Hey all! Last time, I wrote about a half-game, half-live action miniseries. It’s kind of hard to pidgeonhole it, but it was a fun time.
This week brings us to Star Wars, specifically a trio of games made in the early 90's. (In a slight change of pace, we’ll be looking at three games this week, because they’re all pretty much the same thing)
Super Star Wars, followed swiftly by Super Empire Strikes Back and, um, Super Return of the Jedi, is a trilogy of side-scrolling SNES games that loosely follows the events of the original Star Wars Trilogy.
I say “loosely” because, well, the games take all sorts of liberties with the source material. That’s expected in a video game adaptation, of course, but, well, look at this mayhem:
This is a giant probe droid, from Empire Strikes Back. This thing is all sorts of terrible/awesome. We see exactly one of these in the original movie, in which Han Solo wrecks it with one shot, but here, it’s a giant monstrosity that will kill you because this game is difficult.
Actually, a lot of the boss fights in these games are incredible:
This thing is fought at the end of the Jawa Sandcrawler level (!), and you fight him after infiltrating the Sandcrawler and destroying any Jawa that stands in your way. This is all probably a deleted scene from the movie.
You fight a giant womprat that’s way too big to really “bullseye,” there’s a huge Wampa...it goes on like this. Gameplay wise, the Super Star Wars trilogy is a side-scrolling platformer; you play mostly as Luke Skywalker, but in Super ROTJ you get to play as Han, Chewie (!), Leia (!!), and Wicket (!!!). Levels generally consist of shooting everything in your path with a basic blaster that can be upgraded through pickups, though Luke can use his lightsaber; he can even throw it in Empire and ROTJ, along with other Force powers. There’s occasionally a vehicle level, such as the Death Star battles at the end of Super Star Wars and ROTJ, making use of a behind-the-ship point of view combined with the Super NES Mode 7 psuedo-3D graphics. The games are also crazy hard, particularly Empire.
Super Star Wars seems so quaint and goofy at a glance nowadays, but I love this series. All three games came out at a weird time between the Star Wars Trilogy original release and the Special Edition re-releases that essentally re-ignited Star Wars. Keep in mind, between 1983 (Return of the Jedi) and 1997 (Star Wars: A New Hope re-release), Star Wars wasn’t...okay, so it was popular, certainly; books and comics were still being published at an okay pace, but Star Wars was not constantly pervading the global consciousness like it is today. Nowadays, you see Star Wars-branded...well, everything. It’s hard to believe this wasn’t always the case, that Star Wars had existed primarily as a series of movies from the late 70's/early 80's and the occasional book (Thrawn trilogy, mostly).
So it was cool to get a video game that let me play as Luke and Co., and allowed me to shoot my way through the entire trilogy. It takes massive liberties in the name of gameplay and challenge, but who cares? It’s fun, and it’s still Star Wars. The presentation of all three games is superb, with excellent 16-bit renditions of most of the Star Wars soundtrack, and it’s pretty graphically impressive for its time, with nice, big character models and a variety of increasingly insane enemies. As mentioned, the games came at a time when Star Wars media wasn’t everywhere, so getting a game at all, let alone a great one, was kind of a big deal.
I also think it’s okay to change the plot a tiny bit, and add baffling boss battles, because Super Star Wars was still in the spirit of the movies in its own, weird way. Sometimes it resembles more of a Star Wars fever dream in its more crazy, fantastical moments, but you still have the feel of the classic movies, and that’s the important thing, really. I mean, who’s to say George Lucas wouldn’t have added a huge, tyrannical Probe Droid if he could have? I kid, of course.
I mean, not only do I think Giant Probe Droid is okay, I think it’s hysterical and fun now. So what if the games have building-sized Wampas and rampant Jawa murder? This actually brings to mind Kinect Star Wars, a mostly awful game with actual, factual dance segments featuring popular songs re-worded to reference Star Wars. “YMCA” became “Empire Today,” for example, and that particular dance-off features Boba Fett. He dances. In full Fett gear. He’s really good. This is a real game that happened. Check it out on YouTube.
I bring that up because it’s not a huge deal (to me, anyway) if something like catastrophically inaccurate boss monsters or dance-offs happen occasionally in Star Wars, or any other fictional universe. Must we roll our eyes when it happens? I don’t think so. I think this stuff is fun; there’s plenty of accurate, serious Star Wars games to go around as it is. The important thing about Super Star Wars, after all, is that they play well and they’re fun. Also, you can be Wicket, so it’s automatically GOTY every year.
Thanks always for reading this possibly too-long series of goofy, rambling articles. I have Twitter and I like talking to people, so follow me!
Next time, we’ll check out a weird, robot-infested take on the same work that Dragon Ball is based on.