Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D is a bright success of a flight combat simulator created by LucasArts and Factor5.
Rogue Squadron 3D evolved from previous generation Star Wars flight simulators like X-Wing, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, and X-Wing Alliance. The game incorporates many of the snub fighters popularized by the movies and novels as well as the ubiquitous disc-shaped YT-1300 Light Freighter design of the Millennium Falcon (title picture). It also features minute details that evoke vivid memories from those intimately familiar with the Star Wars tale. For example, in the first level (on the desert planet of Tatooine), Luke Skywalker is piloting a "training mission" on his home planet when probe droids attack. At one point, just before the final scene in which Tie Bombers raid Mos Eisley spaceport, you can fly over to the edge of the level and kill some stormtroopers and their dewback mounts. If you look carefully, you will see a small escape pod protruding out of the sand. As I said, you have to know the storyline to understand the minor details, but the game design team certainly did its homework! And yes, you can finally race Luke's old T-16 Skyhopper like you always dreamed of...or you can hunt jawas and destroy their sandcrawler if you prefer (does the dark side call you?).
The basic gameplay of Rogue Squadron is rather straightforward. You play Luke Skywalker (or Wedge Antilles in some of the final levels) in the fight to defeat the Empire. Rogue Squadron itself evolved from Red Squadron, the outfit that Luke flew with on the Death Star Trench Run. A mission is a short (usually 3 to 15 minute long) scenario in which specific conditions are necessary for victory. You have to listen carefully to instructions, because occasionally you must take out enemies in a certain order or fly below a certain altitude; if you do not, the mission restarts and you lose a life. At the end of the level, you must stack up against a set of performance figures including the time it took you to complete the mission, the number of kills you had, the number of friendlies alive, and your accuracy. If you score high enough, you can get a bronze, silver, or gold medal (each medal requires progressively higher performance figures). You will probably not get a gold the first time past the first few levels, but you can analyze your performance at the end of the level and try again keeping the criteria in mind. Usually, medal qualification ends up being a trade off between time to complete the Rogue Squadron missions and the number of enemy kills. Occasionally, however, such as on the Chandrila and Thyferra levels, you have to make a concerted effort to protect friendly buildings and units. There are 16 regular missions and 3 bonus missions.
There are 9 different craft that you can pilot in Rogue Squadron. Each craft has slightly different performance characteristics and weapons, and each is suited to a different type of mission. Some are definitely better than others! As you progress and increase the number of missions you complete successfully as well as improving your medal totals, you will find more craft to pilot in various missions. Some, however, can only be unlocked by codes and key combinations. Here is a comprehensive list with my own analysis of their flight capabilities.
X-Wing: The standard fighter of the Rebellion. It's reliable with average speed and strong weapons, and carries 6 proton torpedoes. It is this craft that you will fly most often. Unique ability: closing the S-foils (default key of f) enables you to fly at high speed, although you are unable to use weapons while doing this.
Y-Wing: A heavy, lumbering whale of a fighter. This thing really, REALLY sucks. You actually do have to pilot the thing once or twice. Even though it's heavily shielded, it's so slow and awkward that one determined Tie Interceptor or missile launcher can easily knock it down. The Y-Wing is heavily armed, however: it bears unique armament like the ion cannon (press f or hold f to charge for a bigger blast), which can disable vehicles without damage. Try dropping its bombs on large groups of troops, and you will see how effective it can be. Don't drop bombs too low, though! Bad idea.... The Y-Wing has 20 bombs.
A-Wing: The opposite extreme of the Y-Wing, the A-Wing actually was a stunt fighter before being adapted for military purposes. As the story goes, X-Wings couldn't chase down Tie Interceptors, so these stunt fighters were developed as a remedial solution to the threat. It has very poor shielding, but the cannons can swivel and aid targeting somewhat. Maneuverability is average and speed is excellent, and the A-Wing has 8 concussion missiles (less powerful than torpedoes). This craft shows up in Return of the Jedi.
V-Wing: I don't know where this thing came into the literature, but I never heard of it before Rogue Squadron! It's moderately fast with temperamental albeit strong armament. The V-Wing has a rapid fire mode that does heavy damage as long as you don't abuse it and overheat it. It also has 6 cluster missiles that can take out 3-6 foes at once! This is most effective for flying enemies such as the TIE Specialized fighters in the final Mon Calamari level. It has a boost mode that is completely worthless; it increases speed ridiculously for a few brief seconds and then cuts off your engines entirely for a few more; I always got into trouble with the boost option. The V-Wing is also a speeder, so it floats above the ground a bit (I found this annoying and cumbersome when attacking ground targets). It has no shielding and very little armor, but it has the best maneuverability by far (the camera actually cannot keep up with it!). Interesting fact: in the N64 version, you can type the code KOELSCH in and fly a version of this that looks just like a black Buick. Hmmm.....
Speeder: This is the heavy land fighter that helped the Rebels make their stand on The Empire Strikes Back. When you have to fly this craft, you know you are going to encounter massive AT-AT walkers (All-Terrain Armored Transports). For this, you have a tow cable that works just like it did in the movies; you rap the walker with it and trip it up (just don't fly into the legs or drift too far away!). Your only other weapon is blasters, and this craft has a heavy repulsorlift coil, so attacking ground targets can be difficult and annoying.
Millennium Falcon: Over-rated. In a fighter-oriented land-based game like Rogue Squadron, the Falcon does not belong. It's big, turns badly, and features deadly armament that can kill everything in sight (including friendlies). Heavily shielded and armored with 15 proton torpedoes, but one TIE Interceptor can make a REAL bad day for you. This is only a bonus craft and not required for any missions.
TIE Interceptor: Remember capturing one in a mission? Well, if you unlock the Falcon, you can also fly the interceptor. PC users, just press the up button once you have moved your screen over to the Falcon in the fighter bay. The TIE Interceptor has no missiles or shields; one good hit and you're toast. It's not a required mission craft, so fly at your own risk!
Naboo Starfighter: In honor of the contemporary release of Episode One: The Phantom Menace, the designers released the N64 version with a code and the PC version with a patch to include Anakin's pretty cool mount. It has red exhaust on the 64 and blue exhaust on the PC, but on both versions, it is undoubtedly the best fighter. It has 10 torpedoes and fantastic maneuverability, and just might be a tad faster than the A-Wing. Its shields are also a bit better, and the craft is a lot of fun to fly. Plus, it has cool and unique-sounding lasers that fire EXTREMELY quickly. Fly this thing whenever you can.
AT-ST (All-Terrain Scout Transport) "Chicken Walker": Seriously? Yes. This tiny little walker can be piloted if you find the cheat code for it. I actually managed to beat a mission with this sucker (level one, Tatooine). It can take an incredible amount of damage, but the programming went a little funny here, so you have no secondary weapon (even though it says you do), and your shields do not diminish when you receive hits. This thing is really just an entertaining joke. Its biggest problem is visibility and quirky marksmanship; it's nearly impossible to hit a moving airborne target with this ground-based weapons platform (this is accurate as far as military science is concerned, however). Have fun! Oh, and when you die, the head pops off.
T-16 Skyhopper: For the first bonus mission, you can fly as a T-16 and race your comrades. Its armament is a joke and hardly the point, although you might be able to score some womp rats if you get bored. It has fantastic maneuverability and ok speed, though. Unlock it by getting all the bronze medals on the regular missions.
Others have already spent a lot of time assembling cheat codes. If you have the N64 version, click here. PC users click here.
Gameplay is a bit more difficult on the N64, because you have to wrestle with dual axes and a limited number of hands (a common problem for those that cannot use the Force). Otherwise, though, the games are nearly identical. To unlock the bonus missions, you must get at least all the medals of a given color for each of the regular missions. I described the bronze mission above; the silver mission is the Death Star Trench Run. The gold mission is the Battle of Hoth.
LucasArts and Factor5 teamed up to bring you Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D in December of 1998. For its time, the graphics were excellent on both platforms. The game is arguably past its prime in the gaming world, however (N64 is no longer stocked and the game ran on Windows 95 or 98 on PC), but it remains one of my favorite games. A second and third version was created for GameCube but not PC (to my great disappointment). I hope you enjoy this instant classic that has painstakingly devoted itself to following the Star Wars storyline!