GAME REVIEW

Your Very Own Lightsaber – No Jedi Training Required

Just like anyone else who saw the original “Star Wars” when it was released back in the late ’70s, I’ve always wanted to enter the galactic fray and emerge triumphant in a lightsaber duel, to cross swords with a Dark Side opponent and hear the vwhoom-vwhoom as my saber slices through the air and sparks fly.

It’s a fantasy that I expected would remain unfulfilled — until, that is, LucasArts decided to develop and release a game that focuses solely on lightsaber battles and uses the Nintendo Wii’s unique motion sensor controllers to facilitate play. For anyone who longed to lock glowstick-like blades with Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress, General Grievous or other followers of the Dark Side, then “Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Lightsaber Duels,” a Wii exclusive, is just the ticket.

Feeling the Force

Developed by Krome Studios, “Lightsaber Duels” transports gamers into the world of the “Star Wars” universe as it appears in the “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” animated film. Players assume the persona of their favorite Jedi hero or Clone War villain, and duels take place in the same locations featured in the recent movie, including the Teth Castle Dungeon.

The game, like just about everything else in the Star Wars realm, begins in a “galaxy far, far, away” as the Clone Wars rage throughout the galaxy. Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano and crew have been sent to rescue the son of Jabba the Hut.

However, before players can take on the role of a Jedi knight, there is a brief tutorial — a basic training that shows them how to use the Wii remote and nunchuk in saber play. As Padawan Ahsoka Tano, gamers learn how to run, pull off basic lightsaber moves and use the force to battle their foes. The cool thing here is that the demo includes a pair of hands holding the game controllers and demonstrating how to use them — very helpful.

Once I had the basics, I moved on to the real action. As a newbie, I initially chose the “Youngling” skill level, but quickly found that I liked the challenge of the “Padawan” and “Jedi Knight” levels. There is also a “Grand Master” level, but you really have to be at the top of your game, so to speak. After only 10 or so hours with the game, my efforts at this level of play were woefully inadequate.

After choosing the skill level, it’s time to decide on the game type. Players can opt for the “Campaign,” which will take you from one opponent to the another until the quests are completed for that skill level. Each level represents the classic battles from the film, and fighting the “Campaign” will also unlock characters to play as or fight against in the game’s other modes — Challenge, Multiplayer, Free Play and Battle modes.

In “Challenge,” players select characters based on particular strengths and whether they want to fight for the Light or Dark Side of the Force — good guys or bad guys, essentially. Completing each challenge will unlock more costumes, characters and extras.

“Battle” mode pits you against one opponent after the another as you attempt to become the greatest lightsaber duelist in the galaxy. Gamers can also get in a quick game using “Quickplay” mode that chooses the character and location randomly.

For more diverse battles, players can play each other in head-to-head combat in either “Freeplay” or “Quickplay” modes.

In the Game

What I really liked was that each outing, no matter what mode I chose, started with a cinematic bit where the combatants squared off against one another and had a brief trash talking session. Once the game begins, the trash talking continues depending on which character has landed the most blows recently.

As each stage has two locations, these vignettes also serve as transitions between locations and really do make you feel immersed in the game. The game’s graphics also contribute to the feeling of being a part of the film, with animated portions only slightly better looking than the actual duels.

After a few hours of playing as Anakin Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi, I wished that I could take a stab at the game using my Mii, a customized avatar integrated into some Wii games. That’s a level of personalization that would be truly immersive, but perhaps it wouldn’t have been so consistent with the whole “Star Wars” thing.

Overall, “Lightsaber Duels” is just what I imagined it would be — fun, exciting and challenging. Just one word of warning: Your arm might be a little sore afterwards.

The game hits store shelves Nov. 11. It’s priced at US$49.99

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