Looking back: May the force be with you

August 11, 2009, Author: Shaquil Hansford

“May the force be with you.” Never before has a phrase been uttered that has changed the nerd world so dramatically as this. I’m sure that many will agree that, in some way, Star Wars has affected a great many cultural things in their lives, whether they spend all their time playing video games or not. It is for this reason alone that the first “Looking back” feature will be dedicated to the immeasurably large story that takes place in a galaxy far, far away.

The history of Star Wars and gaming spans a great many generations. The very first was a game called The Empire Strikes Back in the early ‘80s on the Atari 2600. But let’s not pretend those old games are of much relevance now. The only folks today who could be affected by a game that old are much older themselves.

Us young folk love graphics, not pixels, and we need to be immersed inescapably into the universe where Obi Wan de-limbed Anakin. Few games have done this better than Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith for the PS2 and Xbox. If you’ve ever dreamed of what it’d be like to dance from wall to wall as if gravity were a thing of the past, and cross laser-powered blades with the best of them, you couldn’t go wrong with this game. It was, by and large, a hack and slash title with a Star Wars skin and acrobatic combat, but it did more than just get the job done, and set a standard for adventure games with lightsaber-wielding protagonists to come.

Though the majority of Star Wars games have been serious movie tie-ins, none have bolstered Lucas Arts’ cash-flow more than the Lego Star Wars franchise. Okay, so maybe there’s never been a Lego Star Wars release that’s had your face two inches from the screen and your imagination firing on all cylinders, but it’s definitely given more support than could’ve been dreamed of for the more fan-serving titles. In fact, it’s the Lego Star Wars games that may very well have funded the newly released The Force Unleashed, which was in development for nearly a decade.


This... is my boomstick!

My own personal favorite, though, would have to be the Star Wars Battlefront titles. These games put you in the boots and helmet (as well as other apparel) of an Imperial Storm Trooper, specifically of the 501st Squadron, the elite clones who have been in every episode of the Star Wars story. The game combined journal entries by one surviving soldier with cinematic scenes taken directly from the film to create the greatest possible feat of fan service short of another new film entirely.

I used to revel in the thought of firing up my PS2 and jumping into the battlefield, pushing slowly forward in an advance on the Rebel army to take another control point. I could almost feel the sweat making the heavy Storm Trooper armor stick to my skin, the automatic laser rifle jumping in my hands as I volleyed round after round at the retreating anarchistic scum. This was something that some old Atari game couldn’t achieve. This was something powerful; the perfect Star Wars game.

Battlefront’s greatest influences may’ve been games like the first Team Fortress, and the Socom franchise. With a class-based system and almost instant respawn that keeps the transition from death to action seamless, it’s obvious that Battlefront has roots in shooters based mainly for online play, though it mostly thrives on its single player. The Lego Star Wars series was probably inspired by platformers of the last generation, such as “Ratchet and Clank” and “Jack And Daxter”. These games provided the foundation for most platformers of the modern era and certainly bear a resemblance to the Lego games of then and now (or at least gameplay wise).


No! Run AWAY from the laser beams! AWAY!

Unfortunately, as stated before, a majority of the Star Wars games have been movie tie-ins and cheap releases, so there’s no need to go into the origins for a lot of the games, like the afore mentioned Revenge of the Sith, and Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels. Though some cheap and quick releases like Rogue Squadron 2 and 3 for the Gamecube have been fan-favorite hits, most of them have influenced gaming in a bad way such as more titles flooding the casual gaming market. As a result, not many of us can name any more than three or four good Star Wars games released in a long time, and fewer of us can claim to have played more than three or four Star Wars games ever, good or bad.

Today, we have recent releases like The Force Unleashed to sink our Wookie-devouring teeth into. As for what’s up and coming, for fans who missed out on The Force Unleashed in hopes a price drop and better content would emerge can rejoice. The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition will be released December 31st of this year, and will feature multiple extra levels in which the apprentice, having killed Darth Vader, is the Sith Lord. It’s a parallel storyline which most fans will probably love jumping into, and will also be available as DLC for those who already own the game.

Moving forward, we may never see another Battlefront game, or a sequel to The Force Unleashed (though it did sell well despite the unfavorable regard from critics), but these games will never be forgotten, especially not by myself. When the next generation of consoles comes around, we may see a Star Wars game on a level unimaginable today, so us ravenous fans can certainly stay hopeful. I hope you enjoyed this look back on Star Wars in gaming, and can’t wait for your responses. Until then, live long and prosper! Oh wait…