It’s rare to see a standalone game like Star Wars Republic Commando make such an impact on one of history’s biggest franchises.
The game was released in 2005, but grew to be a cult classic among fans who fell in love with its no-nonsense flair. This is where Delta Squad continued to form up outside of their source material for over 16 years and counting. The elite Clone Commandos, along with the team itself (Boss, Scorch, Sev, Fixer) would be considered a part of the Star Wars canon once they appeared across The Clone Wars series. It’s clear Lucasfilm and Disney have heard the cries of fans wanting more commandos, as Republic Commando goes into TV territory with the upcoming Bad Batch series. The game alone also brought Clone Commandos to life across games like Star Wars Battlefront 2, showing off EA’s potential to create a next generation sequel for Delta Squad.
The latest redeployment of Star Wars Republic Commando for the Nintendo Switch brings Delta Squad’s journey to a full circle. Some can finally take a piece of their childhood with them on-the-go. Others can experience a solid tactical first person shooter at a time when it’s great to be a Star Wars fan. 16 years later, the shooter continues to echo the golden age of Star Wars games as LucasArts immersed fans in ways a silver screen couldn’t. Developer Aspyr has taken a great amount of respect from communities to bring Republic Commando to a Nintendo platform for the first time. But at launch, its embarrassing performance issues add turbulence to an otherwise timeless classic.
Star Wars Republic Commando still plays out like a badass blend of Rainbow Six and The Clone Wars which really works. For newcomers, the game is set at the height of the prequel-era conflict between Episode 2 and Episode 3. Players become RC-1138 (Boss), a Clone commando trained to perform clandestine missions for the Republic. They also lead three others including RC-1140 (Fixer), RC-1207 (Sev) and RC-1262(Scorch). This sets the stage for a lengthy nine hour campaign which throws players against legions of Separtist forces. The storyline still holds up to tell a gritty action tale, without force powers or lightsaber spectacles. Republic Commando just gets straight to the point with its single player missions, offering one of the most engaging Star Wars experiences to date.
LucasArts in 2005 developed the game with some incredibly deep level design. The environment is a literal weapon as Boss can order up to three troops for maneuvers. This is the tactical bread and butter for Republic Commando. It’s incredibly satisfying to plant my team around various spots for specific actions including sniping, lobbing grenades or flat-out ordering them to complete objectives for me as I cover them. The game empowers players with options on taking out some pretty overpowered enemies. But players can appreciate the challenging difficulty, making them feel more like vulnerable troopers than the untouchable jedi. It also makes every confrontation feel like a calculated one at times when players use their squad to every advantage. It’s nearly impossible to finish the game without relying on your team, except in times where Delta Squad is separated. Even in these situations, players can wish they had their backs covered. This is where players need to rely on their variety of weapons and resources to make it to the next Bacta healing station.
Republic Commando’s levels are scattered with plenty of intelligent enemies. Droids vary from the fodder Battle Droids players can blast with satisfaction. But some in-game trauma can start to hit with Super Battle Droids, which require coordination to take down. In numbers, these metal behemoths can easily wipe the floor with Delta Squad. Despite dying, I definitely remembered how much of a threat the Clones saw in droids. This made Republic Commando a much more gratifying game from 2005 to 2021, while local troops like the Genosians and Trandoshans gnawed at the feeling of being dropped into a hostile environment.
Despite the campaign offering only three planets, LucasArts went for quality over quantity. Each planet is essentially an Act in the story and throws players into a healthy variety of set pieces. This lets Delta Squad blast their way through a good portion of Episode 2 before it moves onto original storytelling. But Republic Commando still does a wonderful job of pacing, throwing players into one dangerous workplace to another. Objectives are also evenly spread out, giving players a run for their money when they eliminate a high-ranking Separtist, breach a factory or fend off a cruiser from pirates.
Admittedly, Republic Commando has drawbacks in feeling too unbalanced. This was a problem from the 2005 release which still carried over to the Switch. Where players can have a tough time on medium difficulty, the Easy setting makes things more enjoyable at the cost of having less reliable teammates. The story runs surprisingly long at nine hours, but still left me wanting more to do with Republic Commando’s addictive FPS gameplay. Thanks to solid gunplay and its unique squad system, I was surprised to see the 2005 title still hold up next to modern shooters.
Surprisingly, the Nintendo Switch’s Joy Cons feel well suited to the action. Republic Commando’s Switch controls are also remappable thanks to consideration from Aspyr. Players can tweak almost every button on the Joy Con to fit their play styles. I would have loved to see some quality-of-life changes done for players using their triggers to aim. But it feels dated to toggle the aim function, in a game where setting your sights on an enemy is constant. There is also a lack of toggle crouching for players, making stealth an afterthought. After some personal mapping, Republic Commando still managed to feel like a modern shooter.
Star Wars Republic Commando feels like an even bigger game on a smaller system. In handheld mode, it’s a dream to see the game literally unplugged from Xbox and PC exclusivity. Aspyr has shown some experience in delivering other Star Wars Switch ports of Jedi Academyand Star Wars Racer. But the same experience is mostly intact here. The game’s resolution is surprisingly snug on a small screen. Players can still read all the information over their commando visor, which was essential across my first runthrough. Aspyr has clearly made optimizations with visuals, which are cleaned up with some slightly better graphics for Switch. Luckily, the handheld system doesn’t need to sacrifice much for a game from 2005. The result is seeing something which looks closer to the animated The Clone Wars series.
Handheld mode is where Republic Commando really shines. Aspyr goes an extra mile in breaking the game’s Xbox and PC exclusivity while making it playable anywhere with Switch. Players might lose some dexterity without a proper controller or mouse and keyboard. But after some practice, I was able to glide my sights gracefully over an enemy. It also helped that Delta Squad would compliment on your aim, which was a sign that the Nintendo Switch wasn’t the worst way to play Republic Commando.
Aspyr has also done great work in adding vibration with some solid feedback behind every action in the game. Some awkward moments came from learning how to switch weapons and use commands. Both buttons are overlapped on the arrows, making it a confusion at first. But players simply hold one button and select their commands to instantly attack, recall or defend. It’s worth noting the game features a quicksave and loading system, which happen in mere seconds (because again, a 2005 game is running on a 2019 system). Players are likely to die often, but can jump back in quicker to preserve pacing. On a stranger note, two hours of game time only took away 30 percent of my updated Switch’s battery. Skilled players could theoretically beat it in a single charge.
Republic Commando feels nostalgic to play in Docked mode. As a full console, the game may start to look dated over a 4K screen. But it’s more comfortable to move and shoot with the Joy Cons attached to the controller grip. Here, the game feels more tactile as players have more hand-eye coordination over a bigger screen. Its tabletop mode feels just as accessible for players looking to enjoy Republic Commando with a bit more control on the go. It’s the Nintendo Switch’s range of gameplay which give Star Wars Republic Commando a breath of fresh air, until its performance turns off some of the magic.
The game suffers from huge performance losses for both Handheld and Docked mode. It’s a sad aspect which ruins the game’s full potential on Nintendo Switch. Aspyr is confirmed to be investigating the changes, though it would have been nice to see the game run at a constant 60fps. There are moments when the game appears battery smooth, but these rare glimpses are taken over by dips as low as 15 frames per second. The result turns Republic Commando into a stuttering mess, especially when faced with plenty of enemies at one time. This happens often in a military game as grand as Republic Commando. The latency and performance issues will cause players to miss their targets, see hitches and even frustrate fans playing better on older systems. It differs from the consistent quality of other Star Wars games released by Aspyr and begs a question into why the Switch can run 2020’s Doom Eternal and struggle with 2005’s Republic Commando. At launch, the game loses some valuable marks without quality-of-life fixes and a much needed performance patch.
Aspyr’s previous release in Jedi Academy included an online multiplayer with up to 16 in a match. Sadly, the multiplayer mode from Republic Commando is absent in favour of its single player campaign. It’s another missed opportunity from the studio to bring one of the game’s other popular modes back for Nintendo Switch players, who could have also added another fully fleshed out multiplayer shooter in their libraries. But new players won’t get to enjoy the mode, which came complete with a few competitive options and character customization in 2005.
Star Wars Republic Commando is a welcome surprise to the Nintendo Switch. Players get to revisit one of the best Star Wars games ever made and reaffirms the need for a long-overdue sequel. Its advanced first person shooter mechanics and immersive campaign from 2005 aged like fine wine and feel refreshing to see over a portable system. But performance issues on the Switch keep players from fully enjoying the cult classic as they’re supposed to, while Aspyr has missed some opportunities to modernize its controls for better. The game also comes at a reduced price, adding more reason for fans to celebrate Delta Squad’s impact on the Star Wars universe once more. New recruits daring to take this mission will be deployed into a worthy shooter that fills a void left by The Clone Wars and waiting for The Bad Batch series inspired by the game.