The one element that wasn"t terrible in last year"s DS game, the 3D engine, has been improved for The Complete Saga. It"s, naturally, still not nearly as impressive as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or Wii versions, but it certainly holds its own using the weaker capabilities of the Nintendo DS hardware. The simplistic, angular imagery of the LEGO universe definitely works well with the system"s weaknesses and gives the development team the ability to get everything running at a smooth 30 frames per second. The team even manages some nice lighting effects that are subtle and various to match each world"s style.
The only real disappointment in the visuals is the team"s use of sprites for the storytelling cutscenes. Instead of animating the 3D models like the console team did (and last year"s DS team tried to do), the Complete Saga team use awkward 2D cutouts and slide them around the screen. The results are clumsy cutscenes that animate like a Terry Gilliam Monty Python cartoon, but much more awkward and far less funny.
The platform-style action/adventure elements mimic the style in the console version, with the designers adding neat-but-absolutely pointless touchscreen force power - you"re free to rub at the screen to activate force elements, but you can also just hold down the A button for a more responsive effect. The DS version also differs in some action mini-games: the vehicular levels the Nintendo DS version features an odd vertical scrolling design that spans many of the key vehicle scenes of the movie. Situations like the Death Star battle and the fight on Hoth (with the harpooning of the AT-ATs) take place in this engine that uses both screens as one long display. These challenges aren"t bad and they look fantastic, but they"re a little awkward since these levels require a lot of back and forth flying, and enemies and their bullets tend to get lost in the dead space between the two screens. That dead zone also seems to be a significant size bigger virtually than physically, as if the designer guesstimated the distance between the two screens as further than it really is.
The publisher definitely fronted the bill for a "big" cartridge and it shows in the audio. While you"re blasting away, recorded samples from the John Williams score"s being played and looped seamlessly in the background. It"s a huge step above the past attempts at the score using MIDI…you really need the real brass, wind, and percussion instruments to make the Star Wars action feel right, and the audio (sound effects included) is top notch in the DS version.