Greetings Padawans and denizens of the galaxy! Today at Power up Gaming we are celebrating Star Wars Day the best way we know how – by talking about our experiences with video games, and today’s theme is quite rightly, Star Wars. If long-running space operas aren’t your thing, perhaps this is not the article you are looking for…
My experience with Star Wars video games is actually quite limited, but one experience that sticks out and remains nightmare fuel to this day is The Phantom Menace game. I originally played this on the PlayStation 1 around the time of release in April 30th 1999. Obviously, this game tied into the movie, which is of course everyone’s favourite Star Wars movie, so how could the game possibly be bad?
How about we talk about the second level of the game – The Swamps of Naboo (you already know where this is going). Here, you have to follow Jar Jar Binks around a maze-like setting through Naboo, clearing out the odd droid. Now, even as a 7 year old who would play anything you put in front of me, I was not having this. I knew that this game was a stinker from the moment I had to listen to Jar Jar. I’ll be honest though, I’m probably only hard on it because of the reputation The Phantom Menace has with fans, and the reputation of a certain Gungan. But to me, this game is the Jar Jar Binks of Star Wars video games; it’s clumsy in places, but ultimately well meaning and isn’t really all that bad compared to other movie-to-video-game titles we’ve had shoved down out throats.
More recently, I have discovered the wonderful Knights of the Old Republic. I struggle to find the words to explain how this game fulfills all of my Star Wars and video game needs. It has the best elements of a player-controlled morality system, it explores the mythology of the Jedi in an engaging way, has a fantastic storyline, and just lifts the imagination straight into hyperspace with the level of detail and immersion. Yeah, the graphics are dated and the gameplay can be a bit awkward at times, but it’s well worth it for this absolute ripper of a Star Wars game!
I remember, after the post-Episode I bliss of my childhood, my mother coming home with a brand new PC game for me to play. That game was Star Wars: Episode I Racer, and from the very first Boonta Eve race on Tatooine, I knew I was hooked. Not only is Racer a pretty great Star Wars game, it’s one of the best racing games of its generation. The sequel, Racer Revenge, is even better, with improved graphics and gameplay.
Moving onto another Star Wars memory from my childhood, one Christmas season, we spent the holiday at my grandparents’ home, in a particularly snowy area of Canada. As we left their house to drive home, my parents learned that the highway was closed due to heavy snowfall. So we returned to my grandparents’, and my mother went out and rented us a Nintendo 64 (my first experience with the console). The game she picked up for us? Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. Looking back, Shadows of the Empire is a pretty shite game. The controls are confusing, and shooter games (third and first person alike) are not meant to be played on a console with just one control stick. However, at the time, I loved it, and worked my thumb raw on that awful controller. Good times.
When it comes to Star Wars games, two titles spring to mind that are almost polar opposites of each other. The first one is the arcade cabinet for Star Wars: Return of The Jedi. As a child, I played a fair amount of this in an arcade while on holiday. While other kids were playing Ridge Racer and Mortal Kombat, I got strangely hooked to, what was essentially an 80’s endless runner set in the Star Wars universe. The first stage saw you piloting a speeder bike through the forests of Endor, trying to escort Princess Leia away from the clutches of the Empire. The second stage involved flying the Millennium Falcon through an industrialised landscape. I never saw the third stage as the game was far too difficult for my 7 year old reflexes, but research tells me that you also get to pilot an AT-ST as well.
Going on a more modern slant, Star Wars: Battlefront tends to get a short shrift from a lot of folk. Some of it is definitely deserved due to it being light on content, but as a straight up shooter it is fun, accessible, and captures the feel of Star Wars perfectly. For those who want to play a shooter without being bogged down by weapon loadouts and unlockables, Battlefront is great. Plus, it has split screen co-op, which is always a bonus.
My earliest Star Wars memories are really not the fondest. First on the pile for my childhood was Yoda Stories, an adventure title on the Game Boy Colour which baffled me to no end. You played as Luke, and wandered aimlessly around procedurally generated levels, solving puzzles that were clunky and convoluted. I only ever got to the mythical second level once or twice.
My teenage experience with Star Wars games did turn out a lot better. Playing Knights of the Old Republic 2 was an absolute joy. During the first few hours of the title I whinged –like the emotional teen I was— about where the hell my lightsaber was. However, as I delved more into the game, I began to really appreciate things like the morality system, and also tried to chat up many of the female supporting characters. KOTOR2 taught me so much about love.
The final game I’ve experienced is from what I consider one of the greatest Star Wars games. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a tactical 3rd person shooter that featured a comprehensive story mode, and an addictive multiplayer experience. However, most of my time with the title involved playing Hero Assault. This mode allowed you (by yourself or with your nerdy buddies) to have a giant battle between heroes from the light and dark sides. It was complete mayhem, and an utter joy to jump into. The only downside was that Jar Jar Binks was not a playable character; hopefully EA will rectify this grievous error.
Much like the extended universe, there are so many video games that are Star Wars centric; it’s impossible to write something about every single one, and if you haven’t played some of these games then there is no better time to get yourself over to Steam as they’re holding a Star Wars sale until May 9th. You can find out more about the deals on offer on here. The writers here at Power up Gaming are tempted to take severe advantage of these deals in order to celebrate this joyous holiday.
And remember, May the Fourth be With You!