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It was probably the most anticipated film event of the century up to that point. Though its predecessors had not lived up to the standards of most, fans were seemingly quick to forgive and forget when Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the last of the prequel trilogy and at the time the last big screen outing for Star Wars, was released in May of 2005.
That it took $50 million on its opening day did not come as much of a surprise, as with any film in this series, many could have predicted it would be a hit. As such, merchandise and spin-offs were in order, among them a video game.
The game of Revenge of the Sith was released, of course, on May 4th 2005, for Playstation 2, Xbox and Game Boy Advance. The console versions are enjoyable if straightforward 3D actioners, while the handheld port is worth highlighting as it does things a little differently.
“You Were My Brother”
Unlike the PS2 and Xbox outings, the GBA version has a split storyline. There are two separate campaigns where players take control of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. While the two characters don’t really do anything different, it is an interesting way to focus on the character arcs of the story’s two main characters.
While controls are the same for both characters they are inventive, responsive and easy to use. Anakin and Obi-Wan attack with a light sabre, of course, but also have a variety of force powers; push, grasp, shield and, best of all, mind trick, which disorients enemies and, if they are a droid, can blow them up. The developers made all the moves easy enough to learn and, crucially, use in action.
When gameplay begins, it does so the same way the film does, following Anakin and Obi-Wan as they infiltrate the ship of droid commander General Grievous to free the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine. Unfortunately, the first three Anakin and Obi-Wan levels are the same, which is not the best start for the two-way storyline.
It does make for an introduction to gameplay, which is a side-scrolling hack and slasher reminiscent of Streets of Rage. Progression through a level is only possible once a wave of enemies is defeated. Boss fights, however, are closed off, singular environments, as evidence by the first boss fight for both characters against the separatist leader, Count Dooku.
Like in the film, after Dooku’s defeat the master and apprentice go their separate ways, beginning the game’s two separate campaigns. The first part of the Obi-Wan strand takes him to the front lines of the planet Utupau, where the Republic are making a last stand against Grievous. After infiltrating the enemy base and fighting off all his guards, Obi-Wan comes up against Grievous, a boss fight which will take some skill and patience to make it through.
“Lord Vader… Rise”
At the same time in game progression, Anakin is taken under the confidence of the Chancellor, who sends young Skywalker to fight off an army of droids that have invaded Coruscant. It’s a departure for the film but it’s the game’s way of having the Chancellor gain Anakin’s allegiance. It’s only afterwards Anakin learns these droids were under the command of Palpatine himself that he realises he is a Sith lord.
After passing word of this on to Mace Windu, the Jedi Master goes to put an end to Palpatine, but Anakin’s conflicted loyalty leads to a boss duel between the two. After defeating Windu, Anakin is made the Sith lord’s new apprentice and is bestowed the title of Darth Vader.
At this point in both game and film, the Chancellor has ordered those loyal to him to kill all the Jedi. For Anakin, this sees him laying waste to all inside the Jedi temple, last of all a minor character of the film, Cin Drallig, who along with his unnamed Padawan is upgraded to the penultimate boss for Anakin.
“I will do what I must”
As for Obi-Wan, his clone troopers turn on him in what was a very small part of the film but is an entire section of the game. After fighting for his life he then tries to make his escape in the caves of Utupau before facing a boss absent from a game, a malfunctioning robot ‘bodyguard’ which starts attacking him.
Returning to the Jedi temple, Obi-Wan finds himself having to fend off invading robots and clone troopers before learning that it is his own apprentice who has led the siege on the Jedi. He fights his way out of the temple to confront Anakin, who has traveled to Mustafar on Palpatine’s orders, to destroy a separatist outpost.
It’s here that the two story lines meet up once again for a final showdown between the Jedi master and his rogue apprentice. It is a bit disappointing both story lines have the same conclusion, there isn’t an ending where Anakin defeats Obi Wan and it makes the end of his campaign a little underwhelming, but the game stays true to the film in the way it concludes.
It was fortunate for Revenge of the Sith to have a very action-oriented source to draw from, but it does well in conveying the less action-focused character-driven arcs at the same time. There are some notable diversions from the plot of the film, but it largely sticks to that story. Gameplay wise Revenge of the Sith goes one step further than its core fighting mechanics with the inclusion of special moves, while it can be frustrating in sections where there are far too many enemies, it does make for more interesting and advanced gameplay.
It is also worth noting the unique style of Revenge of the Sith, which forgoes attempts at photo-realistic recreations of its characters in favour of a more stylised, cartoon-like look, which works well particularly on the Game Boy Advance. The little details in the environments makes it completely the opposite of its predecessor, Attack of the Clones, which focused on its graphics, forsaking gameplay and playability.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith does a lot right; it’s a thoughtful re-telling of the film that inspired it, a Game Boy Advance game with impressive design work and gameplay and, most importantly of all, is an enjoyable genre game with a throwback feel to it that does well to port the style of Star Wars into handheld form.