I’m a big fan of Star Wars, as you can probably tell from my name—that’s right, I spell “Scott” with two lightsabers instead of the letter T. When I say “Scott” out loud I make the lightsaber noise at the end twice and then shout “NOOOOOO!” when you look at me weird.
With this fact out in the open I’m sure you can see why I was elated to be chosen to review Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It’s so firmly in my wheelhouse that I can fit one less wheel in there because of the space Star Wars is taking up. That’s why there’s an old wheel on my front lawn.
First of all, the music in this game is great! It’s just like the music from the movies except way shittier! Considering the technology they had to work with here I’m still fairly impressed that they managed to simulate it so well, even if it is like someone threw John Williams into a digital hole and then filled it up with spit.
Here’s a good example of a game that reminds me my reflexes have deteriorated almost completely: it tells me I’m a Jedi but the controls don’t let me feel like one—instead I’m the drunk guy in the cantina who makes some poor life decisions by threatening space wizards.
Graphically this game looks fairly nice: it has very sprightly sprites and all of the things on the screen look enough like the things from the movie that I can recognize them. Hoth is remarkably populated for an ice planet, but I guess everything just thawed out to run or fly back and forth to slightly inconvenience the player. Your life bar is a lightsaber, which makes sense because as Jedi get hurt their lightsabers slowly turn off.
I enjoy the way they emulated how Yoda talks with this Game Over screen:
This is a screen that you’re going to be seeing a lot because this game is pretty hard. I’m adept at jumping into the icy pits on Hoth that first murder your tauntaun, and then Luke very shortly after. Luke probably has just enough time to really contemplate the fact that he’s about to die right before he dies. He sees the tauntaun die and thinks “I’m next. I’m going to die next in a very similar way.” And then he dies.
Yoda says “Do or do not, there is no try” at the game over screen, and I agree with him so this review ends here.
Super Star Wars starts out innocuously enough. You get your scrolling text from A New Hope about something something galactic whatever. You get the shot of the Star Destroyer shooting at the Corvette (you read the second sentence and you were like “oh, fuck this guy who doesn’t know anything about Star Wars” and then I start dropping ship knowledge… whaaaaat?). You see the pod jettison down to Tatooine. Then you play as Luke Skywalker just dicking around on sand dunes with a blaster that, if you upgrade it enough, shoots homing missiles.
But whatever. Luke’s hair wafts in the wind while you run. It’s pretty for an SNES game and the controls are tight. You platform. A lot. And it’s surprisingly tough. It’s probably worth playing through in some respects, but of course the problem with a licensed game like this is that I know how it ends, and I’m not particularly inclined to see it through.
On the other hand, I think I would be so happy to play this game it if came out now. Advances in physics engines mean that stuff like the force are really cool to see on screen. It’s sort of funny when you think about how the movies were made on these scant budgets with all of these primitive special effects that almost everyone seems to universally believe is better than the newer digital counterparts. But then I play this and I gotta tell you, mode 7 just doesn’t cut it. You sort of can’t go home again.
Anyway… I think we’re all aware that the greatest Star Wars games of all time have very little to do with the movies themselves. I’m talking about Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy (still my favorite), X-Wing, Tie Fighter, X-Wing VERSUS Tie Fighter, and I guess the Republic Commando game is supposedly pretty awesome. Star Wars has a fun universe, it’s always neat when you get to play in it without the movies getting in the way.
But I guess the sad part of these games is that they’re a few out of thousands of licensed movie games that are pretty good. I would have been more than content with this when I was a kid. The only reason I’m not super content with it right now is because I have four other reviews to write and it’s kinda hard. Unsurprisingly, that probably still makes it one of the best games I’ve reviewed for the site.
Anyway, it’s Star Wars. You’d probably like it if you’ve got a controller, a little patience, and an afternoon.