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  • Ahh now here’s a favorite I’ve been wanting to cover for ages.

  • This is Star Wars: Episode 1 - Racer, developed and published by LucasArts in May of 1999

  • for Windows PCs, alongside the Nintendo 64 release,

  • which is probably the more well-known version of the game.

  • It also got released for the Macintosh and the Sega Dreamcast the following year, along

  • with a highly simplified Game Boy Color version, and even a beefy

  • coin-op arcade machine with proper podracing controls.

  • But for this video I’m going to be sticking to this PC version since it’s the one I

  • owned and played back then, and I just like it.

  • Although I vividly remember the first time I saw the game at all, which was at the local

  • Best Buy store where they had an N64 demo unit

  • hooked up to a massive 3x3 display of some

  • kind hanging from the ceiling.

  • I was instantly enamored with the game and the moment we upgraded our PC to be able to

  • play 3D accelerated games, this Windows version with its gorgeous gatefold box was on my short

  • list of most-wanted titles.

  • Although I don’t recall if this limited edition box is the one we got back then or

  • not, but hey, it's the one I have now so let’s take a look.

  • Turns out there were two covers released, one with Anakin’s podracer and one with

  • Sebulba, with the latter being much more uncommon

  • but neither are particularly cheap boxes these days.

  • Contained within is a colorful smorgasbord of late-90s PC game inserts, including the

  • limited edition goodies like this aesthetically-appealing podracer schematic and the

  • less-than-appealing young Anakin Skywalker poster.

  • Eh, couldve been worse.

  • You also get this wonderful Spring ‘99 LucasArts product catalog,

  • and man I love looking through these.

  • This was quite a busy time for the company, with prequel trilogy hype reaching a fever

  • pitch and new games coming out seemingly every other month.

  • And of course you get the game on a single compact disc in a jewel case, as well as the

  • full-color owner’s manual, with 37 pages of full-color manual that is yours to own.

  • And even for 1999 this is a fantastic little booklet, filled with great concept art, useful

  • illustrations, and copious well-written tidbits detailing each facet of gameplay.

  • I just love a good bathroom break booklet.

  • Starting up the game provides you with an assortment of animated LucasArts artistry

  • in the form of logos and introductory cutscenes, with the main one showing a loose recreation

  • of Episode 1’s famous podracing scene.

  • [beep!]

  • ["And they're off!"]

  • [now *this* is FMV podracing!]

  • Youre then presented with the main menu screen, John Williams’s classic Duel of

  • the Fates playing on an endless loop.

  • [♪♪♪]

  • At this point you can choose to play multiplayer, a single race, or the tournament mode.

  • Well just be looking at tournament mode in this video because single race simply allows

  • access to stuff unlocked in tournament mode, and multiplayer requires a direct connection

  • to other PCs through a local area network.

  • Sadly you do not get split-screen multiplayer goodness in this version like you did on the

  • consoles, and that always kind of bummed me out.

  • What you do get is the ability to create a profile for yourself and then watch a short

  • in-game cutscene, where you wander into this cantina, shoo away whatever randomly-chosen

  • droid or creature happens to be standing in your way, and then selecting a podracer.

  • Each of them have seven performance statistics inherent to their vehicle, as well as an 8th

  • statistic that’s a little more vague and that is the size and shape of the podracer itself.

  • The driver really is of no consequence, but you get to choose from everyone shown

  • in Episode 1’s podracing scene and plenty more, with over 20 drivers unlockable

  • by the end of the game.

  • Finally you can select from and compete in one of three tournaments with up to seven

  • races each, with the goal being to place fourth or better on each track to reach the final

  • competition, the Boonta Eve Classic from the movie.

  • After this youre presented with a management screen, allowing you to begin the selected

  • race, inspect your podracer for no reason other than to admire the polygons and GRAFIX,

  • and perform a number of podracer upgrades and tweaks.

  • Well be back to this in a moment, but for now let’s drop right into the podracing

  • itself, beginning with another cutscene introducing you to the upcoming planet.

  • "Welcome podracing fans to Ando Prime!"

  • "Home of the benevolent Andobi Bendu monks."

  • "Your host, the wisest of the wise..."

  • "Ten-Abu Doba!"

  • [barely-audible announcer introduction]

  • [podracing sounds commence]

  • Now this is podracing!

  • Or, this is "Episode 1 - Racer," to be more precise.

  • Did anyone actually call it by its proper marketed title back then?

  • I know my friends and I always just called it "Star Wars Pod Racer," but anyway.

  • The gameplay is precisely what you’d expect for an experience based on the nearly 20-minute

  • scene from Episode 1: absurdly fast racing through sci-fi environments with excellent

  • sound design, interrupted by the occasional piece of grating dialogue.

  • [somewhat irritating alien exclamations]

  • And man, this is still a lot of fun.

  • One of the most important things for a racing game to get right is a sense of speed, and

  • Episode 1 Racer is one that absolutely nails that.

  • If the speed of the simulation was too slow, it risks breaking the suspension of disbelief

  • knowing that these podracers are moving at velocities exceeding 600 miles an hour.

  • But if the simulation were to move too fast, or even moved at a speed that was accurate

  • to what it would be in reality, then the game would simply be unplayable.

  • You must have jedi reflexes if you race podsmay be true, but expecting every

  • gamer to possess those would not be very enjoyable.

  • Thankfully, the combination of the environments, sound effects, graphical effects, and control

  • scheme make approaching 1000 miles an hour here not only feasible, but desirable.

  • The controls in particular are something to be commended here, because it gives you just

  • enough options to be able to fully control your pod

  • without ever feeling like the room for error disappears.

  • And seeing as they made this work as well as it does even on a keyboard, that’s impressive.

  • Now you might want an analogue control method of some kind, whether it be a joystick,

  • a gamepad, a steering wheel, or even the mouse.

  • But personally, I’ve always played this version of the game with the keyboard because,

  • well, I just got used to it back in the day.

  • But also because I find the precise digital controls spread across the keyboard to be

  • a good match for this kind of twitchy racing.

  • And the manner in which LucasArts split up the required inputs by default cleverly avoids

  • the problem of ghosting when youre pressing multiple

  • keys simultaneously on a keyboard without NKRO.

  • On the right hand side of the keyboard you use the arrow keys to turn left and right

  • as well as pitch up and down, and on the left hand you have the WASD keys for controlling

  • thrust, brakes, and the somewhat superfluous rolling left and right.

  • There are also keys on the left side for performing repairs, changing cameras, taunting,

  • as well as the all-important slide key.

  • When this is held down, your podracer goes from rapidly strafing left and right to having

  • a more nuanced and fine-tuned control scheme that’s better-suited for navigating sharp

  • corners and narrow passageways.

  • And finally, there’s the boost mode, enabled by pressing a combination of inputs.

  • Whenever youve maxed out on speed and this indicator turns from green to yellow, you

  • can pitch down and press Shift to enable the boost, which will take you well beyond your

  • normal thrust speed at the expense of handling and heat generation.

  • And that’s where this indicator on the bottom-left of the screen comes into play, showing your

  • engine status alongside an audio cue letting you know youre about to overheat.

  • If you push too far then an engine will catch fire and will need repairing on the fly, and

  • if you keep pushing youll explode, so balancing thrust with boost is key.

  • Before long though, this becomes second nature and you don’t even need to look at any of

  • the indicators at all, relying completely on the audio cues and timing

  • to make sure youre going as fast as possible in your current podracer without combusting.

  • [BOOM]

  • Of course, if you do explode then youre quickly reset with fresh engines, but obviously

  • that’s not ideal since you lose valuable time.

  • And parts do wear out the more you screw up as well, so you will also

  • have to perform repairs once you complete the race.

  • This is not something that you do manually, it just gets fixed up over time by your pit droids,

  • so buying up as many of those as you can, as quickly as you can, is very much advised.

  • And since it takes time to fix a podracer, at this point you just

  • switch to another one and keep playing.

  • Because the way things work in tournament mode is that you play more of a manager for

  • every podracer, rather than a single racer themselves.

  • Once youve chosen a racer, you can then invest your credits into improving their podracer

  • through parts upgrades, with everyone sharing the same pool of credits, or you can swap

  • between them at will depending on your repair needs.

  • You also have the options to simply switch out any damaged parts for others that are

  • in better shape or have different stats altogether.

  • Entering Watto’s shop or junkyard will provide dozens of parts options covering all of the

  • performance categories of your podracer,

  • and this certainly isn’t the most streamlined process.

  • There’s a lot of menu interface weirdness that makes it feel clunky with a mouse, and

  • I wish there was more of an overview of all the available parts at once instead of having

  • to navigate through each one individually to see what it does.

  • And I also wish Watto would just shut up already.

  • "I am-a betting heavily on Sebulba!

  • He always wins, ehhehehehaah!"

  • Seriously he never stops, it’s just an endless loop

  • of the same annoying sound bites over and over...

  • "Have-a you seen-a my chance cube-a?"

  • "Have-a you seen-a my chance cube-a?"

  • "HAVE-A YOU SEEN-A MY

  • CHANCE CUUUUUUUUUBEEEEEEE-AAAAA?!?!?!?!"

  • OKAY, how about those visuals though?

  • Mm, 1999.

  • I kinda miss this era in PC game graphics.

  • Although admittedly this particular footage doesn’t look great anymore since I’m running

  • it at 640x480, which is the resolution I played it on back when it was new.

  • And the HUD elements look distractingly blurry, a problem that unfortunately exists no matter

  • what resolution you choose, but oh well it gets the job done.

  • Heh, anyone else always see this "3" as the Monster Energy logo?

  • Well now I'm just getting distracted, anyway.

  • What I’m trying to say here is that, while technically it’s not amazing anymore,

  • in terms of aesthetics for a decades-old game I still think it looks great all things considered.

  • Star Wars design language and color palettes mesh