Pulse Cannon 09.23.04

Pulse Cannon
Michael O’Reilly

Well the day I’d been waiting on for who knows how long finally arrived yesterday, as I was finally able to watch Star Wars on DVD. Today I’ll be watching Empire and tommorow I’ll be watchin Jedi. This isn’t a DVD review column, but from what I saw on the A New Hope disc there was no excuse for this to not be released on DVD years ago. Anyway, onto the gaming portion of the column. Last week saw quite a few big name titles hit store shelves, like Fable, the Sims 2, and Star Wars Battlefront. All these are good and all, but the game I was looking forward to last week was Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves. However, since I’m reviewing that game all I’m gonna say is go buy it. Now. Since this was the week Star Wars hit DVD, I’ve decided to talk about the games I consider to be the best of the best in the Star Wars universe.

Now I know there have been plenty of stories on various websites about what games were the best in this long and storied universe, but that was them, and this is me. If Lucard is a Pokenut, I’m a…. Lucanut? No wait, that’s not right, that makes me look like I’m nuts for Lucard. And while he’s peachy and all, I’m not nuts over him. I don’t devote a fair bit of my time to playing games based on his universe (strange and interesting though that may be). Frankly no name comes to mind which could describe my mild obsession and not make me seem like some basement dwelling loser who wouldn’t know a woman if she bit him on the butt. Because I would know one if she bit me on the butt. I love Star Wars, and I love many of the games. Some, many would say most of these games are garbage. Cash grabs in the worst sense of the word. Masters of Teras Kasi comes to mind. Others were and in some cases still are considered to be prime examples of the genres they occupy.

One such game would be Jedi Knight. The sequel to Dark Forces and the prequel to Jedi Knight 2 and Jedi Knight Academy, Jedi Knight grabbed the Dark Forces portion of the Star Wars universe, shook it around, threw some force powers at it and shoved it into a 3D locker. When it emerged from that dark place into the eyes of the world gamers were blown away. Here was a game that not only let you become a Jedi Knight, it also let you become an EVIL Jedi Knight if you so chose. It was up to you how you played the game. Add to this the simply outstanding level designs (it may be a bit cliche now, but before Jedi Knight you never had to escape from a space ship as it’s gravity failed) and the many unique boss fights and you had a game that many magazines of the time named their game of the year. Load it up now and it’s ugly as sin, desperate for some mod maker or even LucasArts themselves to update with current models and rendering, but otherwise the game still holds you in it’s vice like grip while you play it.

Another game that came from the brains at LucasArts which is still held up as an industry best was X-Wing on the PC. While many feel that
it’s sequel, Tie Fighter was the better game, for me this was one time where playing for the Empire wasn’t nearly as satisfying as fighting for the Rebellion. X-Wing consumed my early gaming life, it was perhaps the first game I ever had to force me not to go to bed because the mission would stick in my mind while I tried to sleep. I devoured the campaign and the two expansion packs, destroyed the Death Star who knows how many times, and had such command of my X-Wing that I could take out entire squadrons of Tie Fighters. And while the combat was very enjoyable, what really grabbed me was the mission design, and how it forced you to do the impossible with the craft you were flying. You had to be very good at shooting down enemy fighters, and you had to know the weakness’s of Imperial ships. Sneaking up into the blind spot of a ship for example allowed you to fire at will on them and not have to worry about their returning fire. The game was filled with little details like that which you had to know. I’m told Lawrence Holland, the game designer behind the X-Wing series, has returned his Totally Games design studio to working with LucasArts. Hopefully this will produce more than just another Secret Weapons game. It’s been a long time since X-Wing Alliance was shipped to retailers. I’d say it’s time for another sequel.

Now for a game I’d consider to be the best Star Wars game of all time. You’ll have to look pretty far back into the history of the Star Wars games to find this, or rather these games, as they made 3 of em. These weren’t even made by LucasArts, as far as I know they may not have even existed back then. Made by JVC of all companies, the games are
the “Super Star Wars” series for the Super Nintendo. Many people complained that these games were too hard, but not I. No, I didn’t look at it as being too hard. I looked at it as them being weak in the Force. No, not really, but sometimes even as a kid I had to wonder. These were games that were for the most part well designed, difficult but well built. They told the story of the original trilogy through the eyes of Luke, Han, Chewbacca and later on Wicket. I had the chance recently to go back and play these games again, and unlike Jedi Knight or X-Wing, the Super Star Wars games look pretty darned good even today. Some of the 3D portions of the games are pretty bad, but those were pioneering efforts in the art of making a 3D game, so these things I can forgive very easily.

Maybe it’s just because I loved Star Wars so much, but fighting Darth Vader at the end of Empire Strikes Back was just far too cool for words. As well, the difficulty of the games meant that when you did finish these games, the satisfaction of doing so was immense. Defeating Darth Vader took me a week of playing, rushing home from school and being frustrated nightly until finally I beat him. Or at least moved the story along far enough to lose properly. Return of the Jedi probably shouldn’t be included here, as the excellence of the first two games is what gets them to the top of the list. Return of the Jedi wasn’t as good, and it forced you to play as an Ewok for a portion of the game. Not cool. Still, even Jedi had some enjoyable moments and when looked at as a whole the entire trilogy of games was just fantastic.

So there you go, the three best games (or series in the case of Super trilogy) that have ever had the name Star Wars slapped on their box. Next week I’ll let you know how Battlefront stacks up against some of these, and I should even be able to talk about Rome Total War by then too. Send me your thoughts on this weeks column, or give me some stories from the games you’ve played that you think the world needs to know about. Until next week, O’Reilly powering down the PC.