Star Wars: Episode I Racer was a 1999 racing game by LucasArts. When the new Star Wars movies were coming out, I was really excited to see all the new things they created like aliens, weapons, and starships. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace may not have been that great of a movie, but the podracing scene was definitely memorable. I joked with my friends at school that it would make a really cool video game. LucasArts must have had the same idea because they made the exact game I had thought about. Not only that, they made it even better than I imagined.
All the podracers from the movie were in Racer, including the popular Anakin Skywalker. A lot of people hated him in the movie because of his childish nature, but he was my favorite podracer in the game. Each of the podracers had their own stats. Anakin’s stats were the most balanced, so he worked pretty well on all the tracks. He wasn’t the best, but he had a chance to win on any track. This was cool and what I expected. What I didn’t expect was the whole upgrading system.
After winning a race, the player received credits they could spend to buy upgrades for their podracer vehicle. This was really cool. There wasn’t enough money to buy everything, so the player had to pick which stats they wanted the most. Well, there was a workaround to get all the upgrades. The player had to avoid buying early upgrades that would just be replaced later, pooling all their money for only the best upgrades. After playing the game once, I started over again carefully managing my purchases until I had all the best parts for Anakin’s podracer vehicle.
The podracer vehicles already moved pretty fast but then the player could use their boost to go even faster. It was common to see speeds of 1000 mph and higher when boosting. The downside to boosting was that it caused the engines to overheat. If they got to hot, they would catch fire. A special button could be pressed to spray water on the engines and repair them just like in the movie.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer was a pretty hard game. It started out easy enough but the later tracks had sharp turns and lots of hazards to avoid. It took many, many retries to get first place on all of them. That was the only way to get all the money from the race. Usually, the top three in each race got some money, but first place got the most. The player could replay a track until they got first place and all the money.
I don’t know about the other versions of the game, but the Nintendo 64 version could be pretty choppy at times. This made some of the turns pretty hard. I also would have liked more elaborate cinematics to introduce each race. I heard other versions did have some of that, but it probably wasn’t as good as the movie’s introduction. I didn’t expect the graphics to be as good as the movie, but some story and background behind each track would have made it that much better.
Overall, I really loved Racer. It was just so fun to play as a podracer, racing at death-defying speeds. It was one of the few games based on movies to actually be really good. It definitely wasn’t perfect, but it was still a great game. I wish all games based on movies were this good. They would have a pretty good reputation, unlike the trend that has occurred over the years of cheap “shovelware” released to prey on unknowing parents buying games for their kids.