Lego Star Wars: The Video Game started the Lego video game franchise, and, arguably, revitalized Lego itself as a brand for an entire generation. Obviously, there’s a direct line between Lego Star Wars and the eventual Lego Indiana Jones or Lego Marvel Super Heroes games, and I’m also of the belief that we would never have seen the fantastic Lego Movie and the forthcoming Lego Batman without the success of this one game. Lego Star Wars: The Video Game was the cornerstone of an entire media empire.
And I want to say it was an accident.
LSW:TVG was developed by Traveller’s Tales, a British video game development studio founded in 1989. Want to hear some of their pre-Lego output? Well, this was the studio behind the video game adaptions of Weakest Link, Finding Nemo, and Toy Story. But wait! TT also worked with established gaming mascots like Sonic the Hedgehog and Crash Bandicoot… in Sonic R, Sonic 3D Blast, and Crash Twinsanity. Woof. Your mileage may vary, but Mickey Mania, a 16-bit title featuring Mickey Mouse traipsing through a number of his classic cartoons, seemed to be the only Traveller’s Tales developed video game that could be described without saying “it’s fun, but…” before 2005.
Also, don’t confuse Mickey Mania with Disney’s Magical Quest: Starring Mickey Mouse. Magical Quest was Capcom, and it was unequivocally astounding.
But let’s not spend all day insulting Traveller’s Tales releases, lets also look at horrible Star Wars games. Practically from the moment the medium was invented, there have been a lot of Star Wars games. It only makes sense, as practically everything in Star Wars translates well to the idea of a video game, from laser duels to space shooting to Han Solo having a dance off against Lando. Unfortunately, your average Star Wars video game… sucks. Like, really horribly sucks. The Atari games were passable, but still very much Atari games. The Super Star Wars trilogy was faithful to the series, but also nearly impossible. And then there’s the glut of games that decided to just focus on some random bit of Star Wars “gameplay”, like the abhorrent fighting game Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi, or that wretched Star Wars Episode 1: Racer. Star Wars games have gotten better in recent years, but I maintain that the best Star Wars game still sits in another franchise. It’s the best Han Solo fanfic out there!
So, given that history, Traveller’s Tales and Star Wars together should not have been any more historic than Muppet RaceMania. And throwing in the Lego franchise, too? What was that supposed to do? Lego is meant for block building, for unfettered imagination that doesn’t require a controller. Sure, everyone has fond memories of Legos, but we all have fond memories of eating boogers, too. You get over it.
But here’s Lego Star Wars: The Video Game and it’s pretty alright. Thanks to Lego figures (minifigs) being literally made for easy customizations, LSWTVG features a whopping 56 playable Star Wars characters. Right off the bat, that’s awesome, because it seems like game designers have a tendency to ignore how very badly the public wants Darth Maul and Darth Vader to hang out. Hell, you could probably sell an entire series on the promise of a Star Wars Universe ping pong tournament. Padme and Leia playing doubles against Anakin and Han… admit it, you’d line up for presales. Lego Star Wars exploits this desire wonderfully, and even creates some memorable moments with its expansive cast.
LSWTVG has ridiculously simple, “easy” gameplay. For instance, you can’t die. Well, you can “die”, but you respawn immediately, and the only consequence is losing a few studs (basically points). The gameplay is essentially closest to being a beat ‘em up, but there are no combos or complicated button presses. Just jump, attack, and “special”. Special, at least, is where the game shines. In order to make the huge cast more distinctive, every character gets a unique action to their class, like Jedi can use the Force to shove blocks around, or gungans can inexplicably jump high. Some of the classes seem like a stretch (blaster characters, like Amidala, get grappling hooks, and “small” characters like Anakin can fit into tight passageways), and, if you think about it, the Force users should have all abilities (Qui Gon can jump higher than Jar Jar and you know it!), but it all blends into a fun reason to switch around between Star Stars. Maybe “beat ‘em up” is the wrong genre… puzzle platformer? Is “remember which character is a Jedi” a puzzle? Is it still a puzzle game if the puzzles are for kindergarteners?
So Lego Star Wars: The Video Game is fun, but is it enough to launch a franchise? Yes, it’s fun for kids and parents alike, but you don’t see Nicktoons Racing setting the shelves ablaze. And keep in mind that this game was released in 2005, well past the time when “run jump maybe shoot” could launch a six part series. This was the same year the perennial Shadow the Hedgehog was released. LSWTVG was a better than average Star Wars game… so why the love?
Well, I think it’s a matter of timing. LSWTVG was released in 2005… before the release of Star Wars Episode 3. Want to know what’s going to happen in the upcoming, highly anticipated finale of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy? Well here’s your answer, wrapped up in a fun game! Sure, it’s a game that looks and plays like it’s made for babies, but it has answers. Sweet, delicious answers!
Never underestimate a nerd’s desire to know what happens next. If the finale to Game of Thrones was written on George R. R. Martin’s ass, you better believe Gamestop would make a killing selling combination bifocals/nose plug sets.
I take it back, Lego Star Wars: The Video Game wasn’t an accident. If there’s a franchise in this universe that knows how to merchandize, it’s Star Wars. Knowing full well the fan reaction, LSW:TVG was released ahead of Episode 3’s cinematic masterstroke (citation needed). A “pretty alright” game was instantly grabbed up by children, parents, and lonely, spoiler starved nerds alike. The masses catapulted LSW:TVG’s sales into the stratosphere, and it became one of the best selling games ever for the Playstation 2. And a franchise birthed a whole new franchise.
And, really, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of minifigs.
I said it before, didn’t I? Traveller’s Tales games were never that great… but they rarely received sequels, too. Sonic R? There’s obviously a great game featuring Sonic and his pals racing (and has the subtitle “Transformed”), but we weren’t going to see it on a maiden voyage across the stormy Saturn seas. Lego Star Wars: The Video Game wasn’t all that great, but it succeeded. And that begat Lego Star Wars 2, and then Lego Other Franchises, and now, today, we have fully-realized, amazing Lego game experiences like Lego Marvel Whatever or Lego City Undercover. The series may have exploited a “cheat” to get there, but now we’ve got complete Lego Worlds to play with.
I guess you could say Lego Star Wars: The Video Game was some kind of… building block.
FGC #120 Lego Star Wars: The Video Game
- System: Playstation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, PC, OS X, and Gameboy Advance. Game gets around.
- Number of players: Two, simultaneous, and the game is just plain perfect for playing with a younger sibling, child, or someone who is just plain bad at video games thanks to the nigh invulnerability of minifigs. It’s like someone finally remembered the best feature from Kirby Super Star.
- Forgetting something? Oh yeah! There are all these vehicle stages to break up the monotony of playing as an adorable lil’ Lego man (or woman). They’re… not that great. But at least they’re not long!
- Mission Complete: And, yeah, I suppose thanks to the “easy” gameplay, I was subconsciously forced to collect every doodad and stud hidden in this game. All minifigs unlocked (yay Kit Fisto![?]), and my lil’ Lego hangar is the swankiest.
- Other Tales: Never confuse Traveller’s Tales for Telltale Games. Two tooooootally different companies.
- Favorite Character: General Grievous, who is quad-wielding lightsabers, and thus the best possible character available. No stupid cough for this cyborg!
- Did you know? According those that combed the code, Spaceman Ben, classic blue Lego astronaut, was planned for this game, but scrapped. That silly shapeshifter assassin from Episode 2 was also supposed to be in there, but who cares?
- Would I play again: Another “I love this game but there are better sequels to play” situation. At least this one offers that unique Star Wars Prequels flavor, but if it comes down to this or Spider-Man, I know which one I’m going to choose.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Chameleon Twist for the N64! Let’s (Chameleon) Twist again, like we did last (N64) Summer! Please look forward to it!