Games TV Discussion

Star Wars: The Clone Wars #43 – ‘Button-Mashing, Droid-Smashing’ – TV Rewind

In this ongoing series, Ian Blackout revisits Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The TV show may have ended, but the war isn’t over yet…

Republic Heroes (2009)

Developed by Krome Studios, written by Stephen Melching and Richard Lagarto.

And so we reach the final chapter of our canonical, chronological lookback at The Clone Wars. To celebrate this we bend the only rules we’ve put in place, as the 2009 game Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Republic Heroes actually takes place between the first and second seasons of the show. Also it’s no longer canon, so on a technical level it doesn’t.

Heavily marketed at the time as contributing to the ongoing story, Republic Heroes was collateral damage when the Star Wars Expanded Universe material was rebranded as ‘Legends’ so that The Force Awakens could begin on a blank page. Only The Clone Wars‘ TV episodes remained as a verified part of the ‘new’ continuity, and it’s worth noting that this soft-reboot also applied to a swathe of comics and novels based around the series. But unlike Jacen, Jaina and the Yuuzhan Vong, no post-2013 material has been created to gainsay the existence of Republic Heroes‘ events, and since the production also utilises the full voice-cast from the show for its dialogue, that’s close enough to warrant inclusion in our retrospective series…

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Published through Lucasarts and developed by Krome Studios for Xbox 360, Nintendo (Wii and DS), Playstation (2, 3 and PSP) and Windows, Republic Heroes flits between drifting isometric tableaus when playing as Jedi, and what’s closer to a third-person shooter layout when controlling the Clonetroopers. The game focuses on the action and intrigue aspects of Star Wars for obvious reasons, and its pacing is well suited to the 22-minute format which inspired it. There are optional timed side-missions along the way to earn extra points, but for the most part this is a strict A>B playing experience.

We open with Anakin and Ahsoka mopping up on Ryloth after the Republic’s victory there. Naturally the CIS are refusing to fully withdraw, happy to leave remaining droids on the planet to cause as much damage as possible. Meanwhile, they’re also launching an assault on the Republic’s Juma 9 station in the Outer Rim. While Obi-Wan Kenobi and Plo Koon lend their assistance, they come across a towering scientist named Kul Teska. A former member of Wat Tambor’s Techno Union turned mercenary, Teska is working on a gravity-beam superweapon to sell to the Separatists, and becomes the game’s recurring end-of-level boss with his modified Skakoan form teeming with jetpacks and assault weaponry.

Jedi Luminara Unduli and Aayla Secura investigate Separatist wreckage on Alzoc III, while Mace Windu and Kit Fisto join the fight on what’s left of Juma 9. Later chapters bring antagonists in the form of Asajj Ventress, Count Dooku and Cad Bane. Much like the format of a screenplay, the game jumps between locations every few levels, the threads woven together as the plot unfolds. It all makes for a rounder storytelling experience but the flow of play itself is more bumpy as a result.

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In principle this is a relatively simple hack, slash, jump and blast affair – clear out the enemies from one scene to enter the next, with a smattering of puzzle solving. In practice however the game is full of bespoke functional moves, although remembering the existence of all these is more of a challenge than actually performing them. The learning curve isn’t particularly steep, but Republic Heroes is fiddly to the point where it impacts on the fun of destroying battle droids.

The controls are clunky to begin with, and while the player gets used to these out of necessity, things never become intuitive. Not all of the ‘special features’ need to be used all of the time (although each is required at the point it’s introduced), so there’s a lot to be said for employing different approaches when re-playing. For the most part though, this game feels needlessly complicated.

During the gameplay itself the graphics are workable, the camera being far enough back from the player’s figure that likenesses with the show are maintained. The architectural layout and design is strongly on-brand, with each environment looking unmistakably like Star Wars, even in areas appearing for the first time. The expository cut-scenes are a little more problematic. While character models have been repurposed from the television series, they’re more basic when rendered on a home platform – as is the animation itself – and unfortunately the dynamic lighting just isn’t there to remove the rough edges. But it’s worth remembering that even The Clone Wars didn’t fully hit its visual stride until around the third season, and none of the game’s graphics derail the story itself.

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While the core narrative is great fun and a solid multimedia expansion of The Clone Wars, the game itself is oddly unsatisfying. Without the simple charm of something like Jedi Power Battles or the immersive exploration of the Jedi Knight series, this is left in a bizarre no man’s land of tie-in properties. More frustratingly, although this was fêted as an official continuation of the story in 2009, none of the subsequent TV episodes make mention of the events (although there’s a predictably straightforward explanation for Kul Teska’s absence).

Star Wars video games have a long and chequered history, often not quite living up to their potential. Republic Heroes is certainly at home on that shelf. The overall feel is of something created for hardcore fans of The Clone Wars rather than gamers, per se. Although ironically, unless the player classes themself fully as ‘a gamer’ then they’re unlikely to have the patience to finish it…

All of which brings us to the end (for now) of our Star Wars: The Clone Wars look-back, and what a ride it’s been. The series returns on Disney+ in February, but in the before that there’s a second season of Resistance, The Mandalorian and The Rise Of Skywalker to pore over. Until next time, may The Force be with you!

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