Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

• Star Wars: Battlefront from LucasArts for Xbox and PlayStation 2 (Rated T: Content may be suitable for players ages 13 and older, $49.99) and Star Wars Trilogy: Apprentice of the Force from Ubisoft for Game Boy Advance (Rated E: Content may be suitable for players ages 6 and older, $29.99).

The epic mythology of “Star Wars” continues to stay firmly planted in multimedia pop-culture circles despite the fact that the final film in the series does not arrive in theaters until May.

This can be attributed to the recent release of the trilogy of the original films (“A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”) on DVD and two great video games that immerse fans in a universe that existed a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

First, players become the grunts of a galactic conflict in Star Wars: Battlefront. Set up for either a solo soldier, two warriors playing on one console (viewed via a split screen) or a colossal multiplayer extravaganza requiring a broadband Internet connection, the game combines the meticulous recreation of famous environments seen in the “Star Wars” films with third-person action.

The fun adventure involves choosing a historical period (Clone Wars or Galactic Civil War), choosing a side within the time frame (Republic or Separatist, Imperial or Rebel), and picking one of 20 soldier types to portray and a planet on which to wage a battle.

Solo players have the option of working through the Historical Campaign mode to become part of all six movies while visiting a dozen landscapes or simply try to conquer a galaxy, planet by planet.

Soldiers used are not of the heroic variety but rather range from a lowly clone trooper packing a missile launcher to a Separatist super battle ‘droid to a Rebel pilot (in orange flight suit) wielding a blaster cannon.

“Star Wars” moments proliferate on the screen; a John Williams musical score pipes in; authentic sound effects pummel the eardrums; and multiple species and familiar characters such as Tusken raiders, Wookiees, Jawas and Luke Skywalker make appearances.

The action is as chaotic as it is detailed as the player runs alongside comrades and begins seeking out opposing forces while trying to secure command posts and take control of an area.

This fun may not mean much to nonconnoisseurs of the Force, but the ability to explore a dozen landscapes found on celestial bodies such as Endor, Tatooine, Kamino and the jungle moon of Yavin 4 is quite an eye-popping experience.

Running alongside Jedi knights or watching Darth Vader as he single-handedly wipes out a garrison of Rebel scum is a sight to behold.

Additionally, LucasArts just does not let the players run around and shoot opponents with blasters but allows them to take control of any heavy weapon, vehicle or creature not occupied. That means a jaunt aboard a snow speeder on Hoth or even a smelly Tauntaun, wielding a Geonosian sonic blaster and piloting an X-Wing.

Of course, fanatics displeased with George Lucas’ choice of creatures in some of his films can now take out their ire by blasting furry Ewoks on Endor or taking out a klutzy brethren of Jar Jar Binks on Naboo. It’s nice that Mr. Lucas tries to please all fans.

The second “Star Wars” gaming challenge, Apprentice of the Force, demands that a single player battle his way through the entire first trilogy of movies in about a dozen condensed levels.

Crammed into a roughly 3-inch-wide screen, Luke Skywalker must battle the forces of evil to destroy the Death Star and take on Darth Vader in quite a rousing adventure.

Even though checking in at a mere quarter-inch on the screen, our blaster- and eventual light-sabre-wielding hero is quite acrobatic and realistic as he flips over ominous caverns, climbs Cloud City walls, wields the force to move obstacles and trains with Yoda in the swamps of Dagobah.

The game requires that Luke hack and slash his way through masses of Tusken raiders, storm troopers and Wampa ice creatures and even take control of an X-Wing as he combs the trenches of the Death Star, all the while protecting R2-D2, rescuing Princess Leia and saving a galaxy.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@

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