(GCN / GameCube)

Game Review

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Martin Watts

A force to be reckoned with

In many ways, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader is the definitive Star Wars game. That's not to say that it's the best game that's ever been based on the franchise, but rather, it's the best at capturing the pure essence and magic of it. Developed by Factor 5 in collaboration with LucasArts, it's a technical masterpiece, and arguably the crowning moment in the development studio's history. When it launched alongside the GameCube in 2001 (2002 in Europe and Japan), it visually outclassed everything else — even Nintendo's own brilliant efforts in the form of Luigi's Mansion and Wave Race: Blue Storm.

The game is set during the events of the original trilogy, and puts you in control of renowned Rebel Alliance pilots, Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles. Unlike its N64 predecessor, the game doesn't feature an original storyline, and instead focuses on key moments from the films, such as the Death Star attack and the Battle of Hoth. In a way, it's a shame that the story doesn't venture off into the Expanded Universe and provide a new motivation for playing. However, at the same time, it is much easier to relate to and keep up with what is going on. Moreover, not all of the missions are based directly on the film. Some give you an insight into how certain things came to be; for example, how did the Rebel Alliance get its hands on the Tydirium shuttle seen during Star Wars: Return of the Jedi?

Either way, the reason why this more mainstream approach to the narrative works is because Factor 5 has meticulously reconstructed everything to an insanely accurate degree. It's as if it's taken moments from the film and directly converted them into a video game. Not only that, but — as a result of the GameCube's power — the developers have managed to recreate the impressive scale of Star Wars' grandest battles. Remember the iconic scene from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi where the Rebel Alliance is swarmed by wave after wave of enemy TIEs during the Battle of Endor? You don't just see that in Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, you play through it, with tons of allied and enemy fighters all on screen at the same time. It's a staggering feat for a title of its age, but more importantly, it considerably ramps up the fun factor.

This is all complemented by Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader's incredible visuals. Despite being one of the very first games on the system, it's also one of the best looking. The vehicle models sport intricate detail and closely mirror the actual models seen in the films. Moreover, the game environments are large and no longer suffer from the limited draw distances that plagued the original N64 title. For the most part, it runs very smoothly, although stages which use advanced visual effects are prone to some slowdown. In particular, the mission Vengeance on Kothlis contains a lot of water, all of which reflects everything in real time. This, combined with everything else that's going on, really does put the hardware through its paces, but it never reaches the point of being unplayable.

If there's one thing that virtually all Star Wars games get right, it's the audio elements, and Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader doesn't disappoint here. Most of the sound effects and music have been taken directly from the source material, and the voice-over work is boosted by the exceptional talents of Bob Bergen and Dennis Lawson (who played the role of Wedge in the original films). Interestingly, the menus feature looped video content from the films, and while it may only be a small detail, it helps to strengthen the already strong production values of this title.

When it comes to the all-important gameplay itself, this title thankfully excels. It's made up of ten missions (and some bonus levels), in which you have to complete various objectives while fending off the Empire. The mission format varies between assault, escort and defence tasks, with many of your objectives changing during the course of the mission itself. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader is by no means a technical game, and instead offers an arcade-style experience that's relatively easy to control. With that said, the sensitivity for controlling your ship's movement is a tad high, meaning that targeting smaller enemies can sometimes be a bit fiddly.

If there's one criticism that can be fairly leveled at this game, it's that it's just way too short. You can reach the end credits in under two hours, and while it's a complete blast along the way, you can't help but wish for more. It incorporates a medal system that grades you on your performance throughout, but this only really appeals to completionists in the long term. The game does feature bonus missions, but again, these don't add a great deal to the experience. When you also factor in that there's no multiplayer mode, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader is a rather limited experience.


Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader is a technical marvel, serving up the perfect melange of gameplay, visuals and authentic Star Wars goodness. Factor 5 has stunningly recreated the franchise's deep universe to a degree rarely seen in licensed video games. Disappointingly, it's a very brief experience, but one that you should enjoy nevertheless. This is without a shadow of a doubt one of the GameCube's finest games.

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User Comments (57)



grenworthshero said:

The best one in the series, and a serious console-seller (or me, anyway). The first one was great, but this improved on everything. RSIII had some pretty lackluster on-foot missions but it was fun, too. Shame Lucas Arts is dead...



KeeperBvK said:

Shame Factor 5 is dead!
Yeah, this was awesome game, and jaw-dropping in a way we might never experience again. Still an utterly beautiful game in fact.
The GameCube sure had a great launch with Luigi's Mansion, Wave Race Blue Storm, this and Super Monkey Ball. Kept me busy for months on end without the need for any other games...or so it could have been, if it hadn't been for SSBM which came out maybe two weeks after or so in Europe. Man, I've sunk endless hours into that as well.



RevolverLink said:

I was completely blown away by Rogue Squadron II's visuals when it came out. Before I bought a GameCube in Spring 2002, I would walk two miles to the local Kmart (back when my town still had one of those) every other weekend just to play the in-store demo of RSII and marvel at how pretty it was.



Shiryu said:

This is my favourite Star Wars game ever, I still play it regularly, even more so than it's sequel. This was the first gamer that truly the visuals matched the original trilogy. I bought a Game Cube for "F-Zero GX" but I assure you this was a very close second reason. I would have never believed Factor 5's fate after "Lair" on PS3 or the fact that even after all of this technology evolution there hasn't been a single better Star Wars game yet... hope you have a GC Compatible Wii, because this is worth every penny.



AcridSkull said:

A truly great game and incredibly fun to go back to today. Recently I spent a couple of hours just flying around the training stage attempting to do the numerous mini-missions, races and discover all of the items; as you say the controls are maybe a little too responsive.
Hands down my favourite Star Wars game.



hendie001 said:

Just wish III would have been better. I bought a set of component cables for my cube just for II. Well worth the 100 bucks cause this games visuals are crazy. It almost tops anything i have seen on my wii.



Ootfan98 said:

The definition of squid tease:
Logging onto Nintendolife and seeing Rogue Squadron 2 in big letters, thinking it is this weeks Wii U Virtual Connsole announcement, then to see the word Review.

Fantastic game. Still play this everynow and then. I still only have Silver Medals for each level. I thought 3 was not as good, although it did have the bonus of having the original arcades in the disco area



itsgood2slide said:

What a great launch line-up the Gamecube had: Super Monkey Ball, Wave Race Blue Storm, Rogue Leader... no wonder it was the first console I had on day one : D



The-Chosen-one said:

i loved this game to bits, this game would be perfect with the WiiU controller, and multiplayer mode, would be cool to have something different, but hey its just an idea like when u play Multiplayer mode or something, where u can control a huge ship, with many players, one or 2 in the control room, steering, different guys controlling the guns, one or 2 guys can run arround in the ship, doing maintenance, repairs, and give reports on damages, and other stuff but hey just as i said its just an idea.



Mk_II said:

Bought this when i got my Cube Double Dash bundle. Best Star Wars game ever, period.



moomoo said:

The graphics on this games look better than most Wii games (and its a Gamecube launch title)



FantasiaWHT said:

"even Nintendo's own brilliant efforts in the form of Luigi's Mansion and Wave Race: Blue Storm."


Ok, that aside, yes, this game is brilliant. I'd give it a 10. The shortness didn't detract from the game at all for me. It's still a gorgeous game to play, to this very day. I still dust it off every now and then.



pikku said:

The first screenshot in the article blows my mind every time, haha. o_o



crumpledpapyrus said:

This was the first title I played on the GameCube and it blew me away! The visuals still look fantastic today!



rjejr said:

"it's the best at capturing the pure essence and magic of it. Developed by Factor 5 in collaboration with LucasArts, it's a technical masterpiece, and arguably the crowning moment in the development studio's history. When it launched alongside the GameCube in 2001 (2002 in Europe and Japan), it visually outclassed everything else"

I've been waiting for a game like this on the WiiU. Not Star Wars but something that was worthy of notice. X looks good, but it still doesn't have a date.

And can anybody explain to me why Nintendo had a tech demo of a photo-realistic bird flying around a japanese garden? There hasn't been a game that looks anything like that from them or anyone else that I've seen. At least when they showed off the power of the Gamecube w/ the Zelda tech demo, well it was Link so that made sense, even if it did severely depress everybody when they saw the Windwaker graphics.

Oh well, maybe the Pikmin ND tomorrow will blow me away.



Than64 said:

My brother and I saved up to buy the GameCube and this game at the same time. I spent hours with it, just trying to get the golds. I still haven't gotten them all, or even half!



Ristar42 said:

This and the sequel we're influential in me buying a Gamecube, the sequel adding a two player version of the first game's missions and the original arcade games was also a nice surprise.
Great atmosphere of the films and fun arcade style gameplay, real shame the series stopped there.



rmeyer said:

Poor company. I wish Nintendo would have picked these guys up. This was an incredibly talented studio.



JayceJa said:

love this game so much, it's a crime that there hasnt been another comparable game since, it was so disappointing that the ship missions in the old republic were on rails rather than playing like this game did

this and jedi knight 2: jedi outcast were two games that i played to death back in the day on the gamecube



Philip_J_Reed said:

This is one of the games that convinced me to buy a Game Cube. I played it at a friend's house and couldn't believe how much fun it was.

The kicker? I don't even like Star Wars. I had no interest in it at all. But MAN was this game fun...and to this day it's the only Star Wars game I've bought.



Mr_Vengeance said:

Some of the graphics on early Gamecube games are still incredible - like this one. A system where the games age very, very well in my view.

I love the Rogue Squadron series, apart from the dodgy on-foot sections in the last game. My favourite is the first though on the N64 - it had the best level designs!



FlaccidSnake said:

This one game is the reason why we need to start seeing GC games on the eshop. There are so many fantastic games to be played.



KeeperBvK said:

@pikku And which one would that be? You realize, that pictures in reviews are always randomized here on NL, don't you?



blackknight77 said:

I love this game. Rogue Squadron III was good too, but this one has always been my favorite. This is exactly what I want from a Star wars game.



bofis said:

This would make a fantastic 3D remake on 3DS, was my favorite Rogue Squadron game!



Emblem said:

This is my best flight game ever, followed closely by StarFox 64. They need to bring this to Wii U VC with an online multiplayer option.



sketchturner said:

I can't see how anyone could complete this game in two hours. Sure, it only has 10 levels [plus SEVERAL bonus levels and much replayability] but many of those 10 levels took me several hours each to complete. Especially Battle of Endor and Vengeance on Kothlis.

In fact, that's my only criticism of this game is that it's so difficult that once I finally completed it, I didn't want to return to it. But maybe I just stink at this style of game?



Giygas_95 said:

I got this along with Luigi's Mansion back around the time the Gamecube released. Good times...



DerpSandwich said:

I was blown away by the graphics when this first came out. It was amazing that they could get that much out of the Gamecube so early in its life.



Omarzuqo said:

The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant compared to the awesomeness of this game.



timp29 said:

Never managed to find this in a second hand bin in Australia. Now gamecube games are pretty hard to come by, and I've packed up my Wii



FritzFrapp said:

Luigi's Mansion, Rogue Leader and the God tier Super Monkey Ball, followed by Smash Bros Melee and Pikmin within a month – GameCube had the best launch line-up of any system bar none. Good times.



BulbasaurusRex said:

One of the best launch games of all time!

By the way, the medals do have a purpose: unlocking the bonus missions, while the short length is offset by the difficulty level; I still haven't beaten anything past the first 3 missions without the cheat codes.



NImH said:

This is the definitive Star Wars game. I have always held it in high esteem.



mikeyman64 said:

This one was fun, but I don't think I gave it a 9/10... seeing as how I no longer have it. :-/



MakeMyBiscuit said:

Fantastic review! I totally agree. This is one of the reasons I will hold onto my Gamecube enabled Wii. Playing it in 480p is AWESOME! I am proud to say I am owner of the whole Rogue Squadron trilogy. The original N64 game is one of the reasons I recently bought a Nintendo 64. Combined with the Expansion Pak and a special adapter that converts my N64 video cable to HD 1080p, even the original looks good on my HD TV and of course all the games sound amazing! A very incredible feat by Factor 5 with the memory limitations of the N64 cart.

It is a shame there was no proper Rougue Squadron trilogy re-release on the Wii when Factor 5 was still around



Ras said:

This was the reason I got a GameCube. Fantastic graphics, but I don't love the game. Too hard for me. I barely made it past the debris field mission and have never seen beyond the water planet level. It didn't look as good, but I preferred the original Rogue Squadron.



Ichiban said:

Still looks better than most if not all current Wii U games!
This just makes me sad, by reminding me how awesome the Gamecube was (This was a freaking launch title!!!) and how no Nintendo home console has come close to touching its greatness ever since.........excuse me while I have a cry!



ted-k said:

@Ras I also found this game unbearably frustrating and tedious to play. I got to the level where you have to rescue some people on a train or something. It took like 10 minutes to get past the initial part of the stage and then when I reached the planet, before I could even figure out what I was supposed to do the time would run out. Then it was back to starting over going through the whole boring first part of the stage again. After 5 or so tries I got fed up and never touched it again. A few checkpoints would have made this game way more fun. Maybe I should haul it out and give it another chance though.



Sinister said:

One of the best games ever made and my favorite GC game. I even think it still looks really good by todays standards.
This was the reason i picked up a GC at launch. Loved the N64 predecessor but did not like its sequel because of the levels on foot.
If this game ever ends up in the Virtual Console it will be a day 1 buy for me.



MegaWatts said:

@Ras I'm surprised you found it so difficult — I've always found the original game to be much more difficult! Missions like Raid on Sullust and Prisons of Kessel were vicious! If you get the chance, maybe you should give it another go?



Ras said:

@MegaWatts You're probably right. I still have my Gamecube and my Wii, so I should throw it in (only the Wii is currently hooked up!). I also have a demo version of Rebel Strike, but I never bought that game. I think it's kind of expensive now.



DaemonSword said:

EA will never, ever be able to create the magic that NiN and Factor 5 did with this series.



BulbasaurusRex said:

@MegaWatts Actually, there is a reason to get Rebel Strike if you can find it cheap. It allows you to play through the Rogue Leader missions in 2 player co-op, probably the best thing about the entire game.



Trikeboy said:

It probably will never happen but this would be a day one download if it came to the Wii U eShop. I loved the first N64 game and Battle for Naboo but this one was a game changer. The missions, the audio, the visuals. It was all perfect. The first time I headed down the trench on the first level and heard "the Force is strong with this one" I knew I had to get it. It was my first Gamecube game along with Smash Bros.

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