Tag Archives: star wars

FGC #157 Kinect Star Wars

Bum Bum BuuuuuuumThere’s enough negativity on the internet, and I always try to be positive in my little corner of cyberspace.

I try.

I really do.

Full disclosure: I was biased against the Kinect from its first moment. It looked like yet another attempt by Microsoft to bite on the success of another device and steal some of the Wii’s voluminous thunder. Don’t get me wrong, despite being in a field that calls for me to curse M$ every ten seconds, I actually generally like Microsoft. I can’t get mad at those guys, because I’ve seen what other tech companies do when they have control, and Gates’ Fabulous Machine has at least steered in a direction that allows for things like writing your own programs without the express written permission of the Jobs estate. But ‘Soft has a tendency toward wholesale theft of whatever is working in the industry, and then attempting to replicate its success without really understanding what made the original so great in the first place. Kinect looked like another Zune from day one, and, when I finally picked one up over a Black Friday sale, I saw nothing to divorce me of this notion.

The Kinect always, always had issues. It was, I suppose, ideal for bars or frogurt factories, but in the average living room, playing a game that was meant for you, Kinect owner, had a tendency to go south real fast. Kinect has been calibrated for Goggle Bob. Welcome, Goggle Bob. Goggle Bob, it appears you have moved six inches to the left, I will now identify your t-shirt as a second player, and you as a guest. That couch behind you is an arm, right? Wow, that arm doesn’t move very much, you have failed. If this problem persists, please rearrange all the furniture in your home. Now shout your commands at me. I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that, but if you’d like to exit the game you’re currently playing, we can recalibrate the microphone again in an environment that doesn’t have background music. Have you considered playing all of your videogames on mute? Pew PewYou might enjoy it. Why are you turning me off in the system settings?

So, yes, not a Kinect fan.

And, as I’ve covered before, I’m not really a Star Wars fan either. I mean, I like Star Wars, I like lasers and laser swords and lasering planets, but it’s never been a must-buy situation. Kinect Mega Man? I’m buying that on day one. But Kinect Star Wars has no great hold over me. So why buy the game at all? Simple: Lucasarts has been working on ways to make “real life lightsaber battles” a reality for ages, and I figured here would be the culmination of that pan-galactic pursuit.

It makes sense, right? Lightsabers are, like Kingdom Hearts, light. There’s not much weight to a sword made of light, and there’s even less to a sword made of nothing. While the common complaint regarding The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword involved pointing out that shaking a wiimote around was nothing like holding an actual, weighty (Master) sword, there’d be no such issue in the Star Wars universe. I’ve seen Jedi twirl those things around like batons, so it’s perfectly canon that wielding a lightsaber would be pretty damn similar to the Kinect’s usual wave your hands around like a dork.

So, great news, thanks to Kinect Star Wars, I’m now completely over this whole “want to use a light saber” thing.

Okay, that isn’t completely true. I still want the ability to easily dice off limbs and cut through walls, but the actual dueling in Kinect Star Wars is about as fun as bathing a wookie. This actually makes me think of Skyward Sword again, because this is yet another game that reduces the act of dueling to Punch-Out-esque “tells” and motions. But please don’t think that because I evoked the good name of Punch-Out that I think this is any good: everything about this dueling system is pretty much the exact opposite of how anyone thinks of superpowered, exciting swordfights. People are fond of comparing Punch-Out to rhythm games, which is wholly justified, but Kinect Star Wars’ duels are practically (super slow) Dance Dance Revolution. VeeeewDown, up, left, attack, down, attack, push… Christ, I just realized this is more Hologram Time Traveler than anything. That’s not good!

And it gets worse! Viewed from a distance, this game is just a series of minigames. I’ve been focusing on lightsaber duels because they broke my heart, but there’s also pod racing, dancing, and Incredible Hulk Rancor-ing. And that’s all well and good, but some nitwits decided to solder a plot on to these events, and… ugh. Like, okay, remember Star Wars Episode 1? Of course you do. Remember the pod racing scene? Well, you’ve got two options there: you either enjoyed that entire protracted sequence, or you found it boring as hell, and spent all your time fantasizing about when that dreamy Darth Maul was going to show up. No matter your choice, now imagine doing that while standing up. It’s cool that Lucasarts decided to produce a Star Wars “cinematic experience” for this otherwise lightweight game, but every minute spent watching a prologue crawl of text or listening to Yoda jibber jabber about light and dark is also a moment you’re expected to be standing and at the ready, and it gets exhausting. Sure, you can sit back down, but then get ready for your Kinect to get confused and mistake the cat for your left foot, again.

At a certain point this game crosses the threshold between “bad videogame” and “psychological torture”. How long have you been standing there in your living room? To access the next level, begin repeating back to your Kinect how many Microsoft and Star Wars products you would like to purchase…

Think about itOh, and the whole thing is “hosted” by C-3PO and R2-D2. If you ever wondered when their crazy antics would get old, well, here you are.

Kinect Star Wars is terrible. It somehow manages to cram absolutely everything bad about the Kinect into one licensed game. There’s potential here! There could, one day, be a good lightsaber game. I think we already had a pretty alright pod racing game. And who doesn’t like to wreck stuff? But what’s here is a game that practically revels in tormenting the player, and brutalizes mind and body in the pursuit of a more “immersive” experience.

I don’t want to be a jedi. After Kinect Star Wars, I don’t even want to stand up.

FGC #157 Kinect Star Wars

  • System: Xbox 360 with Kinect. I don’t normally note required peripherals, but it seemed necessary here.
  • Number of players: I don’t know… two? There’s no way I’m admitting to another real life person that I own this dreck.
  • Kinect Komplaints: I think the number one problem with this peripheral is that, after decades of buttons that work just fine, Microsoft forsook all of that for bizarre hand gestures and commands that are about as precise as Mr. Magoo threading a needle with his kneecaps. Like, if you’re playing Mortal Kombat, you hit the start button, and nothing happens, then, okay, you know this game doesn’t have a pause feature. Attempt to shout the “pause” command during a Kinect game, and nothing happens, you don’t know if there isn’t a pause function, or maybe you said the wrong thing, or maybe it didn’t hear you, Owieor maybe you have to hold your hands in the shape of a giant P, or… what do you want me to do, you blasted machine?
  • Are you sure you’re not just lazy? Look, the physical dangers of standing up over long periods have been chronicled in medical journals that I’m sure I read at a doctor’s office sometime around sixth grade. More recently, though, I’ve read up on cult indoctrination, and guess what’s a great way to wear down a person’s stamina? Kinect is trying to make you do something.
  • If you can’t say anything nice: Alright, I do appreciate that choosing your dominant hand is seamless, and that you’re not forced into being a righty, like a certain right-washed Nintendo elf.
  • Did you know? Thanks to Disney purchasing Star Wars, this was the last Star Wars game designed by Lucasarts. So whenever someone tells you that it’s Disney responsible for over-merchandising Star Wars…
    At least he's alive
  • Would I play again: This is one of the rare games that I couldn’t even wait for an auto-save. I hit the half hour mark, and just declared myself done, and popped out the disc almost immediately. That’s it. No going back.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Family Dog for the SNES. Bark along with our nation’s thirtieth most popular animated dog from the 90’s! Please look forward to it!

FGC #120 Lego Star Wars: The Video Game

BUM BUM BUMLego 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 You build 'em, you drag 'em aroundmedium 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.

Weesa gonna dieLSWTVG 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.

So sadI 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

  • Pew PewSystem: 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!
  • LAVA!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!

FGC #077 Final Fantasy 12

Here comes a special gameFlash Gordon: Star Wars :: Star Wars : Final Fantasy 12

Search your feelings, you know this to be true.

As many people know, Star Wars was birthed by a George Lucas who, in an attempt to blow his American Graffiti cash on the dumbest thing he could find, tried to purchase the rights to Flash Gordon, because young George had a vision of updating the sci-fi serial of his youth into a big screen hit for the audiences of today (yesterday). George Lucas, unfortunately (maybe?) was not able to secure the Flash Gordon rights, so he figured he’d make his own damn space franchise, but, like, with samurai, and furry dudes, and maybe a woman in a golden bikini. What could have been a shameless descent into nostalgic wallowing with a graduated fan at the helm became a wholly original universe that has the potential to last until the end of time. And, let’s be real here, the only reason anyone today knows about Flash Gordon is The Best of Queen collections, so maybe things worked out for the best.

Even with the Flash Gordon influence aside, Star Wars is about as “original” as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, just, I don’t know, with some marshmallow substance wedged in there. After George jettisoned the only original idea he ever had (Willow… it eventually became its own movie), Star Wars was reduced to merely a hero’s journey to overcome his samurai dad and avenge his wizened old mentor while his royal sister makes out with a charming rogue. It’s all archetypes, but, more importantly, it all works, and the world doesn’t need another article cynically ranting about there being no original ideas in Star Wars.

So let’s talk about how there are no original ideas in Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy (and we’re just going to look at the main, numbered series here, and ignore the myriad of spinoffs, because I don’t have all day, geez) has always had a sort of… let’s be generous here and say “homage” issue. Final Fantasy I was, as many people realized the minute they met a real life dungeon master, a Dungeons and Dragons campaign baked into a digital world, and frosted with a dab of sci-fi. Final Fantasy 3 was, at its core, a battle of the gods and primal forces that tugged your nameless party along for the ride (ignoring remakes). Final Fantasy 5 was a comedy, Final Fantasy 6 was an opera, and Final Fantasy 8 was a WB/CN superhero tragidramedy (admit it, Squall and Oliver Queen could hang out, and you’d watch it). Final Fantasy 7 was Final Fantasy 6’s steampunk universe dialed up to eleven with a cast of whacky adventurers, and Final Fantasy 10 was either a hero’s journey or a particularly subtle take on the idea of being sucked into a video game universe. All of these games, and I do mean all, are great games with plots I’ve enjoyed, but I wouldn’t call a single one of them particularly original. PEW PEW PEWIf you told me William Gibson created Midgar, or Gary Gygax rolled up Matoya, I’d believe you.

Of course, there are two games I didn’t mention in that rundown. Final Fantasy 4 is the game where protagonist Cecil upgrades himself to a shining knight with a magical sword while exploring the ancient, mystical society that is his heritage, then learns that the scary, heavily armored general is actually a blood relative… but fear not! At the last moment, the man in the frightening helmet turns to the light side, and helps the good knight vanquish hate from the galaxy. Sound familiar? Or how about Final Fantasy 2, literally the second Final Fantasy game, where a group of plucky rebels fight against a malevolent emperor who commands a floating battle fortress and a lieutenant who is revealed to be an assumed-dead family member.

Who needs Kingdom Hearts to crossover with Star Wars? Square has already got that one wrapped up.

Admittedly, I may be just a tad too cynical here. We’ve already established that Star Wars wasn’t original to begin with, and stuff like “main villain is secretly… your roommate!” has been an easy story writing crutch since the days of Homer. And an “orbiting death station” really isn’t that different from any given “gain the power of the gods” power play, death from above is death from above no matter how you play it.

But then there’s Final Fantasy 12.Take a Gambit

Final Fantasy 12 starts on a desert planet, but never leaves, because you know that the minute it hit space, Lucas would have sent the lawyers out in force. But don’t worry! There’s still the signature Star Wars hectic space battles with rebel forces combatting imperial fleets and gigantic battle stations… it just all takes place in a slightly lower atmosphere. And all your old friends are here: the rebellious princess without a kingdom, the plucky desert kid that turns out to have a magical attunement with ancient forces, the hero of the last war reluctantly returning to battle to right past wrongs, the smarmy pirate with the superpower of owning a spaceship (I mean… airship), his constant, animalistic companion, and they’re all battling against a mysterious, heavily armored darth judge, who, incidentally, will eventually be revealed to be blood-related to your party and makes a last second turn from the dark side to confront a corrupt and malicious emperor.

But now I know I’m being too cynical, because, when you get right down to it, Final Fantasy 12 does what Star Wars did: takes the same basic elements of the story, and makes something new and interesting.

Consider the Death Star. Yes, it’s an easy parallel to compare the Death Star of Star Wars to Air Fortress of Doom Bahamut in Final Fantasy 12. All the same elements are there: a floating, heavily guarded citadel that is infiltrated by rebels to save the day, because if they don’t, everything on the ground below is going to be a rust mote. I'm Captain BaschBut if we really think of Final Fantasy 12 as Star Wars, then Air Fortress Bahamut is merely the second Death Star, the half completed mess from the finale of Return of the Jedi. The true Death Star in Final Fantasy 12 is the nethicite/magicite weaponry from the opening acts of Final Fantasy 12, and, rather than make it a simple threat to be destroyed, Final Fantasy 12 asks a much more interesting question, “What if Princess Leia gained control of the Death Star?”

If you think about it, it’s a valid question in the Star Wars universe, too. Afterall, those bothans died retrieving the plans for the Death Star, so, hey, why can’t the rebels get their act together and build their own Death Star! With blackjack! And hookers! They don’t even seem to consider it, because, hey, good guys (and maybe there aren’t a whole lot of rebel contractors). Princess Ashe of Final Fantasy 12, though, she pretty quickly gains access to ultimate, city-destroying power, and a significant portion of the plot is given over to the moral ramifications and considerations of using a WMD. Hell, considering the influence of the “old gods” on the FF12 world, you could claim part of the game is about considering if “the force” is ever a morally good thing to utilize. On occasion, it’s some heady stuff, and it makes Final Fantasy 12 better for it.

But would Star Wars be better for it? I very much doubt it.

Please don't lookThis is why Final Fantasy 12 is so great, and, tangentially, why Star Wars is so great. Star Wars, the original trilogy as we know it, very much could be a serial television show, much like Flash Gordon. Like I’m sure many of you have, I rewatched the complete hexology over the course of the last week, and I was amazed at how easily it would be to separate each Star Wars movie into individual, television-friendly chunks. This week, Luke and Han on Hoth, next week, special guest Frank Oz, and then you introduce Lando and his amazing Sky City for sweeps. But, no, Star Wars is a series of movies, and they are optimized for two hour chunks, not commercial breaks (though I would argue that the TV-friendly plotting of the films may have been a factor in their popularity in the era of the local broadcast channel Saturday Afternoon Matinees). Star Wars may have had its origins in a television serial, but in graduating to another medium, its directors and writers wisely ignored the easy pull of nostalgia and built something new and different (and, incidentally, influenced future films forever).

Star Wars is a whiz bang pew pew pew movie, and it has no place for measured discussions on the nature of responsibility and civilian casualties. But Final Fantasy 12? I believe my timer for this game is somewhere exceeding a hundred hours, so I’m going to go ahead and say that at least a few moments can be spared for quiet contemplation before we get back to sky-piratry. Final Fantasy 12 might practically be Star Wars, but it emulates the best part of Star Wars, that, while it’s generally completely unoriginal, it knows what it’s doing, and using the medium to its maximum, so it creates a massively memorable experience.

Final Fantasy 12 isn’t original. Star Wars isn’t original. Flash Gordon was just a racist western in space. But it doesn’t matter. They did what they did well, and they will inspire generations to come.

What is originality in the face of being timeless?

FGC #77 Final Fantasy 12

  • System: Playstation 2. Maybe something portable one day?
  • Number of Players: One. I literally cannot imagine how a second player could be incorporated into this system.
  • You mean the battle system? Yeah, you know, the whole gambit system, where you manually assign macros to your party members, send them into battle, and hope for the best. I know there was a lot of hoopla around the release about “a game that plays itself”, but, come on guys, it’s not like it took that much A lot of time...brain power to hammer on the “Fight” command over and over again, why not just automate and save us all some time? That’s my roundabout way of saying I liked it… except for the fact that all the best gambits aren’t available until the end of the game. Vaan, could you just know what to do with a poisoned teammate? Please?
  • If everything is Star Wars, then how about Penelo? Well it’s not like it’s a 1:1 thing, but considering she’s Vaan’s constant, unwavering companion (which I’ve noted before is a great trait), but is wildly unequipped for the adventure itself, and possess a very specific skillset, she’s basically R2-D2. I know I could see her tasering ewoks.
  • So this is how you close Star Wars week, with Final Fantasy? Well, it’s not like ROB can’t randomly pick another Star Wars game ever again, but I maintain that, even more than anything Lucasarts ever produced, Final Fantasy 12 captures the spirit of Star Wars the best… just happened to forget to acquire that license.
  • Did you know? I feel like Yiazmat is the most misunderstood super boss in Final Fantasy (or maybe even video game) history. He’s not there to be defeated over the course of hours, he’s there so you can play with all sorts of gambit setups, see how long you last, and then adjust accordingly. This is actually pretty great, as Final Fantasy 12-2 was a completely different genre, so here’s one final sendoff for the gambit system before the franchise switched over to… what do we have here… paradigms? That sounds dumb.
  • Would I play again: Pretty inevitable, but it’ll take a local release of the International version or some kind of HD rerelease (or both). I poured far too much of my life into this game, and a rerelease of some manner is pretty inevitable, so I’d hate to start out on the cruddy ol’ PS2 and then upgrade halfway through (and you know you won’t be able to transfer any saves, jerks).

What’s Next? Random ROB has chosen… Neo Geo Battle Coliseum for the PS2. Finally! A fighting game including Neo Geo characters! Who would have ever foreseen that? Please look forward to it!

Darth Judge

FGC #076 Star Wars (Arcade)

Star Wars is bigger than every man, woman, and child on Earth, and that’s a good thing.

If you’re reading this, I am, incidentally, assuming you are a Star Wars fan. No, I don’t mean to imply that you are putting the finishing touches on your Count Dooku costume, that your wedding was wookie themed, or even that you have a lightsaber hanging over your fireplace across from your wampa-skin rug. What I mean is that you like Star Wars, you’re likely to see the new movie, and you’ve probably seen a number of the previous movies (I’d say “all”, but I haven’t seen that animated one myself, and I’m a stickler for technicalities). Big Bang Theory characterization aside, it is entirely possible to be a fan of something, like Star Wars, and not emblazon your life with a thousand metaphorical (or literal) Death Star tattoos. So, again, given you are reading what is predominantly a video game blog, I’m going to go ahead and guess that you like Star Wars. Probably a pretty safe bet.

That said, I myself am a fan of Star Wars, but not a fanatic for Star Wars. This is not to disparage anyone who is fanatical for the Force. We’re definitely dealing with a glass houses thing here; it would be downright disingenuous for me to mock anyone’s collection of Storm Troopers when I’m writing this in the shadow of a rather ominous Galactus toy, and, while I’ve never dressed as a Jedi, I’m pretty sure there’s a few photos of me floating around with a rather intricate Pokémon costume. Star Wars has never exactly been my thing, but that is likely not the fault of the series or its fandom, just that there’s only so much room in my heart for space battles in far off galaxies, and Voltron has already combined to fill that position.

All that is just preamble so I can say this not as a fan (or fanatic), but as someone who claims to pay attention to culture: Star Wars is now a religion. And that’s still a good thing.

Nobody wants to hear this, but I’m going to say that if you were born after the release of the original trilogy, you’re going to live to see a remake of Star Such GraphicsWars IV. You’re going to see Luke Skywalker played by someone other than Mark Hamill. You’re going to see a C-3PO and R2-D2 that are updated for “modern audiences”. This isn’t a matter of “if”, it’s “when”. If this sounds crazy to you, consider that they’re casting a “Young Han Solo” as we speak, and that’s a hop, skip, and jump away from, “you love the character, not the actor, right? Prove your love.”

And, yes, it will be a shameless cash grab. Yes, they’re going to remake Star Wars IV for the same reason they’re remaking Final Fantasy 7 as a multi-part “series”: everyone already knows that you care about the original trilogy more than any tale of rebellious Bothans or Darth Vader’s childhood racing career, so why bother with all the fat, let’s get right to that juicy, juicy steak. You’ve been begging for something that made you feel like you were watching A New Hope for the first time for decades, so, ya know, here’s A New Hope, new, again, for the first time. John Williams Jr. is set to compose the score.

Cash grab or not, though, this is how myths work. Consider Hercules, Gilgamesh, or even Batman. There are stories of Hercules dying and ascending to godhood, there are tales of Gilgamesh off and committing non-Humbaba related deeds, and we’ve all heard about the time Batman became an old man and started ranting about whores way too much… but that’s not what people want. Okay, yeah, there are always people who want the whole story, the story of how Superman one day retires, or the tale of what happens after the Odyssey, but look at the stories that are told over and over again. The average man on the street probably can’t name a single one of ‘em, but he’ll know that Hercules was known for twelve labors. Your momma might not know a thing about Batman, but she knows he fights the Joker over and over again. And, heck, Final Fantasy’s Gilgamesh and PEW!Enkidu may have next to nothing to do with their original portrayal, but that’s the nature of myth, that the general thought remains, and a hero searching eternally for something is more powerful than what some tablets (stone, not digital) ever claimed Gilgamesh actually did. There is a reason every damn Spider-Man story goes back to the Uncle Ben well, and ignores that time Peter Parker killed Mary Jane with radioactive sperm.

For all its profit mongering and copyright hoarding, Disney Corp knows what to do with a myth. Everyone always whines about Disney’s “straight to video” oeuvre, like Beauty and the Beast and Christmas, or Cinderella 3 (a movie that contains an unusual amount of time travel), and the general sentiment is that these movies are crass exploitations of brands that should remain unsullied with pointless sequels far beyond the scope of their initial creators. So… which creators are we talking about here? The people that made Disney movies back in the late 1900s, or the original authors who wrote this stuff down centuries ago, or even the storytellers who first pioneered the downtrodden girls who turn out to be princesses and raging beasts that are just cursed little boys archetypes? Disney has taken these tales and codified them, to the point that the idea of a “Beast” that looks nothing like 1991’s version seems foreign, and the concept of seven dwarfs without descriptive names is just bizarre. It’s not like there haven’t been a thousand productions, shows, and books about “Beauty and the Beast”, but one company has, for better or worse, made it theirs, and that’s what Americans of all ages believe in.

Disney is going to make Star Wars something that is never ending. And that’s still a good thing.

Look at itStar Wars is a lot of things to a lot of people, but that’s what myths are. Back in elementary school, we’re told that myths were simply stories created by frightened primitives attempting to explain the world around them. Thunder and Lightning aren’t scary, they’re just Zeus bowling. The volcano is erupting because we haven’t sacrificed nearly enough virgins. The sun travels through the sky because it is chased by an all-devouring pink ball that is envious of its fireball ability. But the greatest myth told to children is that myths were the be all and end all of explanations for earlier societies, as if an unwavering belief in the gods was all it ever took to placate the masses. Obviously, I don’t have the inside scoop on any archeologists, but, call me crazy, I no more trust that every last Grecian believed in Helios ferrying the sun around than people today believe every truck is secretly a robot in disguise. Myths, more than anything, are entertainment, and always have been. The finer myths, the ones that really do move from generation to generation, those myths possess some truth, some explanation for the world, but you’ll get the same satisfying morality from Oedipus or Luke’s dysfunctional relationships.

And, really, that’s why Star Wars can become a myth that will go on forever. Hero’s Journey, Western, Samurai Flick, Flash Gordon; wherever you want to place its origins, the original Star Wars is many things to many people because it is many things. Star Wars drew from many, many different sources for its final product, and the melting pot of themes and characters got a strew going that can appeal to practically anyone. We’ve got a whiny farm boy that turns out to be the savior of the universe for all you kids that scribble emo poetry on your Livejournal, there’s the cool jock that is just too good for all this played by a guy who is convinced he’s too good for all this, and a pretty pretty princess that is incidentally a blood-thirsty murderess/sex symbol for a generation. And on the other side of the aisle there is maybe the most iconic, menacing bad guy in the history of cinema, Grand Moff Tarkin, and also some dude wearing his finest funeral cape and a spray-painted samurai helmet. And then there’s Emperor Palpatine, the guy who had to be super-duper evil to stand over Vader’s It's a crap!generally evil, so that way when Vader flips at the final hour, there’s this old man that nobody feels bad about giving the ol’ shaft. So if you want to like the bad guys, feel free, because there’s a worse guy.

Star Wars, original Star Wars, is filled with amazing characters and worlds (a whole universe, let’s say) that are simultaneously lovingly defined and just vague enough to be anything to anybody. There’s a couple of “absolute rules” for each character, but beyond stuff like Chewie wouldn’t eat Leia, you can take these folks and stick them in any situation. Han can be a young thief, smarmy smuggler, or reluctant mentor, and it works, because he’s Han Solo. And if it doesn’t work? Who cares, we’ll keep the stories that we do like, and cut out the chafe during the next reboot.

That’s the other thing about myths: their canonicity is forever in flux. Sorry, person who has to write the latest Guide to the Star Wars Universe, but your work might be for naught in a few short years. We’ve already seen it once with Star Wars, when all the voices of the Expanded Universe were suddenly silenced as Goofy steamrolled into town. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever read those stories again, simply that they’re not the “answer” they once were. Bad news for nerds: there is no end for Star Wars, there’s barely a future beyond Vader’s death, and that’s all there ever be. Episode 7, 8, 9? They’ll continue the story, but if nobody likes them, or someone just wants to tell a new story in thirty years, they’ll be taken out with the trash like that time Chewbacca took a moon to the face. Just for you, CaitlenOh, we need Chewie again for another story? Erm… that never happened… he’s… he’s up and he’s cool and dating a woman named Mara Jade, or something. It won’t happen immediately, but our children, and our children’s children will be complaining about the latest holonovel featuring the stupid seventh iteration of stupid C-3P0, and why can’t they just go back to the human-shaped version of the character, he was so much funnier before he had six tentacles!

Star Wars will never have a consistent canon again. And that’s a good thing.

And you know why this is all a good thing? Because we’re all going to die.

If you are reading this, you’re old enough to be able to read. If you’re old enough to be able to read, you have a whole host of preconceived notions and beliefs that will only grow more inflexible and stubborn with age. What you consider normal will, inevitably, by the time you are an old fart, be something that is holding society back. You can see it right now with centuries of outmoded gender and sexuality beliefs coming to a head with one generation saying, “who cares?” and another responding, “because!” I’m not going to claim to be immune, either. I am a Level 9 carnivore, and cannot enjoy a meal unless I am thoroughly convinced some other creature suffered before landing on my plate. I consider myself a friend to animals, and I am well aware that any given meat product is the end result of horrendous torture on individual creatures, and also an ongoing assault on the environment in general. And, still, I move my mashed potatoes around a little bit to simulate a teeny tiny hunt, because I must have that primal, delicious feeling of crunching down on prey. It’s bad for everybody involved, including myself, and I rationally know this, but you will have to pry a porterhouse out of my cold, dead hands to get me to stop. And that’s just it, the only way society as a whole ever gets anywhere is not because an entire, gigantic segment of the population decides to change their collective minds, but because the old generation eventually goes extinct, and finally the next guys can make some actual progress without having to appease grandpa.

VrooomGeorge Lucas was 33 when Star Wars was released. While there are an overwhelming number of “older” influences on the film, A New Hope’s mere existence is a sign that Lucas was not satisfied with what came before. Star Wars was literally birthed of youthful exuberance.

The absolute core of Star Wars fandom for many people is a need to feel that same joy that could be experienced as a child. Unfortunately, that’s no more possible for fans than waking up one morning to find your childhood puppy licking your face. Don’t worry, you can still love Buster VIII like Buster The First, but you’ll never feel that exact sensation again. But while your childhood will forever be out of reach, there are a billion children out there waking up to their Buster, their Star Wars. Yes, their Star Wars could be something completely different, and we shouldn’t force our fetishes on a fresh generation, but now Disney will see Star Wars go on in perpetuity, so the possibility is there. My grandfather, a retired WWII Navy man, loved Popeye, and so did I, because Popeye is silly. I don’t even have kids, left alone grandkids, but I can tell you that if, when it’s my time to sit out on the front port in a rocking chair and rant at clouds, I can also talk with my grandkids about how cool R2-D2 is, well, I’d consider that a small price to pay for having to hear about the fact that R2-D2 rides a hoverboard and wears shades now.

Let Star Wars evolve. Don’t limit it to just what you want, and let it become something new, something different, something for the future. Let it go, let the next generation make their own memories, and let Star Wars become something more than it ever was. Let the Star Wars movie become the eternal Star Wars myth. Let yourself change, and enjoy what Star Wars can be.

And, trust me, it will be a good thing.

FGC #76 Star Wars Arcade

  • System: Arcade, 32X. That’s about it.
  • Number of Players: Two. Yes, one of you can be the heroic pilot, and the other a lowly droid. We serve your kind here.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I’m going to claim this is the most limited Star Wars video game in the universe, including any and all Atari releases. This is a game that, released decades after the original trilogy, covered only the absolute final act of Episode IV, and doesn’t include a single lightsaber, wookie, or even a contemptible ewok. Actually, this kinda falls into the same hole HEAVY BREATHINGas its 32X brother, Kolibri: it’s a fun enough game, but it feels wildly limited, like an early Nintendo game tried to play at being quadruple the bits. I think this game does have the same number of stages as Donkey Kong…
  • And you’re no good at it, are you? Okay, that’s also true. Head’s up, if you ever need someone to aid you in a dog fight, I’m probably not your guy, because it seems like the only time I’m ever good in this genre is Star Fox. How does Nintendo do it?
  • So, basically, you found the shortest Star Wars game available so you could rant about the films? Guilty. Though, in my defense, I did claim this could happen in the FAQ.
  • Did you know? If you took all the Star Wars trivia on Earth, wrote it all down, and piled it end to end, it would reach as far as the moon. Wait a minute, that’s no moon!
  • Would I play again: I barely played this the first time. If it wasn’t for limited credits (a tradition that I will forever be thankful for ending), you could probably finish this entire game from start to finish in like 45 minutes. And, yes, I mean “you’ve never played the game before” start. Poor choice of a launch game for the 32X, though not a bad tech demo.


What’s next?
Random ROB has chosen… the best Star Wars game that was ever produced to close out Star Wars week. What’s the name of the game? Well, you’ll have to pop back in on Friday to find out. Please look forward to it!