I love seeing the games that I enjoyed in my younger years get re-released on modern platforms, with plenty of classics making their way to consoles as of late. One of those releases was Star Wars: Jedi Knight II – Jedi Outcast, which recently made its way over to the Nintendo Switch as well as other platforms. It felt a little unusual that it was the sequel that hit first though, but fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long for Star Wars Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy to make its way to consoles too.
I actually LOVED Star Wars Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy when I originally played it back in 2003, so I was glad to finally get my hands on it. Unfortunately, whilst there’s still fun to be had on its adventure across the galaxy, it really hasn’t aged all that well when compared to similar titles that have seen modern re-releases.
Star Wars Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy puts players in the role of Jaden Korr, a Jedi Padawan that is part of the titular Jedi Academy. This all takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi, so you don’t have any Order 66 to be worried about – in fact, there’s a real sense of hope with the future of the Jedi (which is something that was erased in the recent movies, so consider this non-canon). That doesn’t mean that you’re in a world of complete peace though, and after an encounter with a Dark Jedi you soon learn that a threat to the Jedi Academy isn’t far away. It’s a decent little story that brings some familiar faces into the fray, so fans of the Star Wars universe will certainly enjoy seeing it play out to its conclusion.
Whilst Star Wars Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy gives you a name, it does allow you to create your own force-wielding hero, with multiple races to choose between and plenty of outfit options on offer for you to give yourself your own unique look. You can even customise your lightsaber, with different colours and hilts to choose between to make your perfect weapon.
The bulk of gameplay sees you working through a variety of levels, each of which brings with it an assortment of platforming challenges and enemies to kill. You’ll also get to make some decisions throughout these missions that are associated with the dark and light side of the force – the choices you make will actually affect how the ending of the game plays out, which doesn’t only add weight behind your decisions but also gives players an incentive to play through a second time.
Combat in Star Wars Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy is naturally cool because… well… it’s Star Wars. This means that you’re equipped with both a lightsaber and force powers, meaning you can slice away at enemies carefree or just force push them away with the press of a button. There are other abilities to play with too, with each assigned their own button that makes it easy to mix up your skills when in combat. It’s all very satisfying in that button-mashing sort of way and you’ll certainly feel like a powerful Jedi the more you play the game.
However, modern video games have come on a long way since 2003, and it’s easy to see that some of the combat mechanics are a bit finicky. There isn’t a whole lot of weight to your attacks in-game, whilst your character will look like they’re just swinging their lightsaber carefree thanks to the unnatural character animations. The aiming mechanics when using ranged weapons or abilities just felt a little iffy too, with the sense of accuracy never quite there in what you’re doing. It just all feels a little bit dated, which is a little disappointing. But hey, at least your lightsaber make authentic swooshy noises when you swing it…
It’s not only in its combat mechanics where Star Wars Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy feels dated though, with the visuals and level design feeling a little out of touch too. Now the visuals are more forgivable, especially since this is more of a re-release with a fresh lick of paint as opposed to a full-blown remaster or remake, but the vacant and linear level design was a bit more disappointing. It’s a shame too, because the adventure does see you visiting a good few locales that’ll stand out to Star Wars fans and there were plenty of moments where I had a big fanboy smile on my face – it just never really reaches its full potential, especially when compared to some of the more modern Star Wars video games.
Star Wars Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy brings with it an online multiplayer mode that allows you to face off against other players in a variety of different game modes. Remember how I mentioned the combat is a bit button-mashy? Well, this actually shines in multiplayer, where the arcade-like battling and epic nature of your Jedi abilities actually makes for some quick and frantic fun. Sure, it’s not necessarily the sort of multiplayer experience you’re going to find yourself invested in for weeks on end, but a quick jaunt here and there is actually pretty fun. Just expect to die a lot – a lot of the opponents I came across were surprisingly experienced…
I remember playing Star Wars Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy when it originally released back in 2003 and loving it; unfortunately, in the seventeen years since then, it hasn’t really aged all that well. Sure, it does have its enjoyable moments within combat and there’s no doubt that Star Wars fans will have fun on the adventure, but the dated visuals and some its more finicky gameplay mechanics just feel a little bit too clumsy in this day and age.
That’s not to say that there isn’t charm to be found during the adventure. If you can accept the fact that this is a game from 2003 that already felt a bit janky to begin with and just embrace the lengthy fan service-filled adventure for what it is, there’s definitely fun to be had. Just keep your expectations in check…
Developer: Raven Software, Aspyr
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC