Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Game Review

Written by: Jon Castillo

Games | Dec 11, 2015

LucasArts Star Wars Star Wars Special The Phantom Menace

Ironically, a title with "Phantom Menace" is among my favorite "Star Wars" games. I know, I know, it's been over a decade and we're all still shitting buckets of blood from the film. But I can honestly say, the videogame version, is the bomb before "Knights of the Old Republic" came kicking in to restore some sanity in the sudden wayward direction of "Star Wars."

LucasArts released the videogame "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" in 1999, as a supplement for the film. It was my third PSX game that I begged my mother to get me for the summer. It had been a wild ride and took me months to complete. Not because of length, but a combination of childhood ignorance and too-complex level design, was a little overwhelming for my 10 or 11-year-old-self. It has nonetheless, some of the most intoxicating game mechanics that are used in modern videogames: "Mass Effect" and "Witcher" for instance.

The game remains faithful to the film, expounding on areas for exploration and action content. Most of its levels are straightforward. You play as one of the "Phantom Menace" characters: from Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Amidala, and Captain Panaka-Amidala's chief of security. Players are tasked to head from Point A to Point B, with near-puzzle obstacles that get in the way. For instance, in Theed, to reach the exit, you'd need to go through a battle tank. The objective is to explore the area more, backtracking when necessary and rescue a minor character who rewards the player a bomb to be used to destroy the tank. If you think about it, each level is its own main quest with a bunch of mandatory side quests to complete it. For a 1999 game for the PSX, it was pretty novel.

The best part of the game isn't the lightsaber duels with Darth Maul or being a Jedi with Force Pushes. But the level Mos Espa, the spaceport in Tatooine. This is where, as Qui-Gon Jin, along with Padme and Captain Panaka, goes into town to look for spaceship parts. After a short journey through a portion of the Dune Sea and killing a few raiders, Mos Espa reveals itself as more of a desert town. It's a place that stays true to the "Star Wars" concept of having a Western genre into it. 

Mos Espa is a world that is yearning to be explored. It has NPCs of merchants selling goods, children playing, and people just plain hanging out. 

There is danger in here too. And as Qui-Gon, you're free to whip out a blaster, or that green lightsaber and start cutting everyone in town. It's crazy, and yes, you can really do that in this game - as a Jedi. 

It's the most open-world experience I have experienced in the PSX. Like other open-world games, there are other moral consequences in your decisions. In "Grand Theft Auto" you get chased by the police. In "Assassin's Creed" you de-sync. In "Mass Effect" and "Dragon Age" you miss the chance of getting laid. In "Phantom Menace," you don't get to complete the level and would need to start from the beginning of Mos Espa.

Other levels are just as impressive, such as Coruscant as Captain Panaka, where you're free to blast any civilian or enemy in sight. Or engage in dialogs to avoid confrontations or unnecessary detours when using the Jedi Mind Trick. Of course, none of the other levels have been as vast and provides a cultural exploration as Mos Espa. Merchants, children playing around, and just plain bad guys here and there.

It's a wonder why developers haven't picked up such a novel concept and brought greater depth to it. A title with such high profile, its world, and rich mythology could have put the likes of Witcher to shame - and we all know that game's no joke. 

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This article is part of GameGulp's Star Wars Special, a countdown commemoration for the upcoming "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

About the author: Jon Castillo

Jonathan is hiding from a lynch mob after messing with the wrong basketball team. His favorite song is "Boys do Fall in Love" by Robin Gibb.

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