Boy, I sure am getting obsessed with these plug and play-type units. No, not to the point where I plan on collecting every single one ever made -- due to how many of them being crap, not emulating games correctly, the sounds being off, the controllers sucking, etc. -- but it's just the idea of getting several games (/old favorites that you can play again) that you just plug into the tv for a low price that's appealing.
Currently I have the Jakks Retro Arcade Pac-Man, which is pretty good, I'm interested in the Radica Space Invaders one that came out several years ago, and now I've played this one. So how did it do?
First off, the unit is really solid -- it's not flimsy in the least -- it's thick (after all, it's the hunk of junk the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars!) and the joystick isn't stiff and brittle, surprisingly (being stiff means it's not going to last long/not respond well, as far as Jakks units go). It's control is a bit "floaty", kind of like an Atari 5200 joystick, but responds way better (luckily!). Unfortunately it's two buttons are off to the left, meaning this isn't suited for left-handed gamers, and due to all the bumps on the Falcon, chances are you could lose a few lives until you find the menu/pause button in a panic until you get used to it (it's at the rear right of the unit).
I'm no expert on the Jakks company, but I'm pretty sure they don't have their own in-house development team, as they buy various licenses up left and right, then have someone else develop the games at probably the lowest price possible (especially since the units are assembled in China, yet this one still only cost me $18 new). This is really evident when you first turn the unit on and THE cheesiest rendition of the Star Wars main theme comes out of your speaker(s); ugh. This is about as equivalent if these movies were made, but had the special effects of many bad 1950s cheapo sci-fi movies.
So enough of the base background of the thing and Jakks' cheapness, how are the games already? Well don't fall off your Bantha, as I dive into...
ASSAULT ON HOTH--this is one of those games where you man stationary guns and try to repel advancing targets for as long as possible, being AT-ATs, AT-STs, Imperial Droids and Storm Troopers. If any of the enemy gets close enough to start shooting at you, you can activate a neat shield to block enemy fire. Luckily at times one of your Rebel scum friends will fly overhead in a snowspeeder and drop down a power-up, such as the Ion Strike that will slow down the enemy and prevent them from firing, an extra life, shields appear in front of all three of your guns for a while, etc. The game's easy for a while until you get to the third level, then suddenly they dump all this stuff on you at once (it's not random, so you'll be able to figure out the pattern to it...hopefully), but it's got a bit of an addicting quality to it. I give this game a 6.8 out of 10; it'd be nice if it were a little harder though, the games can run about as long as sandstorms on Tattooine.
RED LEADER--wow, this has been done a million times, what with the Raiden, Xevious, and Twin Cobra top-viewed, scrolling arcade games from the past to modern games that may come with your computer when you buy it (think the one on my mom's is called Black Hawk Striker or something like that). Here you pilot an X-Wing and fly through space, battling against Empire ships like T. I. E. Fighters and the like, then other stages include flying over Star Destroyers and going through the mandatory asteroid field. Of course, there's power-ups that help you out once again, like adding A-Wing fighters for extra firepower (a la the old arcade game of Haley's Comet, and many others), shots that slice through anything, and extra lives, and there's an interesting boss of the experimental T. I. E. Destroyer that fires a ton of shots (which get even worse if you get far enough into the game where there's up to three of them on the screen at once!). Again, this is a bit on the easy side, but it's addictive for a while, which I again give this a 6.8 out of 10.
BATTLE OF ENDOR--holy crap, it's AMAZING how much this rips off the Atari Return of the Jedi coin-op game! In the first part of the game you pilot Luke on a speederbike, shooting or avoiding Storm Troopers on speederbikes and avoiding trees...just like the arcade original! Then you pilot Chew in an AT-ST...just like the original! And THEN you're Lando in the Falcon attacking the Death Star...AGAIN, like the original coin-op game! Ok, so there's a few differences this time around, like the perspective is from the side, rather than the 3/4 3-D like on the original (oh gee!). Plus there weren't power-ups like on the original, like being able to shoot behind you in the first and third stage, which helps (especially since you can't ram the Troopers into trees this time around, which I really miss doing that). And with Chewie, you don't control the AT-ST at all, you just move crosshairs to shoot Troopers on foot, and the power-up to summon a bunch of Ewoks to reign hell on troopers is hilarious. Other than that, it's like the original arcade game (still hard to believe), just not as good, as I give this one a 6 out of 10.
LIGHTSABER DUEL--ok, I don't know how to rate this one at all. This Jakks unit was purchased for my sister's kid for Christmas, which I didn't feel like memorizing a bunch of damn moves and possibly wearing out the joystick before he could get his hands on it, so I didn't bother. It's one of those millions of side-viewed, one-on-one beat 'em ups (think Mortal Kombat without the gore and replacing the hand-to-hand combat with light sabers) where you slice away and use (or repel) Force powers on opponents, unlocking various Star Wars characters as you go. The graphics are the worst of all the games on this unit (I'll cover those in my wrap-up), with giant Star Wars characters on the screen, but that's about all I can tell you, that it just seems to be a bit of a button-masher as I watched the nephew play it.
Anyway, as the title of this review states, the games are on the easy side, as this is aimed at the younger crowd, pretty much. None of them are original, and, as usual with low production costs, most of them would look embarrassing, graphics-wise, on one of the 16-bit systems (Genesis and SNES), much less on any of the current consoles nowadays. The graphics range from awful (the 'Saber Duel characters and the asteroids on Red Leader) to somewhat cool, like the shield generators on Assault on Hoth and the backgrounds on Leader with the Death Star in orbit around Endor and the Star Destroyers below. Sound's ok for the most part, although the cannon fire on Assault change in pitch per shot, sounding odd and off-key, and I don't know what on earth those sounds are on Red Leader, but it definitely isn't sounds of an X-Wing firing, that's for sure! (Why not use the Star Wars license if you've GOT it?) However, it's surreal and strange to play such "quiet" games with no music in the background (The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600 over 20 years before had more ambience than this stuff!) in this day and age, but controls work pretty well though.
I'd give this unit a 6.5 if I could, but with Stage Select, I'll have to round it down to a 6; I might even give it a 7 if I could judge all the games, but like I said, I never played the 'Saber Duel one. I played this for a few weeks before I got tired of it, so I didn't end up buying one for myself. It'd be nice if there were skill levels to be selected/there was a way to skip to the later, harder rounds, but you can't, so I'm not going to bother with a unit that I'm already not playing, since it's sitting here, and not at the nephew's place. Oh well.
And you could do worse, after all...kind of like the movie prequels of this series. 6/10