I missed out on Star Wars Trilogy: Apprentice of the Force when it first came out. And ever since I’ve known of it’s existence, I’ve been curious about it. Since I still have the “Original Trilogy” bug, I decided to give it a try recently.
Let’s talk about it today!
Star Wars Trilogy: Apprentice of the Force is an action-platformer / run and gun game that was developed and published by Ubisoft and LucasArts. This game was released on the same day as the release of the Star Wars Original Trilogy DVD Box set. This game is restricted to Luke Skywalker’s perspective and thus only involves events that he took part in. But it does cover the original trilogy fully.
While this game is generally an action platformer, there is more emphasis on battles. The combat system itself isn’t that deep. But the game goes into what I call as “black border” moments and throw a bunch of enemies at you. The main challenge isn’t in the platforming but is in surviving all the enemies that you’ll need to face. It actually made me feel like this game was a beat ’em up because of the number of enemies that you had to beat in order to advance.
You have a health meter in this game which depletes when you take damage. When completely depleted, you die and respawn either at the start of the level or the last checkpoint that you passed. The game doesn’t have a lives counter, so you can just keep trying. Enemies frequently drop health refills, and these are scattered across the levels as well, so managing your health meter isn’t that difficult. The game also has a save system and three save slots, so you don’t have to worry about needing to beat it in one sitting. It automatically saves though, sending you to the start of the last level you were in.
Moves and Abilities
In Apprentice of the Force, Luke has the usual action platformer move set. Left and Right on the D-Pad moves him, and pressing Down will make him crouch. Up and Down will move him up or down certain backgrounds that you can climb. Up will make Luke pull himself up from a ledge grab. The B button is for attacking (either shooting a blaster or swinging his lightsaber) while the A button is for jumping. Pressing the Select button switches between the blaster and the lightsaber (once you have it already).
You start the game with only the blaster, which really makes this game play like a run and gun game. It shoots straight, but pressing the L button while standing will let you aim it diagonally upwards. While crouched, pressing the L button will let you aim diagonally downwards. Your default ammo type is a red laser, but you’ll be able to find upgraded blasters with limited ammunition later on.
Using the lightsaber also changes things up a lot. Your attacks are now short range, and tapping the B button will result in combo strings. The lightsaber is stronger than the default blaster. Pressing Up, Forward, or Down together with B will change the direction of your saber swings. Finally, the L button will let you block enemy projectiles with the lightsaber. Lasers can be deflected and sometimes they’ll hit enemies on their way back. However, non-energy weapons can only be blocked with this move.
As you progress in Apprentice of the Force, you’ll get to unlock several Force Powers. Once you learn a Force Power, the Force meter will appear. Using Force Powers will deplete this meter. There are a total of eight, and each power requires a button combination to use. If you’re good with your Star Wars lore, you can probably guess what these powers are. The first is the Force Dash, which is essentially a quick dash that you’ll need for jumping across wide gaps. The second is the Force Roll, which is really just a rolling move for getting past small openings.
Deflecting enemy lasers with the lightsaber is actually the third Power you’ll unlock. The fourth Power is the Force Jump, which is a double jump. You can also do a spinning attack with the lightsaber when doing the double jump. Another power that should be familiar to fans is the Force Push, which is next. You can use this to send enemies flying a short distance, but it is mainly used for dealing with stage obstacles.
You can make yourself move faster than everyone else with the Force Blitz power, but it will quickly drain your Force meter. The real game-changing move is the Force Heal because this makes keeping your health meter filled much easier. And the final Force Power is a special slash that kills every regular enemy onscreen.
I have to admit, the game starts to play a lot better as you learn Force Powers. It felt a little generic and mediocre at first, but once I learned the Force Jump, it became more fun.
Despite featuring a lot of battles, Apprentice of the Force only features a few different enemy types. For most of the game, you’ll be facing the same enemy over and over. For two-thirds of the game, you’ll mostly fight sand people and Storm Troopers. And they don’t even come in varieties. So the game was quite repetitive early on. In the Episode V levels, you’ll occasionally encounter combat droids or defense turrets, but that’s about it.
The boss design is also disappointing. The developers were very faithful to the source material and were limited to which bosses to include, so I understand why there are only a few. But I wish they could have done more with the characters they could include. The boss of the sand people, for example, is just a palette-swap of a sand person but stationed on higher ground.
Boba Fett just keeps flying around and shooting at you from the air. He doesn’t have any other moves, and all you need to do is hit him over and over. You don’t even get to fight an AT-AT. The only boss battles that I really liked were against the rancor and Darth Vader.
The Rancor fight was really good. You don’t have your lightsaber, and you can’t hurt it directly. You’ll need to follow what happened in the film to beat it. I won’t spoil it for you though.
Darth Vader employs different force powers when fighting against you. The Episode V fight also follows the same beats as the film version. You’ll need to outduel him with your lightsaber to win. Too bad this fight happens in the middle of the game.
I was glad to see vehicle stages in Apprentice of the Force. They were a welcome break from the repetitive battles and platforming. The first one involves you in an X-Wing approaching the Death Star. You’ll need to defeat a certain number of TIE fighters to advance. This stage is viewed from the top, and you can fly in any direction.
This leads to you the classic trench run sequence. The level still has a top-view perspective, but functions as a horizontal scrolling level. TIE fighters will assault you from behind and in front, and you’ll need to deal with them and survive so you can take down the Death Star.
The final vehicle stage reenacts the speeder bike chase in Episode VI. It plays similarly to the trench run sequence in that the perspective is also top-view and it scrolls horizontally. You can shoot down enemy Storm Troopers or make them crash into obstacles by bumping into them.
I understand that the developers were limited to events that Luke himself experienced. So I’m very disappointed that we didn’t get a proper Battle of Hoth snowspeeder sequence with Luke taking on AT-AT walkers. That would have made for another good vehicle stage.
R2D2 and Princess Leia
Another notable thing with Apprentice of the Force are the sequences that involve R2D2 and Princess Leia. R2D2 accompanies you, unlocking some doors occasionally. You’ll need to protect the little droid from enemies though – it can only sustain three hits. Its actually better to just take enemy fire yourself. R2D2 can’t jump, so you’ll need to use elevators to go up and down the stages as needed. R2D2 can heal via blue glowing ports that you’ll come across.
The Princess Leia sequence is actually an escort/rescue mission. She’ll accompany you and even fight alongside you! Whenever you get a blaster power up, her blaster also gets the same upgrade. She can only take five hits, but she is completely healed any time you get a health power up. This is another fun sequence that helped break the repetitiveness of the game.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
Apprentice of the Force is actually a great-looking game. Going over the screenshots, I’m impressed at the level of detail that is in the backgrounds and the game’s sprites. I’m mainly disappointed in the lack of effort when it comes to Luke’s sprite. Instead of using different sprites for his different versions in the trilogy, they just changed colors.
This game definitely takes advantage of the Star Wars license by making use of the classic themes of the franchise. And of course, it works quite well here. The great music definitely helped me accept the repetitiveness of the game. Sound effects are alright, but I wish the game had some sound clips from the film.
This game has a lot of cutscenes, especially ones told from Luke’s perspective. I actually like this idea. He was telling his story, which helped with the immersion. Some cutscenes used stills from the movies, while others used in-game sprites and backgrounds. Other aspects of presentation were also good, from the use of Star Wars iconography to the use of fonts and menus. This is definitely a well-polished game.
I really wanted to like Star Wars Trilogy: Apprentice of the Force, but fighting the same enemies over and over was boring. It gets better once you get to Endor, but that only leaves around 20% of the game to play. Having a few more enemy types and better designed boss battles would have really made this game a must play.
As it stands, the best I can say about it is that it’s a decent game. It looks good and sounds good, but the gameplay itself is lacking. I can only recommend this to hardcore Star Wars fans who want to relive the Original Trilogy, but don’t want to deal with the hard difficulty of the Super Star Wars trilogy of games on the SNES.