Nintendo surprised us last year by announcing the classic Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast for the Nintendo Switch, a series beloved by Star Wars fans and a series that is looked upon as one of the best in the Star Wars saga. During the previous Mini Direct we were happy to see that Jedi Academy now also launched on the eShop and this one may well be even greater then the previous release.
Cult series among Star Wars fans for quite a while, Jedi Knight arrives for his second time on the Nintendo Switch. This time, Kyle Katarn will not be the hero of the story even if he is not forgotten. It is Jaden that you embody, a very promising young recruit from the Jedi Academy of Yavin 4, and a student of Katarn. It is in his company and in that of Skywalker that you are going to conduct the investigation of a new group of Siths who seem to be indulging in bizarre abuses.
To start off, we get into the heart of the matter with the creation of the character. It remains fairly basic, we choose the sex, the race (human, Twi’lek, Rodien, Zobrak or Kel’dor), a color and a saber handle. First notable change that you will find it that you will hold the Force and your saber from the start of the game, no need to bump half of the game without skills which make all the interest as it was the case in Jedi Outcast. This does not prevent the first levels from being relatively bland, however. The progression in the game is done by sets of missions. 4 missions are proposed to you, without any necessary relation to the scenario. It will be the usual work of the Jedis, rescues, captures, they are quite varied and you will have to recover pieces of ship in a desert full of sandworms after a crash as well as escape from a prison. On another note, you will also have to prevent the Vestiges of the Empire from taking Bespin’s Tibana gas. From time to time, we bat a Black Jedi and other villains. Once these four missions are completed in the desired order, a fifth, main and related to the scenario, remains to be done in order to move on to the next set, a good idea that makes the game less linear. Unless you prefer to go around the academy to increase your Strength points.
Surprise indeed, unlike Jedi Outcast, you can freely allocate your Force points like the first Jedi Knight. In fact, the 8 main powers evolve by themselves (jumps, push, pull, speed,) but the 8 secondary powers are to be chosen. Each one has 3 levels, it is up to you to see if you prefer to specialize in certain areas or play the keys to everything. Among these powers we find our habits with the effective grip of Vader, we have fun pushing the stormtroopers into the void, we grill everyone with lightning, we treat ourselves according to the Jedi method etc. Among the new features are Sensation, which allows you to see enemies or important objects, and Rage, which increases your strength and speed but exhausts you in return. The operation is exactly the same as in the previous episode, we have a Force gauge which decreases during use and fills at rest. Note that the 8 powers are divided between those on the Jedi side and those borrowed from the Dark Side, which has little remarkable impact on the evolution of the character, it’s a shame, by the way.
But the big news in Jedi Academy is about saber duels. New combos are appearing and especially new weapons. You will need a little experience before you can use two swords at the same time or a double-bladed saber but it is worth it. Many strokes appear and enrich the game a little. Among other things you can dance your two swords around you just to get rid of your enemies or use a new kick with the double blade (taken from Episode 1). The attacks are much more varied thanks to the new combos that you acquire gradually. Already very fun in Outcast, saber duels take on a new dimension here, and a great class given the spectacular aspect of the movements. No doubt, for the fans it is a treat. Another novelty but this time not really successful, the possibility of controlling vehicles or animals like the Taun Taun. It’s fun for 5 minutes but given the maneuverability of the thing, we much rather not use them. As long as you go straight everything is fine but then as soon as you have to turn it immediately becomes more frustrating.
Let’s sum up to see more clearly: it’s a bit of a slow start, but it gets more exciting in the later missions, more powers, transcended lightsabers. Okay, here we are. Ok so the game gets better along the way and luckily for us it all held up fairly well through the years. Before moving to the new sabers, it really feels like replaying Jedi Knight 2 during the first levels. The exploration-based gameplay hasn’t really changed, though an effort has been made to avoid spending an hour looking for a key. But basically, it’s always more or less the same formula which sometimes turns out to be quite painful. You wander in a new level, figure out what the main problem is and then you try to get through the level as fast as possible, sometimes doing the same thing as you did in another level.
Now being a game of over 15 years old Jedi Academy still holds up failry well on the Swith his little screen and docked on TV. everything is nicely up-ressed to HD and the parcitul effects of the sabers and blasters still do what they are supposed to do, make nice lightning effects. We didn’t experience any slow-down and it runs faster then it did on the original Xbox, which is always a great thing to see.
I find myself both delighted and a bit frustrated with Jedi Academy. On the one hand we have the new saber dueling, the many new movements in combat (recovery, more varied attacks) and some new acrobatics, but on the other of the missions sometimes involving sometimes tiring and an engine more very up to date. But basically, the evolution is there, the lightsaber duels have really gained in complexity and fun, and the fun in the game clearly gained another level.
The main reason most people will buy this game (again?) will be for the multiplayer. The game features multiple modes to play online including some of the most popular ones like Duel and Power Duel, where you go toe to toe with an opponent only using your lightsaber and the force power that you choose to wield. So far the servers have been quite busy and most people will keep on playing this for as long as the servers hold. Up to 16 players can fight their way online and since the community held on to those servers for years after the original release we might just see the same thing happen with this re-release on the Switch.
Jedi Academy is a good evolution over its predecessor in almost all ways and if you want a game with saber duels both off- and online then this is the game for you.