I know what a few of you are thinking, why not just go with the original X-Wing games, which were predecessors to the Rogue Squadron series. Those wouldn’t be bad either, but the RS games had a greater mass appeal, by letting gamers and fans take part in one of the more famous fighter squadrons in all of Star Wars lore. The stories took us beyond the films (into them as well) and for those of us without a PC capable of playing the X-Wing games, it brought the experience of starship fighting to the home console.
The first game in the series, simply Rogue Squadron was one of the first games on the Nintendo 64 to utilize the console’s additional expansion pak. This allowed the game to be played at a higher resolution (a whopping 640×480!) and was lauded for it’s technical prowess by critics upon it’s release. When it released back in 1998 it was outsold only by Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time, but more importantly, when looking back it’s easy to see that Rogue Squadron revitalized the Star Wars license on the home consoles, where it had been severely dragging behind. Hell before it came out the best that console gamers had were the Super Nintendo games based on the movies. While those were fun, they weren’t exactly groundbreaking either.
Besides all that, it was just a fun game! Whereas Star Fox provided a good linear flying experience, Rogue Squadron let you feel as if you were actually flying a starship around. You had freedom, more maneuverability, and a host of various weapons and upgrades. So what the hell happened to this franchise?
The second game in the franchise, Rogue Leader, was a launch game for the GameCube and was a major graphical upgrade. It added some new features, like the ability to send your squad to attack specific targets or form up to protect you. It was received well and got some nice reviews, but already critics were noticing that it featured more of the same. The real problem with the franchise came with the third and final entry, Rebel Strike.
Essentially this franchise suffered for the same reasons Star Fox did: on foot missions. Rebel Strike featured missions that made players exit their starships and tackle things on foot. The appeal of the Rogue Squadron games is how well done the flying is. The technical abilities in that regard were amazing, but when it came to walking around and shooting on foot, it was nearly laughable. The controls felt clunky, the shooting wasn’t intuitive, and overall being on foot felt more like a chore rather than an interesting part of the game.
After this the developer, Factor 5, moved on to the next generation with their dragon game, Lair (which was critically panned) and since then they haven’t been doing much of anything. Fans of the Rogue Squadron series have been clamoring and asking Lucasarts for another entry to the franchise, but unfortunately those pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears. With the recent acquisition of all things Star Wars by Disney, however, maybe there’s still hope for this franchise to see a return and allow us to once again suit up and fly in the galaxy far, far away (especially considering all the great expanded universe material they could draw upon for the story).
My dream team for bringing a new RS game to life is going to be Incognito Entertainment; the guys who made Warhawk on the PS3. I know many fans want Factor 5 to come back to the franchise, but at this point, I honestly have little faith in their ability to do it right. The failure of Rebel Strike couple with the many issues Lair had on the PS3 doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Incognito however, has a good reputation with franchises (Twisted Metal), and Warhawk was a great flying game with some intense battles and fast-paced gameplay, that would be perfect for Rogue Squadron.
I’m not sure how likely this reboot is, but considering that Star Wars has new movies on the way, the brand is about to become ridiculously hot once again. So there are plenty of chances it could happen.