“NOW THIS IS PODRACING” – every person who ever played Star Wars Episode 1: Racer back in 1999 and now again in 2020. Developers Aspyr have worked to bring us exactly what we had back in ‘99 with a remastered version of Racer for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. It was a classic back then, but does it hold up? I’d say yes and we have simplicity to thank for that.
What’s It About
Originally released in 1999 alongside the highly anticipated Phantom Menace, Star Wars Episode 1: Racer was based on the film’s podracing sequence. It didn’t do much to expand story or lore, but rather, it was a straight forward racing game.
You were given the opportunity to race across several planets, including Tatooine, Malastare, and Mon Gazza. Several circuits increased the difficulty and allowed you to unlock up to 25 races, culminating in everyone’s favorite Jar Jar antagonist, Sebulba. You also had several options for improving your racers’ stats. Aside from some multiplayer options, that was it.
It was simple, but it worked. At the time, who didn’t want to hop into a podracer?
Why Should I Care?
If you loved the game originally, well, you get what you got 20 years ago. Step for step, this is exactly what we got back in 1999 and I can’t say it really needed to do anything more than that.
The game has 25 racers across 8 planets. Each of those planets have enough variation and challenge between the circuits that I didn’t find myself vying for new content, even after shaking off any nostalgia lenses. I found what I was expecting: a simple game just trying to make its way across the universe.
That said, while it’s a shinier version of the 1999 game, it’s the sound that checked off a major box for me. While I don’t have the most advanced speaker system, this game still sounded fantastic. The music hit those perfectly intense, yet probably overdramatic, notes and the roar of the engines was pristine. It easily gets you right back into the podracing mood. I did, perhaps, find it harder than when I first played it back on a Nintendo 64? I asked because I’m not entirely sure myself! I felt like back then, I could get through most racers with a single racer (my default was Gasgano), but when attempting that this time, I could only last through about half of the semi-pro circuit before needing to switch, and that was with upgrading my racer. Either it’s harder or I’m worse. Could go either way!
Gameplay also felt smooth while racing, but I did find some oddities in menu navigation. I was playing on a PlayStation 4 and couldn’t use the directional pad for the menus, only the sticks, which made things relatively erratic. I wouldn’t dock the game too much as it’s just menus, but it was annoying enough to call attention to it.
The only other oddity I found was within the trophy system on PS4. You can generate trophies, but as of writing this, nothing was accessible within the PS menus. In fact, I was receiving a “Coming Soon!” note when looking at the game profile page after downloading it, even though I could keep launching the game. I’m thinking the PS platform doesn’t totally know it’s been released, which doesn’t stop any gameplay, but can cause some “backend” confusion.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
At $15, this can be viewed as reasonable for a nostalgic trip or overpriced for something that doesn’t offer new content. There’s no online content, new tracks, or new racers. Without sounding like too much of a purist, but I think the game is fine without needing to go to those areas. It would have strayed too far away from the simplicity of what made it so great in the first place. It’s easy to pick up and race, but you can dedicate a little time to building out if desired. And if you want to play with someone else, time for a local split screen – what’s more nostalgic than that? Ultimately, we get a classic game with a prettier look for some simple racing – and that’s exactly what this needed to be. Star Wars fans should be perfectly content with adding this to their library.