What Is Star Wars Episode I: Racer?
Star Wars Episode I: Racer is a remastered edition of the classic 1999 Nintendo 64 racing game now available on modern consoles. The game includes a single-player campaign mode and multiple split-screen racing options.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer is rated ESRB E for everyone and PEGI 7, making it suitable for most players.
This new edition of Star Wars Episode I: Racer is available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, however, the original game is still available across several other formats including the original Nintendo 64 (if you’re still hanging onto your old console and can find a copy), Steam, and Origin.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer Gameplay
Star Wars Episode I: Racer opens with a classic Star Wars crawl that discusses the popularity of podracing across the galaxy, before throwing you straight into the game. There are four modes available from the get-go:
- Free Play
- Time Attack
Free Play simply allows you to race against the other competitors in friendly races, Time Attack gives you the track to yourself with your only competition being your previous best time, and Two-Player offers a split-screen mode for you to play against a friend. There is no online multiplayer option here, though, so you’ll only be able to race against players who are physically in the room with you.
Choosing Pods and Racers
In all but Tournament Mode, you are taken to a cantina where you can select your racer and your pod. Anakin Skywalker is the default option, but you can also choose from other racers including Teemto Pagalies, Aldar Beedo, Ebe Endocott, and Elan Mak (whose name I kept reading as Elon Musk). These are all other characters who raced against Anakin in The Phantom Menace.
Once you’ve picked your competitor and pod, you can choose a track. There are three Podracing Circuits: Amateur, Semi-Pro, and Galactic, and these increase in difficulty as you would expect. All three circuits contain seven tracks across planets including Baroonda and Malastare that you have to unlock in order. The first track available in the Amateur Circuit is the Boonta Training Course from The Phantom Menace and this is a great place to start. Once you’ve selected your racer and track you can choose to start the race or inspect your vehicle first. When you start the race, you’ll first get to see some scenic shots of the planet and track area itself with commentary from Fode and Beed, the same two-headed character who commentated in The Phantom Menace.
The racing in Star Wars Episode I: Racer reminded me strongly of Wipeout. There are effectively two speeds, fast and faster, and only the most basic of controls. You can control your pod’s direction and tilt it sideways—handy for diving through narrow gaps—and that’s about it. There are no gears and no weapons beyond simply ramming into your opponents. This is racing at its most simplistic and it is fantastic for that. The tracks often include hidden shortcuts and choices about which way to go (for example, a choice of three tunnels to take), and learning these tricks will help improve your lap times even further.
Your ship can, and most certainly will at first, suffer damage. Banging your ship into walls or opponents will bring up an engine damage display screen like the one you see Anakin use in The Phantom Menace, turning parts of the engines yellow or red. Unlike Anakin, you can’t actually do anything about this, although minor damage will gradually heal itself, assuming you can keep from adding more. Too much damage, or a full-speed crash, will cause you to explode, but you will restart a few seconds later at the same location, so all you will lose is time.
Tournament Mode and Upgrading
In Tournament mode, you can earn Truguts (currency) from placing highly in races then use them to buy pit droids and upgrade your ships by visiting Watto’s shop. Upgrades can be used to increase things like your top speed and acceleration. What I really liked about this game however is that I felt no pressure to work my way through upgrading my ships. I could just stick with my standard pods and have fun racing without ever feeling like I was missing out.
Winning earns you new ships and racers to play with as you gradually make your way up through the different tracks and circuits to become the greatest podracer in the galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer Verdict
Star Wars Episode I: Racer screams ’90s from the moment you switch it on. For those of us who remember the prequel era fondly, it’s probably worth picking the game up for the nostalgia hit alone—even if you never played the game itself back then. This new edition hasn’t had a full graphics remaster, so everything looks just as blocky as you remember (some of Anakin’s facial animations will haunt my nightmares), but once you get into the racing, you don’t even notice this because the game is just so much fun.
The racing here is incredibly simple but it feels like a breath of fresh air. So many modern racing games are focused on hyperrealism, giving you options to tune engines, pick tire options, and so much more that it can feel like a job just getting your car to the start line. While Star Wars Episode I: Racer does allow you to modify your pod, you can easily play without ever even touching those screens, and the Free Play and Time Trial modes allow you to dive in and be playing a race in moments—perfect if you’re looking for something you can jump into and play when you have a spare ten minutes. What Star Wars Episode I: Racer lacks in nuance it makes up for in good, old-fashioned racing fun.
Original Star Wars music plays throughout, making you feel like you’re really a part of that universe, and the planets you visit are given a touch of background if you choose not to skip over the opening commentary from Fode and Beed. No, this game is not going to add anything of significance to the Star Wars canon like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and the forthcoming Star Wars: Squadrons, but it doesn’t need to.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer is a great addition to your Star Wars game collection. The initial tracks on the Amateur circuit are at an easy enough level that all the family will be able to play, making this a perfect choice for a Star Wars loving family with kids of different ages. Sure, some younger players might express initial horror at the graphics, but consider it a learning opportunity (back in my day this was the height of sophistication, my young padawan) and I bet they will be racing happily minutes later having forgotten all about the blocky scenery and awkward animations.
This is a game I can happily recommend to all Star Wars fans.
GeekMom received a copy of this item for review purposes.