I always felt like Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy got a slightly unfair rep when it first launched.
Critically, it took a little bit of a knocking. And part of the problem was following in the footsteps of one of best shooter-hybrids of the early 2000s, and what many regarded as one of the greatest Star Wars game of its time.
Yes, I also remember and have fond memories of X-Wing vs Tie Fighter.
True, Jedi Academy absolutely continues the story and models itself on the adventures of Kyle Katarn, but it’s also very much its own entity.
For instance, you can create your own Jedi in training – choosing the hilt and colour of your lightsaber, as well as race, gender and appearance.
You can also level up your force powers and customise load-outs to bring into each mission.
In that sense, I would argue that Jedi Academy has aged better than its predecessor because these mechanics will undoubtedly feel more familiar to players of modern shooters.
And many of the criticisms lobbied at the game at the time – dated engine, level design, poor AI – while still applicable, will be more expected and accepted in a ported re-release.
Truthfully, I enjoyed revisiting Jedi Academy and quickly felt comfortable sinking my teeth into the action. Not least of which, teaming up with Chewie is a dream come true for me.
Being able to wield my lightsaber from the very beginning is an immediate bonus – same as it was back in 2003 – and it reminded me just how good Raven’s vision of combat still is. Honestly, I barely switched to my guns, and whenever I did it was mostly just to navigate some tricky environments because I felt more comfortable in first-person view.
Admittedly, in a world where we now have the excellent Fallen Order, it does feel dated – especially since there’s not much flexibility in your blocking and striking on Switch – but being able to deflect blaster fire, slow-mo kill Sith lords, and cinder Stormtrooper helmets with a downward slash is still ever satisfying.
This should also suitably get you in the mood to jump online and have lightsaber duels with the rest of the world. That’s right, Aspyr have gone the extra mile and added the beloved mode in with this port unlike they did with Jedi Outcast. Though PC owners are definitely having more fun with that at the moment. Mouse and keyboard is definitely still the way to play.
This is a bit disappointing as one of the key selling points of this port is being able to have this online experience on Switch, and while it’s been partly sabotaged in one way, I’ve also struggled to find games at other times. It’s not quite worked out for the best.
Fortunately, the campaign still holds up pretty well. And that’s something else that makes this port feel more relevant than Outcast – the ability to pick and choose the missions you want, visiting infamous Star Wars landmarks as you do. Being able to choose where I go and what I do feels surprisingly fresh all over again. Games like Duck Tales used to normalise this kind of level selection back in the day, but it’s been a while since we’ve had a modern game that lets us do that to a similar extent, and it’s actually a really neat way to make an experience feel less linear.
Each mission still contributes to the over-arching story of investigating a Sith Cult. Under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker and Kyle Katarn, you’re sent on various away missions to take down everything from smugglers to Stormtroopers, all while dealing with a jealous co-student who seems more content to make life difficult for you.
And to further make the Jedi Academy story interesting, the narrative will shift depending on where you place points on your force powers. Ultimately, this can lead you into the arms of the Empire, or bring about a new generation of Jedi.
It’s not a perfect port, of course. I actually found some of the screens stretched and they suffer a bit in handheld mode. Which is interesting, because you could tweak aspect ratio in Jedi Outcast but that doesn’t seem to be possible here.
As mentioned, the same issues remain that affected the game at launch, and, of course, the price tag is going to be a stumbling block for some. At $20, it isn’t the cheapest thing on the eShop, but there’s at least 15 hours of play in the campaign, and you could easily spend hours on the online portion. Well, when Aspyr clean up the PC invader mess, of course, which they’re apparently working on.
I really enjoyed revisiting this golden age Star Wars classic actually. On the whole, I feel like it holds up pretty well. The missions are diverse enough to keep you interested, the story goes at a nice pace, and the combat is more than servicable.
Oh, and best of all, the excellent Jennifer Hale does voice over for Jaden Korr, the game’s lead character. I mean, this is as close as we’re going to get to having Mass Effect on Switch, right?
For real, whether you’re a retro enthusiast or a curious historian, this should absolutely be in your library somewhere, Switch or otherwise. I am so glad that it’s getting the second chance it deserves. Truly, Jedi Academy is one of the all-time great Star Wars titles and this port helps reaffirm that.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is now available on PS4, Switch, Xbox One and PC
Tested on Switch
Review Code Provided By Publisher