As I watch my regular dose of television, I get bombarded with commercial after commercial. Of these, the most annoying are infomercials. They claim to do this or that in hopes to snare the watcher into running out to the local retail store or picking up the phone and dialing their 800 number.
I was duped in this manner by two distinctively different products. The first was the makers of the hair removal product known as Epil-Stop and Spray. Claiming to remove hair by simply spraying the concoction to the skin and wiping hair away giving a longer lasting effect than shaving. It did wipe away hair, but at the same time caused an awful burn on my skin and the hair grew back just as quickly as if I had shaved. The other was by LucasArts and their Xbox launch title, Star Wars: Obi-Wan.
LucasArts embarked on a quest to craft a game that would expand on one of the more prominent figures in the Star Wars saga, Obi-Wan Kenobi. They promised a new, "original" story aside from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. This story would bring players into the mind of the Jedi Master and allow them to know the character more intimately. Much like my debacle with Epil-Stop & Spray, LucasArts left me burned and irritated with an empty promise. At its heart, Obi-Wan is little more than a movie based game with a few added plot changes integrated so as not to present gamers with a story they had already seen.
Obi-Wan's story begins several days before the opening scenes of The Phantom Menace and follows the young padawan up to the films ending. The majority of the "separate" story is placed in the beginning chapters located on the gigantic city planet of Coruscant and a previously unseen world. This is, however, a very miniscule portion of the title. Players are then thrust into the saga's first prequel aboard the Trade Federation starship wherein Obi-Wan and his mentor are meant to negotiate a deal. New events and slight story changes are thrown in occasionally, but nothing out of the ordinary for a movie to game transition. Even with these stray story elements, LucasArts, hardly manages to make the title somewhat interesting.
Players advance through the game in a simple Point A – Point B fashion, slashing away at enemies while utilizing the force. The title first appears to be of the hack-and-slash variety, but quickly becomes too difficult to complete in this manner. To assist you are various force powers allowing you to throw objects and enemies around to turn the tide in Obi-Wan's favor.
What's beautiful is how well these abilities are implemented into the control scheme. While A, B, X, Y, White and Black each have their respective functions, the L trigger acts as the force modifier button. Meaning as the player holds in the Left Trigger, each button becomes a force power making all of the abilities quickly accessible in any situation. Another unique function in this scheme is that of the right analog stick. While games like Enclave opt to use the Right Trigger for attack and the two analog sticks in a First Person Shooter type setup, Obi-Wan uses the Left Analog stick for movement and the Right Analog stick for attack. Moving it left or right will correspondingly swing your lightsaber in that direction allowing the player to slash through enemies with out sacrificing the direction Obi-Wan is moving in.
In between certain chapters of the game, players are forced to participate in a "training session." Herein, Obi-Wan faces off in a lightsaber duel against one of several Jedi Masters to prove himself. While entertaining and overly easy, these battles offer little more than the chance to smack around your superiors. A similar one on one multiplayer mode dubbed Jedi Battle is included with this title. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jin are immediately available while other Jedi become available after defeating them in the "training sessions."
Firmly holding Obi-Wan from ever taking off are its flaws. LucasArts fails to harness the Xbox's raw processing power. At times the frame rate plummets when numerous enemies are on screen or even when turning on or off the lightsaber. This would be almost understandable had Obi-Wan featured some spectacular graphics, but they're nothing short of average. Most areas and characters are mildly detailed with drab colors and pixilated shading effects giving the game a bland look. Clipping problems are fairly common. While throwing objects or enemies around, players will notice these problems that I can't imagine the testers missed.
As I read through the section of LucasArts website set aside for Obi-Wan, I couldn't help but re-read their declarations of what this title was meant to be. "Original storyline brings you face-to-face with a host of new and familiar enemies – ranging from Tusken Raiders and assassin droids, to the evil Sith Darth Maul." I still wonder where the "Original Story" went. I feel that had LucasArts kept their promise to provide this original story Obi-Wan would have shined brighter. Glimpses into what had become of the newly "knighted" Jedi between The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones would have been ideal, but there was nothing of the sort. Instead I was once again left disappointed, unfulfilled, and betrayed by an advertisement.
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