Star Wars is a franchise that just refuses to die. Apparently six different movies along with a large number of other references throughout pop culture including television, comic books, novels, and other forms of media including some video games with entirely original narratives or spins on the concept, it seems that the Star Wars juggernaut is never-ending. The recent release of the entirely animated film entitled Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a sign that we're probably going to be stuck hearing about lightsabers and Ewoks for a long time to come. Apparently unaware of the idea of 'beating a dead horse', an inevitable and entirely unsurprising twist comes in the form of a new video game of the same name being released in the very near future. What makes this logical step in money-making interesting is that the game is a Wii and Nintendo DS exclusive; the surprising twist being that it's actually not that bad at all.
So yes, the game is based on the movie of the same name, The Clone Wars. But this isn't an adventure game that follows a serious narrative of some kind; this is a lightsaber duelling game, where you'll face off in one-on-one battles with your opponent until one of you gets beaten into an intergalactic pulp. With The Force Unleashed now being... erm... unleashed onto the public, it probably made sense not to go with something too serious or complicated like an action adventure type of game, considering especially the fact that The Force Unleashed is being released on multiple platforms as well, and having two games doing similar things from the same franchise may have been a hard sell. Clone Wars is simple, sword fighting combat, and we spent some time with the Wii version, getting nice and used to the controls.
After choosing your character out of a fairly large list (it's all the important characters from the movie, apparently, so fan boys rejoice) and choosing an area to fight in (again, familiar to anyone who has seen The Clone Wars), you'll get stuck right into the action. At your disposal most importantly are your basic attacks; swinging the Wii remote upwards, downwards, or side to side creates different swipes of your lightsaber, or you can thrust the Wii remote forwards in a stabbing motion which will also be replicated in game. It's basic on one level but chaining together different swings of your light sabre allows you to create combos, so like most fighting games, the game takes seconds to learn but a lot longer to actually master.
As well as your basic lightsaber attacks, you'll be able to unleash the force onto your opponent at any given time - assuming they're not wailing on you, of course. Simply pressing the C button allows you to target the nearest movable object, which can then be flung at your opponent by a simple shake of the nunchuk. You'll also be able to block or parry your opponent's attacks by pressing the B button or evade them by jumping out of the way with the A button. The combat may seem simplistic, but being able to block and parry attacks is quite crucial, and we found that after a couple of rounds we were starting to strategize a bit more after the initial giddiness of 'Look at me using a lightsaber with my Wii remote!!' had passed.
At certain points in the battle, you'll lock up your lightsaber with your opponent and have a close confrontation, where the camera zooms in to see the facial expressions of the characters as you face-off in a mini-game with your foe. The mini-game we saw here had you swing the Wii remote in several directions that came up one after the other on screen, in a race to complete them all before your opponent could, which would then trigger a more powerful attack if you were successful. While perhaps not entirely necessary, it does break up the fighting action a little bit and didn't really detract from the gameplay at all, only inspiring some more competition between ourselves and our opponent as we raced to complete the actions.
The game looks like it's been ripped directly out of the movie, with smooth and fluid character animations that resemble the style of the Clone Wars film itself. The game looks quite good and suffered no slowdown that we saw, and the environments themselves are quite cool as well, mostly for the reason that the clone wars are actually taking place in the background as you battle. Buildings will fall apart into rubble and battles between stormtroopers will take place in the background while you fight, making you really feel as if you're a part of this epic war that is constantly being referred to. Audio is also effective, if not a little bit cheesy, as the characters throw one-liners at each other as they fight.