One of the ironies of the videogame adaptations of Star Wars games is that the direct movie tie-ins never tend to be as good as those that simply take place “in the Star Wars universe.” Whether it’s that the material is too constricting, that the movie tie-ins are created as just that, with no real attention to quality, or whatever, they just don’t tend to be that great.

Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith for the DS won’t change your mind about that. (Editor’s Note: if you Nintendo-only gamers are disappointed by the lack of a GCN version, maybe the fact that it completely and utterly blows will serve as some consolation). But unlike the other crap film tie-ins, this one is passable, and at times excellent, entertainment that’s definitely worth owning at best and a really good rental at worst.

Basically, it’s the same as the Game Boy Advance game with some extra, 3D flying missions, which is disheartening because the DS is capable of oh-so-much more than that. There aren’t any significant changes or improvements to the main side-scrolling gameplay which looks like it was transported from 1995.

It follows the basic outline of the movie, tracing Anakin’s path to the dark side and accurately recreates most of the scenes in the film in that you’re constantly killing droids that look the same and there’s very little variety outside of the extra flying missions.

You can play as Obi Wan or Anakin but it doesn’t change the levels or the gameplay, which is not so much an homage to Final Fight as it is Final Fight with futuristic graphics and brilliant music that makes you feel better and more important than you should while playing.

The graphics are colorful and very 16-bit. This game might have been looked at more favorably on the Super Nintendo, with the occasional nice, multiple-layered scrolling backgrounds, good animation and character sprites. But today it looks, well, generic and completely unimpressive, albeit passable. Also, the art design is horrendous. It looks like some nightmarish, Saturday morning cartoon created in the 8th or maybe 9th circle of Hell. It’s like the movie, only really ugly and it would freak out young kids. And how do you take a cartoony approach to such a dark movie anyway?

Did I mention how awesome the soundtrack is?

The presentation isn’t substantial by any means—the story is carried along by brief conversational text boxes that feel like a super-abridged, “Cut out all the scary and philosophically oriented sequences” kids version of the screenplay. Which, now that I think about it, the developers were probably aiming for. Then again, if you bought this game to re-experience the story, something is wrong with you. Ah, but what can you expect from a game designed 70% of the way on Game Boy Advance hardware.

It’s Final Fight with lightsabers—sure, you have a few more moves with the lightsaber and some force power-ups and special attacks, but I’d be lying if I said the battle system was deep. You kill a bunch of enemies. You walk forward for a few seconds. Then you kill a few more enemies. Repeat ad infinitum.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, though it doesn’t help that the game can be blown through in a day if you’re good. This is a handheld we’re talking about. It’s suited to cheap and quick thrills like that. And in this sense, Episode III is worth playing.

But it would be tough to recommend if it weren’t for the exceptional flying missions dispersed throughout the main game, which have excellent, smooth 3D graphics (which you really have to see in motion to believe, by the way—it doesn’t hold up in screenshots) and surprisingly fun gameplay mechanics. It’s not quite Rogue Squadron, but given the limitations of the handheld, it sure comes close. The 3D missions are absolutely superb—so much so that you’ll wonder if the developer’s time wouldn’t have been better spent making a meatier, strictly air-based game. It’s a missed opportunity, in a way. It’s basically a different game.

In the end, Episode III feels like an effortless cash-in on the Star Wars license, a title where the developers just went through the motions and slapped together a passable, competent game. But then again, it’s pretty fun. The single-player missions are nostalgic 16-bit enjoyment and the (far more interesting) flying missions make for the closest thing you can get to Rogue Squadron on a handheld.

This game isn’t exceptional. It won’t blow you away. It’s not original but then again, it’s by no means bad. It’s a fluid side-scrolling slash-’em-up with great controls and a great soundtrack, and some fantastic flight missions that feel like an entirely different game. It just doesn’t have the epic feel of the movies, there is no variety in the gameplay whatsoever (it is 100% formulaic), and no thinking is required to win. It’s solid but not a whole lot else.

It’s also probably the best Star Wars game ever to grace a handheld. This is not saying much but it’s worth noting. This is a very fun game that fails to wow and that’s about it. But if you want some good flight action on the DS, this is your game; and that’s the only reason I would recommend a purchase though it’s a compelling one. This is a pretty good game; let’s hope Ubi Soft continues doing good with the Star Wars license.