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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK


Star Wars games mania

High-speed action from Star Wars: Episode 1 - Racer

A video game based on the new Star Wars movie has become the biggest-selling title in the UK.

Launched last Friday and backed by a £1.5m European marketing blitz, Star Wars: Episode 1 - Racer, released for both Nintendo 64 and PC, tops this week's official games chart.

Its sister title, an adventure game called Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace, was the most popular game of the week in the PC chart.

[ image: No 1 hit with PC games players]
No 1 hit with PC games players
In scenes reminiscent of those which swept America when the film opened there last month, many Star Wars fans dressed up as some of their favourite characters for the launch.

The Virgin Megastore on London's Oxford Street, which stayed open until midnight, was transformed into a scene from the desert planet of Tatooine, with droids, stormtroopers and Jedi knights all present.

"It's one of those games where you anticipate a huge response, but even when it's finally launched, it takes your breath away," said James Beaven of the games' UK distributor, Activision.

"I took a walk around some of the shops in London on Saturday and there were hordes of people buying the games and looking at the Star Wars merchandise. It just goes to show that the passion is still there."

Beaven expects another sales boost next month when the movie is finally released in the UK, with another one to follow later in the summer when the PlayStation versions of the games are released.

Favourable reviews

Both games, which have been produced by America's LucasArts Entertainment, have received favourable - though not ecstatic - reviews.

[ image: Chart-topping racing game]
Chart-topping racing game
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a slick adventure Game that parallels the narrative of the George Lucas film, which tracks the young Darth Vader's slide to the dark side of the Force.

The game immerses players in the roles of the movie's main characters, notably Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn.

The two are dispatched to the planet Naboo to negotiate a settlement to the turmoil engulfing the Galactic Republic, hitting a few roadblocks along the way. The speed of the action automatically climbs with the player's ability to respond.

[ image: Cornered: Scene from The Phantom Menace game]
Cornered: Scene from The Phantom Menace game
In Star Wars: Racer, players dare to take control of high-octane, sleek and blindingly fast Podracers in a series of electrifying races throughout the Star Wars galaxy.

The vehicles are capable of reaching simulated speeds of up to 600mph, while skimming four feet above the ground.

There are 21 races spread among eight different planets -- each with different atmospheric conditions.

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