The time has maybe never been more right for a throwback to Star Wars of old. With the last Skywalker Saga film causing more confusion with the brand than any other major release under Disney (The Last Jedi’s divisive era included), folks are a little out of sorts with the long-running series.
It’s into this freefall that Aspyr has relaunched another classic Star Wars title. This one harkens back to a time when games set in that galaxy far, far away aspired to be more lighthearted power fantasy than grand epic.
This return to a different era of Star Wars ideologies and game design is about as successful as any nostalgic reverie ever could be. Following on from last year’s Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, the much-lauded 2003 sequel Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy now hits PS4 and Switch with some nice quality of life improvements and a glorious multiplayer mode.
While time has been harsh to some of the game’s elements, Jedi Academy hums with the right kind of carefree goofiness in what many consider to be a dark time for the franchise.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy Review
The premise of the game remains perhaps the best selling point of any Star Wars game ever released. The Empire has fallen and you are Jaden Korr, a fully customisable new student on his or her way to train under Luke Skywalker at his Jedi Academy. Jaden can be wonderfully diverse, allowing players the rare opportunity to experience a Star Wars story as an alien race, including the iconic Twi’leks and Zabraks.
This choice doesn’t impact the plot mind you, but it’s a nice bit of customisation that future games rarely indulge in.
Unlike Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy opts for a more open structure for its plot, a natural extension of the freedom afforded to players in choosing what kind of Jedi they wish to be. The bulk of the game is broken up into small vignettes, a variety of missions set across the galaxy on many recognisable planets.
These vary in length, difficulty and even objective, offering up a consistently engaging selection of things to do between major story missions.
The central plot of Jedi Academy swings bigger in scope while maintaining a delightfully pulpy edge. Its tale of Dark Side cultists siphoning Force energy to resurrect an ancient Sith lord feels very of the time before Star Wars concerned itself too deeply with the moral shortcomings of its iconic Force users.
This is about as batty as a mainstream Star Wars story could get, boasting high fantasy aesthetics and dramatics.
Successfully completing a mission will earn you another point to allocate toward your growing collection of Force powers. Jedi Academy doesn’t concern itself with policing which branch of Force abilities you choose from; my Jaden was a Force lightning powerhouse who called upon the Light side to heal herself when needed. Paired with some fancy lightsaber customisation and battle stances, there is a solid number of different ways to make Jaden feel like your ideal Jedi Knight.
Combat itself, as well as general movement and platforming, feels slightly too dated at times no matter how you stack your deck. The lightsaber duels, considered among many to be the best in any Star Wars title to date, largely come through unscathed. These fights hum with a chaotic, good kind of janky energy that feels right even if technically it could do with some work.
There is also a thrill to seeing limbs seared off your foes and burn marks left across the world by your sabre that never gets old.
The first-person shooting is one to one with Jedi Knight’s, an unsatisfying means to an end in certain levels that prevent your trusty sabre from solving everything. However, the most egregious example of the game’s age is its floaty movement that makes even the slightest twitch of the stick a moonwalk into any number of insta-death pits.
Short of a complete remake, however, these gripes are to be expected when playing a title that is pushing twenty years old. Aspyr has once again done a terrific job in the presentation, glossing over flat textures with a nice sheen of new lighting and smooth animations. It’s not going to blow anyone away but in spite of its age, and thanks to Aspyr’s pristine porting record, Jedi Academy on modern consoles looks and sounds quite good.
Switch owners can also buy with confidence as the game runs perfectly in both handheld and docked modes.
Outside of the game’s engaging main story, Aspyr has also done God’s work in porting the outstanding multiplayer mode from the original game. Once you’ve customised your avatar using the same options as the main game or picked one of the many preexisting character models, you can jump into a bevy of multiplayer matches including duels, capture the flag and Siege. Matches are fast-paced and action-heavy, even with just bots if you’re feeling shy, but the multiplayer community for the game is thriving and well worth a look.
While some players may find Jedi Academy‘s janky foundations too much of a challenge, there is an undeniable charm that is just as radiant as it was seventeen years ago. The freedom of choice afforded to players in crafting their own Jedi Knight, the bonkers story and a robust, bombastic multiplayer suit make this port a must-play for Star Wars fans looking for a distraction in these dark and uncertain times.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a digital copy provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Game Description: Customise your own Jedi Knight as you train under Luke Skywalker to defeat an ancient Sith threath in Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, now on Switch.