With those words etched onto a movie screen in 1977, a saga was born.
But it wasn’t a saga for just one generation to enjoy, it was one that was somehow able to transcend that and span across several generations up to this very day. And with a new film finally hitting theatres and breaking all kinds of records, one could say that that type of power has not slowed down in the slightest.
And to celebrate this very momentous occasion, let’s take a look at a certain series of video games that came out for the Super Nintendo: Super Star Wars, SSW: Empire Strikes Back, and SSW: Return of the Jedi.
When it came to developing the game, artist Jon Knoles handled the visual designs for the characters, while Harrison Fong took care of the backgrounds. Interestingly enough there wasn’t a whole lot of concept art created because according to Fong, “…everybody knew what the characters looked like.”
There was also an idea to put a black outline around the characters, but it was decided that the sprites would look too cartoony, so the idea was scrapped.
One character used was called the “Kalhar Boss Monster” was based on one of the chess pieces R2 played with in the film, so that was a nice touch.
With Super Star Wars, players are reintroduced into the faraway galaxy, but with a few more elements put in to add to the gameplay experience, while still maintaining that Star Wars feel.
For instance, you do not buy R2-D2 and C-3PO from the Jawas. Instead the players have to fight their way through the Jawa Sandcrawler to get to the droids. Initially you start out as Luke Skywalker, but in later stages you can play as Han Solo or Chewbacca. In addition, there are vehicle-based stages where the player can control a Landspeeder or an X-Wing.
While the stages for the most part are made of run-and-gun/platforming, Luke will be able to fight with a lightsaber once he acquires it from Obi-Wan Kenobi, with the final part of the game being the players reenacting Luke’s Death Star trench run, with Darth Vader flying in his own TIE Advanced fighter.
The reception was a well-received one. But then again, the fact that players could finally play as their favorite characters and in a much more realistic look than what had been done before was only more of an incentive. It would be awarded “Best Action/Adventure Game” of 1992 by Electronic Gaming Monthly, as well as Best Movie-to-Game.
With Super Empire Strikes Back, things weren’t too different, but the graphics were improved, especially the famous Mode-7 graphics being implemented in certain stages. Certain aspects of the original game were removed for the sequel or tweaked such as the character-select option being removed and a password system added in so the player didn’t have to worry about starting over from the very beginning, which was good because in spite of these changes, the difficulty on this game seemed higher than before. In addition, double-jumping was added to make traversing the levels a bit easier, as well as having both a primary and a secondary weapon.
So much like Super Star Wars, Super ESB was a game where you traveled through stages very familiar to the movie, but this time Luke had to ability to collect Force-Powers for later levels along with being able to block incoming attacks with his lightsaber; Han Solo could throw grenades, and Chewbacca had a spinning attack.
And just like in the film, Darth Vader was the final boss you went up against, and it was no walk in the park, as many gamers have attested to. But if you managed to defeat him, you really were worthy of respect among gamers.
Interestingly enough, about one year before the U.S. release, a contest was held in Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) where the contestants had to answer six multiple-choice questions, and the Grand-Prize winner would have their likeness appear in the final game. As a result, a gamer named Jeff Crosno won, with his face appearing on a Rebel soldier in a cutscene. The game itself was positively received, with praise also being given to the use of the SuperNES’s Mode-7 graphics.
With Super Return of The Jedi, there isn’t much new ground that’s covered, but there are some new features added in. For example, Princess Leia and Wicket the Ewok are now playable characters, and while Luke still has his Force abilities, he only has five instead of nine. However, he can “recharge” his abilities a lot easier than what was possible in the previous game. Granted, not being able to use a blaster while playing as Luke is a bit of a downgrade, but given that the game follows the movie pretty closely, it makes sense for it to be that.
With Leia it’s very interesting because her character’s appearance and playstyle change with the plot. For example, as a bounty hunter she fights with a staff, then as Jabba’s slave she fights with a chain, and then on Endor Leia wields a blaster as a Rebel Leader. So in a lot of ways she is the most versatile character in the game.
Much like its predecessors, Super ROTJ follows the movie of the name, but with some alterations to give it that gameplay experience.
Unlike the first two games, Super ROTJ was given a negative review for the most part, the reasoning being that the controls were too frustrating, bosses were too easy, and the level designs were too repetitious. Despite this, Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game an 8 out of 10, eventually naming it Best-Movie-To-Game of 1994, as well as best Game-Gear game of 1995.
In all, one could say that these games were truly fun and amazing titles. Although there had been other Star Wars games prior to these games, The Super Star Wars games just stood out because for the first time, players could really see Star Wars come to life in video game form and they could not only play as the characters, but actually see them in the best representation at that point in time. From traveling through the desert plains of Tatooine to flying in the Millennium Falcon, there was always something interesting to see and check out, and while several boss fights were harder than most, the player felt a sense of accomplishing their own “trials”, so to speak and really taking a step into a bigger world, even if only in a video game sense.
The fact that they are still beloved to this day and still available in some capacity only proves how much they have stood the test of time, as all good games should be.
As technology has improved and many more Star Wars games have been made – some better than others, of course – these games are still in many ways the benchmarks of how good Star Wars games are made, and just how great tie-ins should be done and not just as a simple cash-grab. Plus sometimes making the story more complex for a game doesn’t always need to be included, and less is truly more.
With plans already underway for new Star Wars movies, there is no question that there will be new games as well. What types of games is anyone’s guess, but if the lessons from both accomplishments and mistakes from the past up until now have been learned, then we as gamers and fans will be in for a treat, for like with all other games, the best titles are the ones that give us gamers that gameplay feel, and as long as the Star Wars games go for that element first, everything will follow, and when we arcaders/gamers play them, we will truly feel the Force within us all.