Playing It Old School: The interactive magic of Star Wars

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Video games and Star Wars have always seemed to go well together. It’s the prefect combination since the Star Wars-story is so vast and more people prefer to be a Jedi as oppose to read about them.

With the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic back in December and the re-release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace; I want to go back and reminisce over some of the classic Star Wars games of the 80’s up until the early 2000, also I would like to apologize in advance if I fail to mention anyone’s favorite game.

The first Star Wars-games were released for the Atari 2600 in the 80’s starting with The Empire Strikes Back (1982), Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle (1983) and Jedi Arena (1983). However this early relationship between Star Wars and video games was short lived thanks to the 1983 Video Game Crash, the relationship would be rekindled in 1987 when Domark released several 8-bit versions of the Star Wars arcade games.

Enter the 90’s with the release of the Super Star Wars-trilogy for the Super Nintendo. The first game started as a remake of an NES game; the trilogy retold the classic story only fitted to work in the context of a platform game. At the same time; Star Wars-games were moving away from the official films and were attempting to focus on the Expanded Universe with games like X-Wing-series and Star Wars: Dark Forces.

The game, Dark Forces, would later evolve to become the Jedi Knights-series that focus on the journey of Kyle Katarn. Jedi Knights-series is a First/Third-Person shooter that allows the player to use a mix of combat-techniques (from blasters, light sabers and the ways of the force) as they fight the Empire. Star Wars: Dark Forces (1995) and Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (1997) were good but Star Wars Jedi Knights II: Jedi Outcast (2002) stood out as the crowning achievement of this series.

Then in 1996 Lucasfilm launched Shadows of the Empire, an interquel that told a new story set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. This multi-media project involved a novel by Steve Perry, a graphic novel by John Wagner, and one of the first games for the N64. The game follows the story of Dash Rendar and his involvement in attempting to foil Prince Xizor’s plot of assassinating Luke Skywalker. Too no surprise, Shadows of the Empire was a success. What was unique about the game was the mixture in style that allowed the game play to switch between a third person adventure and flight simulator combat.

For N64 gamers who only wanted to experience the simple joy of a Star Wars-themed flight simulator, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was the answer. Based on Star Wars: X-wing Rogue Squadron comics, the game put players in the role of Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles (near the end) as they lead Rouge Squadron in battle against the Empire. Unlike the X-Wing-series, Rogue Squadron featured an arcade-style action gameplay that required the player to complete a series of missions to progress onto the next level. But what has truly made Rouge Squadron unique was the abundance of unlockable content available from bonus missions to hidden starfighters (including the Naboo Starfighter). The success of Rouge Squadron was followed by two sequels for the GameCube along with the spin-off, Star Wars: Battle for Naboo.

While on the subject of Naboo Starfighters and the re-release of The Phantom Menace; another game to look at would be Star Wars Episode I: Racer. What made this game unique was it broke away with the traditional Star Wars-games and instead centered on the pod race featured in the movie. Racer featured a variety of tracks set on several different planets and included the racers featured in the movie.

In the decade to after; the Star Wars prequels inspired a verity of games that expanded on the original story while other games focused on the Expanded Universe. While cinephiles could only hope that Lucasfilms skips Attack of the Clones and just re-release Revenge of the Sith soon, gamers will always have the Expanded Universe to continue one of the greatest American epics.      

Oh and one very important note – Han shot first!

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