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I have to admit that when the Star Wars Clone Wars animated film and television series first came about, I had zero interest in it. Despite being a fan of all the Star Wars movies, the truth was that I wasn't interested in watching CG-versions of the characters I had come to know over the years--that is, until my nephews convinced me to sit down and watch an episode of the Cartoon Network program with them. That's when I found out that, despite the new look and the more frequent use of humor, The Clone Wars featured the same quality science-fiction storytelling that had long been the trademark of the George Lucas motion pictures. Shame the same can't be said about the Wii video game based on the show, Star Wars Clone Wars Lightsaber Duels.
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As with the Clone Wars movie and TV series, Lightsaber Duels takes place in the Star Wars universe and is set specifically between Episodes II and III in the series canon. It stars 10 playable characters, including Anakin Skywalker, his Padawan (or apprentice) Ahsoka Tano, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Count Dooku, Sith assassin Ventress, and General Grievous. For the most part, the game retells parts of the film and various episodes of the series, and even includes sequences lifted straight from the source material to set-up the battle. On paper, that might not seem like a bad thing, but the game's plot often jumps around from one bit to another with no resolution and little rhyme or reason. Plus, the limited roster means you'll be forced to square off against the same opponents over, and over, and over.
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Lightsaber Duels is a one-on-one fighter. There are four difficulty levels based on different levels of Jedi training, ranging from Youngling (the easiest) to Grand Master (the most difficult). It requires use of both the Wiimote and the Nunchuck attachment. There are both single and multi-player modes, with solo play featuring a campaign of story battles, a challenge mode, as well as free play and quick play. Controls are easy to pick up thanks to the high quality in-game tutorials. Basically, the Nunchuck's control stick is used for movement and the Wii remote is your lightsaber. You can stack together combo attacks, block, dodge and even use the force to help you out.
Now I realize that hardcore Star Wars fans that may be reading are probably quite excited at the prospects of motion-controlled lightsaber battles, but in reality, they're not all that great. The controls work fairly well, although there are moments where they are unresponsive or flat out fail to recognize a movement. The combos and the force powers are fairly limited in quantity and the effects tied to them aren't overly impressive. Plus, as mentioned above, since there are only 10 characters you will have to both use and fight the same characters over and over again, leading to an immensely repetitive experience. Top it all off with the fact that the game's campaign mode is quite short, and the other options are somewhat limited, and you have a package that clearly lacks longevity.
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Graphics and Sound
The presentation, on the other hand, is quite nice. Since the game uses clips from the movie and TV show, and contains at least some music that will be immediately recognizable to any longtime Star Wars fan, and you have an impressive package. The voice actors from the cartoon reprise their roles here, as does the narrator who helps describe the scenario before each duel. In game graphics could have been a little better, but they're not so bad that they hurt the game in any noteworthy way.
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I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Clone Wars motion picture and television program, but Lightsaber Duels has left me with the exact opposite sensation. It was a disappointment. The game just doesn't have a lot of meat on its bones, and the repetitive gameplay will cause even the most devout Star Wars fanboy to lose interest in short order. It's a shame, really, because the world has long waited for a good game featuring motion-controlled lightsaber action. Star Wars Clone Wars Lightsaber Duels isn't that game, though, and at best it should be relegated to rental status.