Nice review Mason. This is definitely one of the better 3DS launch titles, imo.
Not many consoles are subjected to a dose of Jar Jar Binks immediately upon launch. Nintendo 3DS can consider itself unlucky in that respect, but at least everybody’s ‘favourite’ Gungan brings something positive along with him: the release of a new LEGO Star Wars title on day one. LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is different from its predecessors in that its subject matter is not the mainline Star Wars movies, instead being based on the animated series The Clone Wars, which fills in more information on the adventures of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and their various enemies and allies in the three years between Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
As is the norm with the LEGO titles, you can expect a light, cheerful slice of uncomplicated gaming in LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. Knowledge of the TV show is not a pre-requisite for enjoyment; the iconic Star Wars opening text appears before each new chapter, filling you in on roughly what is happening, but even if this is skipped the game can be enjoyed with little or no attention paid to the story. At its heart, LEGO Star Wars III is a friendly action adventure game about smashing things up and putting other things back together - that The Clone Wars story hangs around it will serve as a bonus to fans of the series, but should not hinder anybody else’s enjoyment.
Players are given a squad of characters per stage, which can be flicked between at will, with each character belonging to a different category with a unique special ability that will be needed at certain points during each level. Jedi characters, for example, can use the Force to shift heavy objects, while the gun-toting clones can use grappling hooks or explosives to reach new areas. The system, as ever, works a treat, with the differing classes, and the regularly changing scenarios that require the abilities of each; enough to keep the gameplay varied. On top of the usual platform-style stages, LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars also contains some Starfox-esque dog-fighting scenes that work superbly; the player cruising along in space ships blasting targets and dodging missiles.
Starting you out in an all-new hub world, the cruiser ship Resolute, there is instant access to the Story mode, or if you would rather cause havoc around or explore the hub, you can do that instead. Whichever you choose, it’s extremely easy to get to grips with thanks to the simplistic controls that have been present throughout the series. The Circle Pad, or D-pad, handles your movement, while jumping, attacking and special abilities are available with taps of the face buttons, and you can swiftly flick between playable characters with the shoulder buttons. The touch-screen also facilitates the character changing, with clickable profile pictures of each member of your current squad, and it also lets you activate the special abilities with a large button in the centre of the panel. However, it only ever really comes into proper use during mini-games to reach new areas: R2-D2-like droids are able to open some doors by unlocking them with a combination-like a safe - accompanied by a great remix of the Star Wars theme - while Jedi can take the brute force approach, carving out holes in walls with a circle on the touch-screen.
The Story mode is quite lengthy, with a total of 13 missions divided into three acts apiece. Each mission takes around half an hour, which provides value for money but is frustrating for a portable title as there is no way to save mid-mission when playing through for the first time; you will lose all progress if you quit before completion, with the Acts not taken into account as save or checkpoints at all. This means that LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars isn’t actually very suitable for portable play - unless you have a long journey ahead of you - until you have cleared the Story mode. After doing so, there is plenty to keep players coming back. Each level can be replayed, each Act selectable, in Free Play mode, which basically means that you get to select your own squad and discover whole new elements of the stages that cannot be found with the character selections in Story mode. It’s also the only way to collect all the Mini-Kits hidden around the game, all of which build up into surprises for you in a dedicated room in the hub.
New characters for Free Play mode are unlocked through Story mode, but you will also have to purchase many of them through the hub world’s shop - there are over 100 of them. This shop also allows you to buy extras such as snowball fighting mini-games and comedy jump sound effects once you have found special Red Bricks in each level and accumulated enough LEGO studs to pay for them. Studs spill out of every square of the game - scattered around the levels, appearing to direct you to your next objective, rewarding you for destroying enemies - so you’re never short of currency to spend; collect enough in a stage and you will be awarded ‘True Jedi’ status. StreetPass functionality also awards you more studs to spend if you connect with another owner of the game, though I did not encounter anybody with LEGO Star Wars StreetPass data installed during the course of this review.
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars’ use of auto-stereoscopic 3D varies throughout. The cut-scenes are hit and miss, with some working well and others decidedly less so, but in the all important playable areas it remains consistent. For the platform sections this means a subtle effect that doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay, but does pretty things up marginally, with rock formations, plants and platforms being layered around the areas. The flight sections are where Traveller’s Tales have really unleashed the potential of 3D, however. Your ship sticks out slightly and it seems as if you are flying into long stretches of air, while laser attacks and numerous pieces of debris hurtle towards the screen at you. At all times, your health and stud meters float in the foreground, clearly and crisply separated in their own layer so that they are always easy to see.
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars perhaps holds players’ hands a little too much and doesn’t give them much cause - or chance - to think about what they have to do next, though in considering that it is primarily aimed at the younger end of the age spectrum this could be thought of as a good approach to stave off frustration. Solutions to the already basic puzzles - in most cases the answer is to smash everything in sight and then re-build any piles of LEGO left lingering around into something more useful, like a lever - are practically spelt out by indicators on the character profile icons telling you who you need to use to progress, while R2-D2 is ever-ready to pop up in the bottom right-hand corner of the touch-screen should you need a hint.
Something to note is that our copy crashed on a few occasions while writing this review, freezing up completely and forcing a hard reset of the 3DS. We couldn’t say whether this is an isolated incident with our copy, having received it ahead of launch, or part of the problem that seems to be occurring in a few of the launch titles for some users, though the error message that has affected other users was not seen during this review, nor has it been seen in other games on this 3DS unit.
Very simplistic gameplay that guides you along every step of the way, though the character switching makes sure the action stays varied. The space flight combat levels are the most fun.
A definite upgrade over DS iterations of LEGO Star Wars, and the 3D is put to good use during flight sections. There is a tendency for the lighting to become overbearing, however, with some sections throwing so much light on characters that they begin to appear white and lose detail.
The usual laser cannon and lightsaber sounds are well produced, and the music is typical Star Wars fare. The guitar-based remix of the Star Wars theme during the door opening safe mini-game is a highlight.
Quite a lengthy story campaign, but to beat and unlock everything you will be playing it over and over again with different character configurations.
It perhaps guides players along more than necessary, and the lack of ability to save during the half hour-long levels on the first play-through is a misstep, but LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars continues the quality established by the series, with simplistic, satisfying gameplay that anybody can pick up easily whether they are fans of The Clone Wars animated series or not.
Nice review Mason. This is definitely one of the better 3DS launch titles, imo.