Star Wars: Episode I - Racer

released on May 18, 1999

Star Wars: Episode 1 - Racer lets you participate in the famous pod race sequence that was the critical highlight of the 1999 film Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace. These lightning-quick vehicles are capable of reaching simulated speeds of up to 600 miles per hour while skimming a mere 4 feet above the ground. You can race alone or against a friend in split-screen mode on more than 21 courses among eight worlds. Take the controls as Jedi-to-be Anakin Skywalker or any one of over 20 pod racers. Feel the full-force blast while avoiding hazards such as methane lakes, meteor showers, and the unfriendly Tusken Raiders.

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I haven't played a ton of them but for a late 90s racing game, this was honestly kinda fun. I'm impressed that it's aged pretty decently and still plays well in its re-released form.

Look, the prequel trilogy is pretty bad, but preteen-me didn't care about that. I was knocking back Pepsi with Boss Nass on the can and terrorizing my younger sister by rolling towards her screaming "I'M A DROIDEKA!" By that point I was already ingesting a steady diet of Star Wars crap - reading Shadows of the Empire comics, collecting pogs with Dark Prince Xizor on them, and wearing the tape out on my Special Edition copies of the original trilogy; I wasn't just swept up in the hype, I had become one with it. It is perhaps for this reason that I still hold The Phantom Menace up as the best in the prequel trilogy. Yeah, it's still bad but I think it's better than what came after. From time you time, you might catch me making the case that it used more practical effects and sets, that Yoda was still a puppet or whatever, but that's a weak argument. No, it's because I was directly in the target demo when it came out, and because seeing a new Star Wars movie wasn't just special in 1999, it was almost unexpected. Of course it was going to imprint something onto me.
Anyway, hearing Greg Proops say "Beeeeeeen Quadinaros!" has a calming effect on me, like the gentle crash of waves easing me into the ocean. Fun fact: you can pay Greg to say that or any podracer's name on Cameo and he'll not only do it, he'll put a little mustard on it for you, because he's just that kind of professional. How do I know this? I've made some financial decisions that are unwise but which I do not regret, thank you for asking.
Naturally, I loved Star Wars: Episode One - Racer when it came out. Played the hell out of it. It only seemed fitting to buy a cart and add it to my Nintendo 64 collection back when I was building that (along with Shadows of the Empire and Rogue Squadron.) Just like the prequel trilogy, I think Episode One - Racer is something I liked way more as a kid and whose faults only became perceptible to me with age.
Controls are tight and I never felt like they were encumbered in any noticeable way by the N64's wacky gamepad, and there's a good variety of racers and parts for your pods to fine tune things to your liking. The presentation is also on point, and it almost goes without saying that the sound design is excellent. All of this is exactly how I remembered, Watto saying "eeeugh, anybody seen-ah my chance cube?" has never sounded better. What I don't remember is these tracks being long as hell. Too long, even! As courses become more narrow and rich with hazards, you'll find yourself in a position where you've blown the hell up one too many times for the race to be salvageable, and the thought of having to make up for the sheer length of time you've spent on a race that's become unwinnable just makes quitting out and retrying that much more aggravating.
I also have to acknowledge the fact that I played this game on a 4k TV using a Retrotink, and although the Retrotink is a far better option than your run-of-the-mill no brand upscalers on Amazon, it still has some issues with brightness and color vibrancy. There are some courses here that are dark, and while they're perfectly readable on a CRT, when you pass them through an upscaler you're just asking to careen into a pillar or wall that you couldn't see coming. So I'm taking that into consideration with my complaints, and even then I don't think the issues I mentioned are so severe that they encroach on the experience in a significant way.
But... maybe I'm making excuses again? Maybe this is just another version of my "Phantom Menace still used a puppet for Yoda. It has Yaddle in it, man. Yaddle." Some sick problem I have where I see a podracer and I take my shirt off, pound my chest, and walk around the room shouting "Yes! YES!" It just does something to me.

Episode One - Racer
gets four kisses on the cheek out of five.

Star Wars Episode 1: Racer might have been the most opportunistic game ever made. It was released in a thriving time for racing games, which were benefiting from 3D environments for the first time on the 5th generation of consoles. It was also a franchise title in an era where franchise titles were not immediately written off, and not only that, but a franchise title for one of the most beloved sci-fi series of all time, which debuted a highly anticipated film the very same day the game launched. Failure-in the market at least-was never an option, and it remains the best-selling sci-fi racing game ever made to this day. Unfortunately, the gameplay never matched the promise of the game's potential, and were it not a Star Wars related media, it would likely have been forgotten to the annals of time. Perhaps it should have been.
One thing you absolutely must give Star Wars Episode 1: Racer credit for is how well it captures speed. Racing feels very fast, and it can take a while to adjust to how quickly you'll come up on turns or breeze past obstacles. The courses are decently detailed with obstacles and objects to sail past, which helps sell the game's blazing speed. Unfortunately, the most detailed course in the world wouldn't impress much in this game; the framerate drags in even the most mundane setting, and if you're unfortunate enough to have a few racers or a couple foreground objects alongside you, performance will suffer greatly for it. SWE1:R is a game that often requires a lot of precise movements or narrow cubbies to maneuver through, and that doesn't work when the game's performance is so questionable. Of course, for most of the tournament mode it won't matter; AI is quite poor throughout, except when it comes to the final levels, where difficulty spikes immensely. It's also totally inconsistent; the same AI racer will finish two identical races dozens of seconds apart for no real reason. A lot of the time, winning the harder races just feels like racing over and over until the AI somehow screws up.
Even without the poor AI, playing through this title is a bit of an undertaking, and it doesn't do itself any favors. Graphics aren't fantastic even for the time, but what's made worse is that so many of the courses are visually dull. The Star Wars franchise has dozens of iconic locations that would be fun to race in from the original trilogy alone, so it's bizarre that so many of these courses feel like "generic mountain" or "generic jungle". Some of them are also far too long; it's not uncommon for a course to have a roughly 3-minute lap, which is far too long for an arcade style racer. And it doesn't help that there's no reliable map to go off of-the one provided is a series of unintelligible dots which convey little information. Pod racers can also be damaged (and repaired) during races, and while it's a nice idea that introduces a bit of a risk/reward factor, its inclusion often does more harm than good. It's difficult to tell when you're going to need to turn and by how much-and the N64's joystick certainly doesn't help-so you'll find your pod racer becoming very familiar with the walls of each race course.
One of the most bizarre decisions involving this title is the soundtrack. During racing, no music will play during the first 2 laps; only upon the final lap does a Star Wars song kick in. It's not the biggest detriment to the quality of the game, but it does feel emblematic of its many shortcomings; just like music only plays during a third of the race, it feels like this game is only a third of what it should be. The multiplayer can be a somewhat fun experience, but seems as the requirement to get any serious enjoyment out of this title in the modern day is to have played it 20 years ago. Currently, it doesn't offer anything to come back to, and is thoroughly outpaced by its contemporaries. In truth, with F-Zero X releasing the previous year, this game was obsolete on arrival, and only its name kept it relevant. How appropriate, then, that Star Wars Episode 1: Racer is a game whose name is just as janky and poorly thought-out as its gameplay is.

I normally don't like the monotony of racing games, but this one is quite good. Everything i expected from an adaptation of the pod racer scene in episode I, even if the graphics look very dated and I had to Google what the controls even were

Enfatiza-se a ambientação e atmosfera, seu design audiovisual peculiar propociona uma experiencia intrigante e imersiva ainda hoje. Destacando-se inclusive dentre jogos atuais de propostas parecidas, funcionando bem também enquanto jogo.

An abysmal title for a game but still holds up after all these years. They say this got a "graphics enhancement" being ported to PS4 and Xbox One but I dunno lol. The title screen is just a stretched out PNG. The core gameplay is neat though. Racing around tracks, boosting and maintaining your giant engines while knocking into other characters. There's still a taunt function that I never got sick of as a kid playing as Anakin. Doesn't really hold up while I play as Gasgano and don't know what he's saying but still a neat feature. Pretty decently robust game too with 25 tracks and a shop to upgrade all your parts. Also after going through the "story" you get Sebulba who has cheaty flamethrower move. Good shit. Just like I remember. Not as cool as the arcade version where you sit in a cockpit basically but what could be that cool? Worth playing for nostalgia.