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Star Wars | Jedi Knight Jedi Academy | review | game | Lollipop
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
(Lucas Arts for the PC)
by Eric Johnson
Ironically, it took a science fiction-based game to perfect third-person sword combat, but that's the way things work sometimes. Jedi Academy is based in the Star Wars universe about 15 years after the conclusion of the original trilogy, its protagonist is a freshly-recruited Jedi apprentice sent all over the galaxy to confront the rise of a new Sith cult. While providing you with every opportunity to cop out and play it as a first-person shooter, under the hood, Jedi Academy boasts the finest melee combat system I've ever seen, in any game, at any time.
The frenzied lightsaber duels depicted in the five existing Star Wars films are an exhilarating combination of Japanese kendo, European fencing, and exaggerated Force-augmented acrobatics. Replicating this action involves taking advantage of a complicated but intuitive variety of thrusts, slashes, and jabs which are modified by your movement and fighting style. Three saber techniques (each with its own strengths and weaknesses) become available as the game progresses. Eventually, you even get to wield a double-bladed lightsaber like Darth Maul (which was my preference), or use two at the same time. Defense is automatic and augmented by the acrobatic skills and Force powers you choose to develop (both light and dark). Using the Force will endow you with a fifty-foot vertical leap, and can be used to choke the life out of enemies ala Darth Vader. They function like magic spells in fantasy-based games and are indispensable.
Over the course of the single-player campaign, these skills are used against legions of Imperial stormtroopers, bounty hunters, assassin droids, generic scumbags, and dark Jedi in a variety of wonderfully-rendered worlds. Confrontations with your Dark Side counterparts provide an unparalleled challenge: Combat may be resolved with a single swing, or may drag out into a grinding battle to wear down your opponent's defenses. It's like real sword fighting, and involves developing your own skill and style. There are no short cuts, cheap gimmicks, or button-mashing combos to save your ass in a pinch. It overwhelms any potential complaints and makes Jedi Academy one of the best single-player games I've had the pleasure of playing, and one of the finest online multiplayer games ever developed.