Star Wars: Rogue Squadron – A visceral aerial shooter that deserves modern recognition

We’re treading into the season of Star Wars hype as we inch ever closer to the conclusion of the Skywalker saga in theaters this December. While some fans contemptuously rejected The Last Jedi and the Solo spin-off film, the Star Wars furor hasn’t actually dissipated. It’s only getting stronger with each passing day. But this year, Star Wars junkies don’t only have Episode 9 to look forward to. The live-action show Mandalorian is sure to bring a hefty crowd on over to the new Disney+ streaming service. Likewise, gamers will have their chance to wield a lightsaber again in the upcoming game Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Respawn Entertainment.

That game, however, is launching only on other platforms. So, Nintendo-exclusive players won’t have the chance to go on that adventure this fall. They’ll just have to sit in the corner and drink their blue milk. Still, that doesn’t mean Nintendo fans have to watch while their friends on other consoles run off to join the Rebellion. Star Wars has a rather rich history on Nintendo platforms. In fact, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and its successors are some of the best aerial dogfighting games around – even by today’s standards.


“Red Five, standing by”

Recently, I’ve taken a stroll down memory lane with the Rogue Squadron series on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube. Once again, I’ve come to fully appreciate what a thrilling and kinetic experience those games offer. With the possible exclusion of Shadows of the Empire, I’d venture to say that the Rogue Squadron games ruled the galaxy as far as Star Wars games are concerned – at least until future games like Knights of the Old Republic stole the spotlight.

In the realm of aerial combat, Star Fox 64 had grabbed everyone’s attention in 1997. But in 1998, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron took dogfighting to an entirely new level. For starters, the game offered open worlds, and players weren’t tied down to on-rails flight patterns like Star Fox 64. In comparison to games these days, Rogue Squadron on the N64 feels a bit clunky. But the control layout is actually quite intuitive for the N64’s awkward controller design.

The other limitation on the N64 release was, of course, visual output. My eyes have been spoiled by the modern delicacies of 720p, 1080p, and now, 4K resolutions. I found myself squinting at potential targets in the distance that looked like dots or a cluster of blocks before coming into full view. In my more formative years, that was top of the line, and I managed the fight without giving it a second thought. Perhaps I was simply using the Force without even knowing it. Or maybe my eyesight has decayed with age. I’ll choose to believe the former.

“Good to have company, Wedge”

Star Wars Rogue Squadron GameCube Nintendo

When Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader hit the GameCube in 2001, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The ships were beautifully realized, and the controls were as smooth as butter and highly responsive. If players decide to enhance the resolution output on their GameCubes with modern adapters, the game still looks and feels phenomenal. The missions are segmented appropriately and are conducive to short or longer stints of play. The flight display can be modified to match your preference while the radar provides an easy view of where enemy fighters are located in a three-dimensional plane. The games are also rather challenging. Rogue Leader and its successor, Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike are unequivocally the best at their craft.

A Rogue Squadron return?

In an age where Star Fox fans are no longer holding their breath, the supreme aerial shooter title in the world of video games is vacant. Last year’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas was a great attempt, but it became hampered by a number of issues, including the toys-to-life process, a messy UI, and a wide-open universe with little direction. True, some with preferential differences might argue that the last item wasn’t a flaw. But Rogue Squadron cut out the frills and fluff and went straight for the heart. That heart was the desire for combat in the skies and space beyond, mixed with loads of action.

If the latest Nintendo Direct proved anything, it’s that Nintendo Switch is the king of ports. The high points of the Direct for me were the announcements of Doom 64, Jedi Outcast, and the SNES library coming to the online service. And any of the Rogue Squadron titles would be equally at home on Nintendo Switch. I get it – it’s incredibly easy to constantly make the Switch-is-the-best-home-for-this-game assumption. But it’s true. In an increasingly busy and noisy society, games that incorporate bite-sized segments of play like Rogue Squadron are simply mobile-ready and prime contenders for a Switch port.

The only problem with a Rogue Squadron re-release or a potential new entry in the franchise is that those possibilities rest squarely on the shoulders of EA. If EA’s history with the Star Wars license is any indication, this won’t be happening any time soon. However, it’s nice to dream and push for its eventual existence. Perhaps, if we all clamor hard enough, some EA executive will sense a disturbance in the Force and understand that this world has gone long enough without another Rogue Squadron release.

Chris Hinton
Accountant by day, video games enthusiast by night.  Somewhere in between all of that, I'm a husband, dad, and generally a giant man-child, too.  If a game is all about action, there's a safe bet I'm playing it.  I started laying waste to virtual worlds as a youngin' on the ol' Atari and haven't stopped since.