Saturday, 27 December 2014

GROW: Star Wars Rebel Assault

Review by ThoRn (@RetroGameRevive)

Designer(s)Vince Lee
Platform(s)Sega CD
Release date(s)November 1993
Genre(s)Rail shooter (Interactive movie)
Mode(s)Single player

What does Star Wars and Christmas have in common?..... Well...  Nothing really if you try and find the similarities between the two but for me Star Wars Rebel Assault, Christmas Holidays and my Childhood go hand in hand.  In Australia being in the southern hemisphere we obviously have our Christmas during the summer and naturally the summer holidays is the perfect time for an 11 year old to let loose, which consist of two main things:  Riding our bikes and playing video games.  Now, I was never fortunate enough to have a Mega CD of my own but luckily I had a friend that did (if you read my 'Night Trap' review...  Same friend).  It was the summer holidays between grades 6 and 7 and we spent 90% of that summer playing Rebel Assault.  

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away we go back to 1994/1995 and get all nostalgic about some FMV Star Wars on my favorite console of all time.....

You are Luke Skywalk errrrrr?  I mean Rookie One, a moisture farmer from Tatooine (sound familiar?) who has decided to join the Rebel Alliance in an attempt to defeat the empire.  You start out with a couple of training missions to get you used to the style of gameplay but before you know it, you are in your X-Wing taking on Tie Fighters and making an attack on the Imperial Star Destroyer, Devastator after it has captured the blockade runner  Tantive IV.  

The story tries to follow as close as it can to Episode IV 'A New Hope' and Episode V 'The Empire Strikes Back' with the two main battles from those movies, 'The Battle of Hoth' and 'The Battle of Yavin' (Death Star Attack) both making it in to the game.  I will just note very quickly that the Sega/Mega CD version is missing a chapter based on the Imperial Probe Droids that is available on the PC, MAC and 3DO version but I honestly don't think it takes away from the game at all.

Even though the story does jump from Episode IV to Episode V and then back to IV again, it still makes sense to the plot of the game and after all, what could be more satisfying then taking down an AT-AT on Hoth and blowing up the Death Star?

As one of the first FMV games released it was a true pioneer of the genre, even though it was a genre destined for failure.  Nonetheless it was still a Star Wars Rail Shooter which immersed you in to the world of the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire.

The game consists of both flight and on foot stages (well, only one stage being on foot).  Both of these game types used the same cross hair style shooter mechanism although during the flight stages you are also required to to use the directional pad to maneuver the ship to avoid obstacles that would cause damage to the vessel.

If you have played any other rail shooters in your time, this game really doesn't differ a great deal and wont take too long to master.

As the High Priest of the Church of the Sega/Mega CD I find it very difficult to speak ill of my beloved Mega CD but when it comes down to it, we all know the limited 64 color pallet doesn't produce the greatest in video quality and unfortunately this game does lack in that department more than other FMV games released on the console.  You will encounter times when you cannot tell the difference between objects and will crash in to things which can become quite frustrating but after you have played it a few times you get used to the visuals and can start to enjoy the game for what it is.

It's CD quality Star Wars audio, need I say more?  From the very beginning you are treated with the Star Wars theme and a voice over narrative of the plot to get you in the mood.  The game is full of clear speech and great music but being an early CD game, you will have to deal with the break in music during a mission as the track ends and restarts but other than that it sounds great and really helps create an immersive environment during the battles.

This is the part where the game gets a lot of negative comments as it was originally designed to be played with a PC flight stick but I really think it's just a matter of getting used to the control style.  There are really only a couple of missions that would have made full use of a flight stick but LucasArts worked around it by using the diagonals of the game pad as a sharp turn and the standard 'left/right' as a softer turn.  It's a little hard to explain as I can't recall any other games using this style of movement with a digital pad but if you do decide to give this game a crack I do strongly advise you just be patient with the control learning curve and it will feel fluent soon enough.

But on the flip side you only need to worry about one action button.....FIRE!!!

I think the best advice I can give with Star Wars Rebel Assault is patience is the key.  Take the time to understand the color palette (basically distinguishing the difference between solid objects and shadows) and the controls.  It's by no means perfect but when you get the hang of things, this is one great rail shooter and easily goes down as one of the great Star Wars games of the 90's.

May the Force be with You.

Until next time...  Stay Retro


  1. I don't think I've ever played the Sega CD version, but I used to love this game on the PC back in the day. It really got you into the Star Wars mood, and back then we were awed by the "realistic" graphics :)

  2. I used to play this on the PC as well. It is a good example of how to integrate FMV into a game, Rebel Assault is more than just watching a movie and pressing the button at the right time in order to keep watching. Its certainly not the best flight game I've ever played, but it is a lot of fun.

    1. It's definitely a shame more FMV games didn't follow this type of gameplay.