In 2000, Lucasarts produced an abysmal Star Wars beat-em-up called Jedi Power Battles. While it was slightly playable on the Dreamcast, the Playstation was not kind to gamers. It’s a shame too since Star Wars lends itself so well to this classic born-in-the-arcade genre. Finally, with Episode III, it works.
Following the plotline of the film, Episode III on the DS is a 2-D beat-em-up mixed in with some brief 3-D flight segments. The latter is the only thing separating it from the Game Boy Advance versions. All of the fighting segments are exactly the same as they are on the GBA.
That’s hardly a complaint. It covers everything a successful beat-em-up needs to, including spot-on hit detection, a plethora of destructive moves to keep things fresh, and replay value in the form of Obi-Wan and Anakin who take different paths through the game. The sprites feature an enormous amount of animation, replicating the lightsaber battles in perfect 2-D form. Enemies are somewhat varied, though not enough to keep this from becoming repetitive at a few points.
The boss battles attempt to add some variety, and slightly miss the mark. Lightsaber duels take place on a single plane. All you’re required to do is block high or low and then counter-attack. Other bosses have specific ways to be destroyed, and those add the needed refreshment from the basic hacking.
These stages also feature hazards, most of which simply end up becoming annoying. Falling objects that drop too quick to avoid are not fun, and they serve no purpose. To get you through these few rough spots, you always know that at the end of a level, you can power-up your chosen Jedi in a few different categories, or add a new force move to your repertoire. Some of these prove to almost essential (health restore), while others provide entertainment value (force push a rock onto a clone trooper).
One of the traps you almost expect this game to fall into is the two very different gameplay mechanics. Surprisingly, the 3-D segments are simply fantastic, maintaining a smooth frame rate (60 fps solid) while providing some gorgeous detail. This is the reason to buy the DS version over the one on the GBA. Control is smooth, even without analog control. Better yet, it’s multi-player compatible, so up to four players can battle it out wirelessly.
The only use of the touch screen is for some extra, more powerful screen clearing Jedi maneuvers. It’s more of an annoyance than anything, since the two extra face buttons on the console go unused, instead requiring players to take their hands off the controls and tap the bottom screen. This is the type of thing that needs to be avoided on the DS, and this game shows you why.
While they borrowed most of this game from the GBA, the audio has received a make over. The DS seems to have more power than you would expect, almost magically replicating the Star Wars soundtrack without a problem. It’s even more impressive considering the game card size. It even sounds good coming from the basic speakers, but headphones are the right way to go.
While it does seem lazy that all the developers did was reprogram a game for the DS, at the very least, they picked a good one. The addition of the space levels is pulled off better than you would likely ever expect, and the beat-em-up segments are pure nostalgia. This just barely misses the mark of being the best DS game available due to a few bad design choices.