requires you to make a choice when an engine is damaged; risk an engine blow losing valuable seconds or choose to repair manually (which slows you down considerably but doesn't cause a re-load). There is also the ability to boost by holding up on the analogue stick, and this is another risk-reward feature as if you enable it for too long, your engine can blow and cause a re-load. 

 

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The visual variety of the tracks is also something to note, and it's not uncommon to be racing through a neon-like city, stumble upon a grimey construction site, switch to a narrow slalom and then end over an intense bed of lava, all in one track. The sense of speed is something to behold, and each time you enter a new lap, if you are quick enough, an energetic commentator announces, "new lap record" spurring you on to try and reach an even faster lap speed. 

All this being said, there are a few downfalls, the HUD has not been upgraded for the modern user and is tiny, making it hard to read and engage with it. The control scheme is awkward with the standard switch controls, making it hard to manage your boost, repair and steer all at the same time. And there is no online mode, so the incentive for getting good beyond the tournament mode is a little limited, stunting the replay value. 

All in all, this is a fun walk down memory lane, and the nostalgic side of me will mean I always love this game. For anyone who didn't play it back in the day (or anyone who did), it would be fantastic to hear your unbiased views in the duel of doves community, come along and let us know what you think.

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