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Forgotten Racers of SEGA’s Past: Star Wars Episode I Racer

With all the hype for the newest Star Wars: The Force Awakens releasing last week, we thought it’d be a great time to feature the series in our Forgotten Racers of SEGA’s Past column.

You might be surprised to know there hasn’t been all that many Star Wars racing titles on SEGA platforms, but we’ll be focusing on Star Wars Episode I Racer on the Dreamcast today, so strap on your podracing helmet and get ready, because we’re going to be hitting some serious intergalactic speeds here!

Now this is podracing!

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Released on April 4, 2000, Episode I Racer was one of the three Star Wars based games to be released for the Dreamcast, alongside Jedi Power Battles, and Star Wars Demolition.

This game wasn’t a Dreamcast exclusive, as it was ported from the original Nintendo 64 version, which came out a year before. However, many consider this to be the definitive version, considering the graphical upgrade and the inclusion of the cutscenes from the PC port.

The gameplay choices here seem slightly barren, but most racers were at the time. There is a Grand Prix/Tournament mode, where you race a circuit and upgrade your podracer, a Time Attack mode, and Multiplayer racing. What is on display here works, as there is a big selection of drivers and machines to choose from here, as well as a variety of courses you will be driving on here.

The competition actually is kind of tough in the Championship mode, where memorizing the courses will certainly go a long way in leading you to victory.  Your upgrades help, as well, so the main game has a bit of depth to it. The multiplayer is damn good too, providing some heated two-player races. All in all, a good pack of modes so far.

You must have Jedi reflexes

Any racing game lives and dies with how well it controls, and Episode 1 Racer controls fairly well, but there’s definitely a learning curve before you’ll be at your best. The podracers tend to handle a little slippery, but tuning your pod can really help it control better. There are also a couple different control setups to use, so tinker around with these to find the one that suits you best.

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Perhaps the best aspect of Episode I Racer is its presentation, as it’s a really good looking racer, considering the depths of the environments on display. The Dreamcast’s processing power was definitely put to the test here, with a blazing fast framerate and phenomenal sense of speed.

This game did speed better than a good majority of Dreamcast racers and wasn’t afraid to show it off, advertising “feeling the Force at 600 MPH” on the back of the case. Gotta love tag lines like that.

Audibly,  Episode I Racer really captures the feel and atmosphere of podracing. With some of the original score being used and some damn good original music, this game’s soundtrack gets an A+ in my book. The sound effects are done well, with the character’s voices being used during races and some during the menus, as well.

May the Force be with you

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At this point, you might be reminded of the Star Wars: Racer Arcade, which was developed by SEGA-AM5 and released in 2000. The game was just as fun as the DC game but was even faster! The controls were something to get used to, considering they were actual podracer controls, but it didn’t deter from the experience. The deluxe cabinets were actually designed around one of the racers in the movie, which was really awesome. Definitely give it a try if you find it in the wild.

All in all, the Episode I Racer games are damn fine examples of how to make even a “side game” based on a movie good. Whether it be the arcade or Dreamcast versions, these are worthy of your time.  The presentation on display is awesome, and the sense of speed and fun just add to it. This is one of the better Star Wars games, even if you’re not too big on racers. Adding to the Star Wars hype that’s been going on lately, you might want to grab it now before people go nuts on Star Wars  games.  This experience behind the wheel of an official podracer, is one just begging to be had!

And that’s where I call it for the day, as I have some old school DC racing to do now. As per usual, if there’s a Forgotten Racer you would want featured, don’t be afraid to leave a comment here, or shoot me a message on Twitter, @Kusanagi765,  I’d love to hear any ideas you guys have for future articles. I’ll see you all out on the roads, and have a great day, fellow racing fans!!

Jayson Lamp

Resident SEGA racer expert of sorts,been playing them since OutRunners. Writer of the Forgotten Racers series,among other things. Favorite SEGA series is Hang-On,and my favorite console is the Saturn. "Welcome to our exciting circuit. Do your best,and good luck!!"-Power Drift,1988

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