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I’m torn about the Star Wars prequel trilogy. I’m a big Star Wars geek — so big that I not only know the movies like pastors know scripture, but I also have scary-geek-level knowledge of the extended universe. I even have a giant Jewbacca Pez dispenser — a friend added a yarmulke to a standard Chewbacca dispenser.
And I do like certain aspects of the prequels: Palpatine’s manipulations of everyone around him, from politicians to Jedi to the general populace; the clone soldiers; and the decline of Anakin Skywalker.
But there’s always been this childishness that I’ve associated with the prequel timeline thanks to characters like Jar Jar Binks and a gassy Hutt baby, a feeling shared by many hardcore Star Wars fans.
As I watched The Clone Wars last season on the Cartoon Network, I noticed a lot of things that I liked. It has some surprisingly mature storylines, such as Rookies, where two veteran clone soldiers help inspire a group of raw clones against droid commandos, and Defenders of Peace, a tale of pacifism amidst a larger struggle. And I got a kick out of some nods to the original trilogy, such as the Y-wings in the Malevolence arc of episodes.
I conducted an e-mail interview with Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Republic Heroes Assistant Producer Xavier Rodriguez to find out if the hardcore just have a chip on their shoulder because the prequels aren’t the Star Wars of their childhood, the new villains stepping into the Star Wars universe, and whether Jar Jar Binks is really going to make an appearance in the game.
Bitmob: The prequel trilogy hasn’t gained traction with a large segment of Star Wars fans, especially gamers, who viewed the first two Clone Wars games as “baby games.” Has the The Clone Wars animated series been able to excite these older Star Wars gamer fans?
Xavier Rodriguez: I would challenge that first assertion. It’s easy to say a “large segment of gamers you know” view the original trilogy as the mother of all sci-fi flicks, but what you’re really looking at is the generation gap between those kids that grew up with Boba Fett Underoos and those that grew up with Pod Racing and Darth Maul. And you aren’t exactly following the gamers and fans who started watching in 1999, and they certainly don’t have their own dedicated media and gaming empire like us big kids do.
The facts are that The Prequel Trilogy was a monumental cross-media event no matter how you track it, and that Season 1 of the Animated Series — the CG [series], not the [Genndy] Tartakovsky series! — was the highest-rated and watched show on Cartoon Network.
While we’ve definitely got the attention of the younger boys audience, we feel the show has the intensity and maturity to capture the older audience. The two main factors are that 1) the older fan has been focused on shows that are directly marketed to them — Battlestar Galatica, Lost, Heroes — and 2) they see the art style of Clone Wars and think it’s not for them.
Yet again and again we ask them to sit down and watch the show, and play the game, and the positive feedback has been excellent. I think it’s safe to say that Season 2 is going to catch a lot of attention from the older viewers.
For example I would point to “Hostage Crisis,” the season finale of Clone Wars. Go watch that and tell me that Clone Wars is a “baby” property.
Bitmob: I’ve noticed a couple of nods to the original trilogy, such as the Y-Wings, in The Clone Wars. What nods to the original trilogy are in Republic Heroes?
XR: I would love to tell you we’ve got original trilogy content, but from the beginning we’ve been 100 percent focused on The Clone Wars for this title.
Bitmob: The Duros bounty hunter Cad Bane is one of the villains of Republic Heroes. He was introduced in a Web comic and appeared in the season finale of The Clone Wars’ first season. He’s also one of the characters that’s grabbed the attention of many Star Wars fans. What role does he play in the game?
XR: I don’t want to give away too much since it’s pretty central to the story, but I can say that he’s both an ally and adversary throughout the game. And yes, he’s an unlockable character. At the end of the day, it’s pretty clear the only person Bane looks out for is himself, and that can cause problems. He’s cruel, dangerous, competent, and completely unpredictable.
Bitmob: I sense a “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” vibe from Bane. Was the inspiration for Bane drawn from spaghetti Westerns?
Cad Bane and Angel Eyes. See any resemblance?
XR: Yes. Apparently George Lucas gave the specific direction to The Clone Wars team that they should reference Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes.
Bitmob: I’ve also read that Bane’s based on an unused character sketch from the original Star Wars films. Is there any truth to this?
XR: Yep. [There’s] lots of examples of unused material — if you pick up the original scripts of Star Wars, you’ll see all sort of references to names, characters, and places that weren’t shown until the prequels. Same with art.
Bitmob: This Duros bounty hunter isn’t the first Star Wars character to have the name Bane; Darth Bane from a series of Old Republic novels comes to mind. Why is the name “Bane” so popular in the Star Wars universe?
XR: No surprises there. There’s a lot of nods to personality within names throughout the Star War series, whether it’s calling the angry, dangerous leader of the Separatists General Grevious, a race of fish-looking aliens the Mon Calamari , or Jabba’s ugly pet Salacious Crumb. And there are a lot of characters within the Star Wars universe, occasionally you’re going to get some overlap.
Bitmob: Who’s this new Skakoan “supervillain,” Kul Teska?
XR: Kul Teska is a rogue scientist and gun-for-hire known for his ruthlessness and excessive methods. A master of technology, he wears a bulky armored suit equipped with a variety of deadly weapons. Think Dr. No meets a Sherman tank with a Death Star-sized chip on his shoulder.
Oh, and he hates Jedi.
Bitmob: Entertainment Weekly reports that Force-sensitive bounty hunter Aurra Sing appears in the next season of The Clone Wars with Cad Bane, something many hardcore Star Wars fans may appreciate. Is Sing in Republic Heroes?
XR: Nope. Would’ve been cool, though. We’ll have to work that in somehow next time around.
Bitmob: How come it’s taken so long for a Clone Wars game to reach the HD consoles?
This goes back to the audience of the show and what they are generally playing. You talk to boys of the same age who are playing PS2, PSP, and Wii, and they are playing games more along the lines of what Clone Wars has.
Move to next-gen and we’re dealing with primarily Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and even Dead Space. Clone Wars is just not competing with M-rated titles from a realism and violence perspective because of the look and tone of the show. We’ve got other IP to leverage there.
Of course kids still have next-gen consoles, so we’re excited to bring them something that looks like the show and that they can play with their friends and family.
Bitmob: How are gamers reacting to the cartoon’s art style?
XR: As mentioned earlier, at first glance it’s not a draw for some of them. But then I know people who think Tartakovsky is ugly and have never watched that excellent cartoon, either.
Ultimately it’s just sitting them down with the game and asking them what they think. And they’ve generally been pleasantly surprised by what they see.
Bitmob: What’s the co-op gameplay for Republic Heroes like? Republic Heroes isn’t squad-based like Republic Commando, right? What kind of puzzles can gamers expect to encounter?
XR: The co-op is drop-in drop-out — just a button press — and you can join the game anywhere, much like Lego Star Wars. Players can compete for points and against each other in Instant Challenges, which are scattered throughout the game.
For puzzles, we’ve given the clones the ability to hack various control panels throughout the game, much like R2-D2 was needed to open the various locks in the movies.
The Jedi have a wide variety of puzzle-solving to do. There are puzzles that can only be solved with judicious use of the Force, boss battles that will take a bit of thinking, and environmental obstacles that can only be bypassed by “jacking” droids — jumping on them on them and using their special abilities in creative ways.
Bitmob: Is Yoda a player character in Republic Heroes?
XR: Nope. As popular as Yoda is, he’s pretty hard to do because of his size. He needs customized animation, collision, and balancing, which usually keeps him off the playable character roster in our game concepts. You’ll see and hear a lot of him in the game, though.
Bitmob: Star Wars has a lot going for gamers right now — The Force Unleashed DLC, a third Clone Wars game, The Old Republic, and the rerelease of older games on Steam. Can gamers expect more games set in the original-trilogy era, or does Lucas plan to focus on the prequel and Old Republic eras for the foreseeable future? And what are the next Star Wars classics set for Steam?
XR: I think that I can say with some confidence that we’re working on some things you’re not exactly expecting.
Bitmob: Please assure gamers that Jar Jar Binks is sitting out for Republic Heroes.
XR: No Jar Jar. Sorry, kids.