You’ve seen me talk about my experiences with the two Jedi Knight games that Aspyr have ported to the Switch. I enjoyed what I played, but they felt like they were showing their age. Still fine games, but plenty of little quirks that can sour the experience. I’d never played those two before, except a brief outing on Academy, and I’d never played this next one either.
There were plenty of Star Wars games of the old times that I’d never got around to playing, to be fair. The same friend who’d introduced me to the series through Battlefront 2 had showed off the Revenge of the Sith game, but for a number of years, I was content to just collect the new releases and not look back.
Then, when my love for the franchise had solidified, I started to look back on gaining some experience of those older games. I enjoyed my time with some of them, and others not so much, but there was one I was particularly curious about – especially having played an arcade version of it while at Disney Quest in America. Podracing.
Properly known as Star Wars Racer Arcade, it was a counterpart to the console release of the previous year, allowing people to properly get a feel for controlling a pod as accurately as possible. I’d had fun with that even if I was never much good, but the fact there was a console game had me wanting to check it out. I never saw it, or its sequel, anywhere.
I’d lost interest in finding it after some years, and mostly forgot about it soon after. Imagine my surprise, then, that Aspyr would be porting it to the Switch. I’d finally get the chance to experience it, and enjoy what plenty of others had upon its original release. Even with it being twenty years old, I think I still felt amazed at what I was playing.
I’d fired it up and dived into a practise race, choosing Anakin just because, and lost myself in the wonder of driving the pods. That first race on Tatooine felt great, helping me learn the basics and enjoying the sheer speed on offer within the game without much fear of encountering others. I felt those basics were good enough to tackle the tournament, but for that I chose a different racer.
Ody Mandrell served me well for the starting tournament, with the second run of the Tatooine course going even more smoothly than the first. But it was after that race that I was getting a bit irritated at the sound. The pods just drone on in a monotonous thrum of engines, never reacting to turns, slides or even deceleration. I’d turned it down in the menu options, and continued on.
Across the other six races, I found variety among them. Whether that be the ice caverns of Ando Prime, the industrial mining operation of Mon Gazza, or the underwater tunnels of Aquilaris, each race offered new landscapes, and new obstacles and layouts to quickly memorise to make the run through each course the quickest I could. Sometimes the obstacles were less than fair, but that can be attributed to the reflexes needed to assess and avoid them.
For a twenty year old game, it holds up well. The draw distance leaves a bit of a stench on an otherwise great experience, as it makes the idea of split paths that offer shortcuts a bit more difficult to realise when such shortcut routes are obscured until the last second, where it’s easy to miss them throughout the whole race at times.
The one thing this experience has given me is a stronger desire for a modern version of a Podracing game. Everything here feels great, but it also feels held back by the time it released. Whether such a modern version would have the same feel (or even surpass it) is a question for another time, however.
As it is, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of Episode 1: Racer, and have jumped back in on occasion to make a bit more progress or just have a bit of fun. I’d love to get to the point where I’ve unlocked all the tracks so as to race the one track that I’m sure everyone would love to race on (the one from the film), but it’s very likely I won’t get to that point just yet.
Of the three games that Aspyr have ported so far, then, this one is certainly my favourite. I will always enjoy a racing game, as even if the mechanics aren’t totally great, they can still provide entertainment more so than an action game whose point is to beat up enemies.