It's Star Wars Celebration Weekend, so Allen wants to talk about fantasy fulfillment and ROGUE SQUADRON II.
While the original Rogue Squadron came close, it wasn’t until Rogue Leader that I could relive all my favorite moments from the Original Trilogy including the Death Star Run, the Battle of Hoth, and the final battle from Return of the Jedi. Other levels in the game introduced beautiful new worlds, nail-biting scenarios, and harrowing dogfights. The cinematic spectacles, the tight controls, and the solid level design all pale in comparison to the game’s finest feat: it’s replayability.
It’s hard for younger gamers to imagine a world without DLC or microtransactions, but once upon a time, games shipped with all the content on the disc. Developers couldn’t rely on post-release content to keep gamers hooked so they had to create compelling reasons for people to continue playing. Rogue Squadron gave players plenty of reasons to stay in the pilot’s seat with a plethora of unlockables, cheat codes, and well-designed systems.
Speaking of well-designed systems, the medal system ranked your performance on a particular level as bronze, silver, or gold (or no medal if you sucked). In order to earn a better medal, you had to pay attention to Completion Time, Enemies Destroyed, Shot Accuracy, Friendlies Lost, Lives Lost, and Targeting Computer Efficiency. Obtaining a gold medal required repeat playthroughs in order to reach the necessary stats. In addition, medals acted as a currency of sorts that would unlock optional side missions. These optional side missions would allow players to assume control of Darth Vader or to face wave after wave of enemies until you became one with the Force. While these side missions weren’t as robust as the main missions, they served as fun rewards for persistent players.
If side missions weren’t your thing, you could always replay levels to look for well-hidden upgrades or to unlock additional vehicles. Upgrades would permanently enhance different vehicles with stronger shields or more powerful weaponry. These were so difficult to find that I apparently missed most of them when I played the game all those years ago. Additional vehicles weren’t much easier to unlock, requiring a certain number of medals or specific playthroughs at specific times of the day. Gamers with limited time or patience (like myself) might opt for the cheat code system instead of unlocking content the traditional way. While cheat codes have all but become a thing of the past, I remember the days of anxiously checking GameFAQs to see if any new codes or unlocks had been discovered. This was a different type of DLC; it was discoverable-later content.
If you’ve ever felt like taking on the whole Empire by yourself in a Buick (yes, a Buick), Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader is the game for you. There’s no doubt in my mind that if this game had released today, we would be paying for the side content, extras, and unlockables because they wouldn’t be considered part of the “core” experience. Rogue Leader is a lesson to gamers and developers alike that “additional content” is sometimes as enjoyable, rewarding, and integral as anything else in a game.
Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Allen Brasch is an aspiring writer who loves good science fiction, fantasy, and horror. When Allen's not writing or gaming, he's talking about all things geeky on his podcast, Devil May Play.