Growing up, there were three things my brother and I loved more than anything: Nintendo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Star Wars. So deep was our love for Star Wars that we actually burnt out our VHS tape of Empire Strikes Back from how much we would watch it.
So deep was our love for Star Wars that we actually beat Super Star Wars—arguably one of the hardest games on the SNES. That love continues to this day, and every time I see a new Star Wars related project, I can’t help but get excited for what it could potentially be.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, having missed it in 2003 due to the lack of a decent gaming PC. I was somewhat aware of it, and had heard that it was one of the better Star Wars games—for the time, that is. That may have been the case then, and maybe even now on the PC; but it pains me to say the Force is not strong with this Switch port.
Set somewhere after the events of the previous Jedi Knight games, players take on the role of Jaden Korr—a Jedi Padawan under the tutelage of Kyle Katarn and Luke Skywalker as they investigate the rise of a Sith cult called the Disciples of Ragnos. Players will travel all across the galaxy, completing several peacekeeping missions as they battle the remnants of the fallen Empire, and unraveling the mystery Ragnos.
I’ll keep this brief, since this is yet another review of a 17 year-old game; Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy just barely works on the Nintendo Switch. The optimal word I would use to describe Jedi Academy on Switch is “janky.” You can definitely see where this is a game that was optimized for a PC, just slapped onto the Switch without any re-tooling.
From the menus that are still laid out in a way that was made for a mouse, now having to be awkwardly navigated with a joystick—worst of all in the lightsaber selection where trying to scroll to the bottom of the hilts will just move to the next menu, rather than stopping within the menu itself. But this pales in comparison to playing the game itself. NOTHING feels good about playing Jedi Academy on the Switch. Movement feels awkward and slippery, using blasters feels imprecise and ineffectual, and lightsaber combat is a mess of button mashing and wildly unpredictable hit detection.
Furthermore, without any real tutorial, trying to figure out the lightsaber combat is a mystery unto itself. After combing over countless online walkthroughs and Youtube tutorials, there is supposedly a wide range of directional attacks, and ways to engage in lightsaber duels, but in playing the game, I cannot confirm this. I never know if my lightsaber connects, or if I’m going to block an attack, if I’m going to chain a combo, or anything; it just feels sloppy all the time.
In the audio/visual department...I mean, what did you expect, this is a 17 year-old game, and it shows. If it’s been given a coat of HD paint, I couldn’t really tell, both in docked or in handheld mode. Voice acting is fine, but does a lot to show the game’s age, and the music is basically just the greatest hits of the Star Wars soundtrack—Battle of Hoth, Imperial March; you know the rest.
If Jedi Academy has any redeeming quality it’s in its multiplayer, and even that is a complete crapshoot. Despite the fact that it compounds every problem Jedi Academy has by adding other people to it, I will admit that it is weirdly compelling until you get Force gripped/pushed into your 19 pitfall and you begin to wonder why you’re even playing when the lightsaber combat feels so unsatisfying and the rest of the game feels so cheap.
Whether or not Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is fundamentally a good game, I cannot say. Maybe it’s better on PC, with a proper mouse and keyboard setup, or mods to bring the game into the modern day. All I can speak to is the game I got, on the system I have; and as such, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is an absolutely ABYSMAL port and should be avoided by fans of Star Wars, and fans of good games in general.
As someone who is a big supporter of ports on the Switch, this game may have me reaching my breaking point with the whole concept. I’m getting tired of publishers using the Switch as a reason to double-dip on games, I’m getting tired of ports that aren’t optimized for the system it’s on, and I’m just getting tired of old games taking precedence over new ones. Why couldn’t we have gotten Star Wars: The Force Unleashed instead?