Universally panned by critics and fans alike for plot holes, filler material, and a focus on family-oriented entertainment Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released in 1999 to revive the iconic Star Wars films of the late 1970’s. Focusing on Darth Vader’s childhood and rise to villainy, the film was the first of the three prequels attempting to capitalize on advances in technology and a growing entertainment market.
Like the movies of the 1970’s, now legendary for their innovation in story-telling and cinematography, The Phantom Menace bombarded kids of the late 90’s with books, toys, and video games featuring the Star Wars brand. I was part of the target age group when the film dropped, and that shit was everywhere.
Landing on the PC, Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, Playstation, and Nintendo 64, Star Wars Episode I Racer was another title in a long list of Star Wars video games to hit store shelves around the release of The Phantom Menace. The game was very similar to the much-loved F-Zero series and expanded upon a minor plot point within the movie; before a chance meeting with two Jedi Knights, a young Darth Vader was shitting up the field as a backmarker in the Star Wars equivalent of NASCAR, dubbed Pod Races.
Despite F-Zero achieving a huge cult following and the love for Star Wars turning into more of a fad than a cult phenomenon as the 21st century approached, Episode I Racer was critically well-received and technically superior to the now timeless F-Zero series. The game ran poorly on the Nintendo 64 (as did all third-party games) and Playstation, but was a surprisingly good futuristic racer and visually up-to-par on the PC and Dreamcast, providing a decent challenge coupled with impressive graphics, track design, and a familiar cast of characters.
And early on in the game’s Grand Prix mode, the third race of the opening championship, a surprise cameo appearance was made by none other than the Grand Prix of Monterrey:
Elevation changes obviously aren’t replicated to the exact degree of incline, and the corkscrew has been bastardized beyond all recognition (seriously, it’s flat), but this appearance marked the only time Laguna Seca appeared on the Nintendo 64.
And it’s called Dug Derby. In a Star Wars game.