Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader was a 2001 arcade-style flight simulator by Factor 5 and LucasArts. Rogue Leader was a launch title for the Nintendo GameCube. I loved my time with the Nintendo 64. When it came time for the next generation of consoles, there was no question. I was getting the GameCube. The next decision I had to make was what game to buy for it. Since I was going to spend a bunch of money on a console, I didn’t want to waste any money on a bad game. Rogue Leader being a sequel was a pretty safe bet. The original was amazing. The sequel with better graphics and bigger scope was a no-brainer.
I remember getting up at 7am on a weekend to buy the GameCube. I hate getting up early, but I easily did it for a new console and game. Stores didn’t do pre-orders for game consoles back then. Buyers had to pick a store and get there early, hoping they wouldn’t sell out. Luckily, the GameCube didn’t sell out. I had no trouble getting the GameCube. I had already pre-ordered the game at a game store, but they didn’t open until later. My mom wanted to do some shopping at a nearby store, so I tagged along until the game store opened up. I got the game, my mom took me home, and I finally got to play Rogue Leader.
I initially loved the game. The graphics were amazing, better than any other game I had ever played. They even had clips from the movies on some screens. At the time Star Wars was not available on DVD, so this was the first footage of the movies in a digital format. The sound was also amazing. They used a sampled orchestra, but it sounded almost like the real thing. I had a blast playing through all the levels and then unlocking all the secrets. The missions were way more epic, incorporating all the major space battles from the movies. Much like a DVD movie, they even had a special features section with a “Making of” documentary and a music player. It was all over too quick though.
By the end of the day I had finished all the missions, except the secret missions. There were still secrets to unlock, but the bulk of the game was over. Now it was just repeating the same missions over and over to get more rewards. Compared to the original, I was a little disappointed. There were a total of 16 missions in Rogue Leader compared to 18 in the original Rogue Squadron. On top of that, the missions in Rogue Leader were usually shorter. Rogue Leader missions were around 10-20 minutes each, while Rogue Squadron missions were more like 20-30 minutes. Then there was the issue of story. Rogue Leader mostly retold the story of the movies, whereas Rogue Squadron had its own original story set in the Star Wars Universe. All of these reasons made me prefer the original game over the sequel.
I don’t think my disappointment was totally the game’s fault though. Part of the problem was that I was very experienced with Rogue Squadron gameplay. Since I didn’t have to learn as much when playing the sequel, I made fewer mistakes, so I completed missions with fewer retries. Also, the fact that I had just spent $250 to play this game had to be a factor. I wanted to be able to use the new GameCube nonstop, but one game wasn’t nearly enough. It did take me a while to unlock everything. Compared to Rogue Squadron, there were quite a few more unlocks. Even though I “beat” the game quickly, the missions generally had a lot more replayability than the original Rogue Squadron. Also, I don’t think the original Rogue Squadron was that much better. They were very, very close in my eyes.
Having said all that, Rogue Leader was kind of a sign of the GameCube’s future. The GameCube never really surpassed the Nintendo 64. It had its moments, but overall I had many more good memories of the Nintendo 64. The GameCube ended up selling poorly over its lifetime, causing Nintendo a lot of trouble. They were able to recover, but it was a dark time in their company’s history. My real life was also having some trouble. I had a hard time connecting with classmates because of my interest in video games. It wasn’t a popular thing for teenagers at the time. Very few people I met played video games, so I ended up feeling like an outsider most of the time. Just like Nintendo, though, things got better. I found others that played video games eventually. I ended up having a small circle of dedicated gamers to talk to every day at school.