Just as Star Wars' recent prequels couldn't match the original three films for teen-thrilling brilliance, Star Wars videogames are a mixed bag. Let Glen Ferris lead you through the crowded field and into the Light…
There are good Star Wars games and there are bad Star Wars games. The latest, Kinect Star Wars, may be more Womp Rat than Jedi Knight but it’s far from the worst that the galaxy far, far away has to offer. Fortunately, there are also a few shining beacons of light to restore balance to the Force. Join us then as we sort the wheat from the Sith and provide you with the definite guide to the very best and very worst Star Wars games…
Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi
Rightly derided as the most abysmal Star Wars game ever made, Masters of Teräs Käsi is the very definition of a terrible idea poorly executed. The martial art of the title (the name of which derives from a grammatically incorrect translation of the Finnish for ‘Steel Hand’) is apparently practiced by a variety of Rebel and Empire characters who choose to duke it out in massively unbalanced style (lightsabers are basically neon baseballs bats somehow incapable of lopping off limbs, while blasters need an age to charge up before use). A Soulcalibur clone with no soul or indeed any calibre, this attempt at breaking into the fighter market is as shallow and cynical as it gets.
Star Wars: Rebel Assault
Released at roughly the same time as the brilliant X-Wing series (see below), Star Wars: Rebel Assault does not compare well. The story sees you following a parallel path to that of Luke Skywalker as you work your way up from Tatooine farm boy to Rebel flying ace, taking the controls of intergalactic vehicles along the way. Sounds good? Well it wasn’t. The main problem, in among the crappy graphics, dialogue and gameplay, were the hyper-sensitive controls. The lightest of touches in flight mode saw you careering into canyon walls, while the crosshairs in the on-rails space battles were infuriatingly inaccurate. If anybody ever managed to complete this mess, their midichlorian count must have been through the bloody roof.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan
Pitched to Star Wars fans as something like Kenobi: The Early Years, this Xbox launch title led up to the events of The Phantom Menace. As Obi-Wan, we got to travel the galaxy lightsabering and Force-pushing bad guys until the Nerfs came home – and then we got to do it all over again, and again, and again… You see, the problem with this title was a nasty case of repetitiveness . It went a bit like this: walk a bit, kill a bunch of stupid enemies, walk a bit more, kill some more stupid enemies, repeat until your hands fall off… Add to that some below-par graphics, massive playing areas devoid of atmosphere and dumb AI and you’ve got a game fully deserving of being flushed down the trash compactor.
Star Wars Galaxies
What if you could live out all your Star Wars fantasies in an MMORPG (that’s a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game if you’re over the age of 20 or have ever seen daylight)? What if you could spend hours upon hours, days upon days existing in a digital approximation of the saga’s universe? You could become a bounty hunter like Bobba Fett, choose the Light or Dark side, fight for an ideal or selfishly watch your own back… These decisions – myriad as they are – could be yours. That was the idea behind Star Wars Galaxies and it sounded like fun. The reality, however, was a dull and laborious game which required a ridiculous amount of dedication from its players. As the game attracted new users, so it introduced updates to make the whole thing easier to play (understandably pissing off the original die-hards along the way) until it was tinkered with to such a degree that everybody stopped using it and Galaxies was eventually left to die. A decent idea ham-fistedly left to flounder, it ended its days alone and unloved by all – well, except for the odd person like this.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
All Star Wars fans have ever really wanted from their tie-in games is the chance to step into the cockpit of their favourite vehicles. Topmost of that list has to be the X-Wing, followed swiftly by the Tie-Fighter, then it’s probably the Millennium Falcon, Speeders (both forest and snow), Slave I, and everything else in descending order, with Jar-Jar’s Gungan Bongo right at the bottom of the list. The very excellent Rogue Leader put players in control of most of them (happily, not the last one) in a smooth, fun and immensely re-playable flight sim. If you can get hold of a copy, you’ll find it still stands up as a brilliant title today. Also see the rather more dated but still very cool Star Wars: X-Wing series.
Super Star Wars
If there was a formula to making a great Star Wars game (which there sadly isn’t), slapping the word Super in the title would be a good start. The SNES-only Super Star Wars series took in the original trilogy (admittedly only very loosely) and turned them into a platforming treat. The side-scrolling effort was a blast of fast-paced gun-and-run action that was as challenging as it was fun (the Jedi mode in particular can only be described as bastard hard). If you’re in the mood for some retro action with bite, the three games are available on the Wii Virtual Console.
LEGO Star Wars
If there’s one thing better than Star Wars, it’s Star Wars made out of colourful little bricks. You could argue that the LEGO tie-ins are silly little diversions aimed at keeping the kids quiet, but you would of course be wrong: LEGO is ace, Star Wars is brilliant, your argument is invalid. Simple, childish and a lot of fun, there’s hours of enjoyment to be had from this series; be it the completion of missions, the collection of trophies, the discovering of mini-games or the sheer destructive joy of smashing environments to pieces. Above all, it’s a spot-on parody of a saga that can take itself too seriously – the farce is strong in this one.
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
Where Galaxies failed to get many pulses racing beyond the kingdom of Geekdonia, Knights Of The Old Republic proved there is room for a properly good RPG in the Star Wars universe. A thoughtful antidote to all those action and flight sim titles, KOTOR is pure class all the way. It has an engrossing storyline (based in a more civilised age, around 4,000 years before the rise of the Galactic Empire) and a chunky running time (over the 40-hour mark) with options to customise the adventure by levelling up your powers, learning new skills, making various alliances and deciding whether you’ll lean toward the Light or Dark side. Having won over a sizable crowd not normally used to the slower pace of RPGs, the hugely popular series led to the re-emergence of a World Of Warcraft -worrying MMO called The Old Republic. Particularly exciting news for the Galaxies faithful and proof that if you strike down a Star Wars MMO it shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.