The Star Wars Battlefront series is a popular collection of first-person and third-person action games based on the Star Wars universe. Elite Squadron is the fourth game in the series and the first to be released on a Nintendo system, and we can happily report it's been worth the wait. Kind of.
The game's plot begins during the Clone Wars era, and continues throughout the rest of the Star Wars saga as you get involved in every major battle from the films. You play as X2, one of two troopers who were cloned from the DNA of a Jedi Master (unsurprisingly, the other is called X1... seems the work experience lad at LucasArts was given naming duties that day). Since they're Clone Troopers, at the start of the game X1 and X2 work for the Republic, performing tasks for their Jedi leaders. X1 and X2 are so powerful they're chosen to train the rest of the Kaminoan clone army for the Jedi to help them take out the battle droids in the Clone Wars.
Eventually, as in the movies, Chancellor Palpatine uses his emergency powers to take control of the Republic and issues Order 66 (the Great Jedi Purge, in which all Jedi are to be exterminated). Since the clones are designed to swear allegiance to the Republic above all else, they start killing their Jedi masters. X2 starts feeling guilty about being told to murder his Jedi masters and instead turns his back on the Republic, becoming part of the rebellion and forming the Grey Squadron. It's the Star Wars equivalent of Paul Ince moving to Liverpool having played for Man United his entire career.
A Space Opera
Conveniently, the Grey Squadron finds itself getting entangled in most of the Star Wars movies' most epic battles and as a result Elite Squadron see you blasting your way through the Death Star, Hoth and Endor, while meeting the likes of Boba Fett and Luke Skywalker along the way.
The action is split into three different types of gameplay: on-foot sections, Starfighter combat and Speeder Bike chases. The on-foot stages take up the largest chunk of the game and are the most entertaining. Each section sees you playing as X2 while accompanied by at least one other character. The other figure changes in each level. At the start of the game X1 follows you about, then when the brothers go their separate ways you're instead accompanied by other Jedi, rebel forces and so on.
Curiously, even though there are always at least two characters playing through each level, there's no option for multiplayer co-op in the game's main story mode. It's odd that a game that seems to so blatantly have been designed for co-op, much like the LEGO games, doesn't actually have that feature as an option.
The Speeder levels are standard fare. You're on a Speeder Bike and have to race through a set path, dodging a series of obstacles until you get to the end. You've probably seen this sort of thing a million times before, and it's pretty average stuff. Thankfully there are only a handful of these levels and they're over relatively quickly.
More impressive are the various starfighter levels, which give a good sense of an epic space battle taking place around you. You have to take out enemies while avoiding swarms of bullets, barrel rolling to dodge missiles and blowing up other objects as instructed. Despite the fact that stylus control would have felt better for these sections, playing with the D-pad works well enough and for the most part they're good fun.
Feel The Force
Elite Squadron isn't without its problems, chase levels aside. The camera in the on-foot sections can't be rotated, zoomed or controlled in any way. While it's obvious why it's been locked (it lets the developers get away with not having to create full levels and lets them hide the sections that haven't been built, like a movie set), it's frustrating because you often find yourself shooting off-screen at enemies you can't see. You only know that you've successfully dispatched them when their radar dots disappear, which is hardly satisfying. Also rather frustrating is the fact that the multiplayer, a much-touted part of the Battlefront series, is multi-card only, meaning that the other players all need to have a copy of the game too. With no online multiplayer included either, it seems unlikely that this will see a great deal of use. At its best, Elite Squadron is an entertaining handheld Star Wars experience. Its flaws are too blatant to ignore however, and they dampen the experience. What a shame.