The most welcome improvement, however, would have to be the game's look and sound. Making use of nearly every bell and whistle that the GameCube hardware has to offer, Rogue Leader is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous game. All craft in the game feature extremely generous polygon counts that are enhanced by special effects such as bump mapping, self-shadowing, and high-resolution textures. The ship models are a fan's dream, featuring incredible attention to detail, from the trademark weathering on the craft to the sick amount of detail on display when you switch to cockpit view and use the C-stick to look around. It's even possible to make out details on ground troops when flying low during the battle on Hoth.
The game's environments also display equally detailed and polygon-rich modeling and some slick uses of special effects. Incredibly clean textures, bump mapping, volumetric fog, and great lighting "sell" the experience very capably. Liberal use of locations and frame-by-frame re-creations of scenes and locations from the movies will please fans of the series. In addition, the game makes use of the GameCube's internal clock--adjusting the time of day during certain missions. While the GC handles all the eye candy on display fairly well, there are times when the game's 60 fps frame rate isn't quite as constant as it could be. Fortunately, the drops in frame rate don't really hinder gameplay much at all. To really appreciate how beautiful Rogue Squadron really is, though, you'll have to make some investments: namely a GameCube component cable. No matter how beautiful the game looks on a normal television, there's simply no substitute for the beauty to be seen with the GC running through a component cable in progressive scan mode. Standard RCA jacks and the game's interlaced video mode are nice, but you'll want to make some investments for a true showcase.
The last component of Rogue Squadron that bears mention, although by now it's a given, is the game's sound. Having worked on the GC's sound system, Factor 5 has managed to do some slick sound work in RL. Owners of Dolby Surround Pro Logic II receivers will be pleased to hear the game's slick surround sound support and be sucked into the game that much more. Every blaster shot, chirp, and squeak in the game is as authentic as it gets. In addition, Factor 5 actually rustled up actor Denis Lawson, who played Wedge in the movies, to provide in-game voice. During the game, the soundtrack alternates between known pieces of music from the films, as well as original music from the game, adapting and blending on the fly.
While all of Rogue Leader's components are strong on their own, they display a great amount of polish and end up making RL far more than the sum of its parts. While the game seems a bit short at first, you'll find that earning the various medals, uncovering the power-ups for the various craft, discovering the game's special features, and unlocking the bonus levels will keep you hooked. Thanks to tight graphics and immersive gameplay, Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron easily stands as the most impressive launch title for the GameCube. GameCube owners in search of a showcase for their new system owe it to themselves to pick up a copy.