Welcome to another installment of Retro Weekend, the weekly feature where I play a classic game and write whatever I want about it! This week, I played Super Star Wars because unless you’re living under a rock you’ll know that Episode VII has just released. In order to hype myself for the event, I figured I’d play this Super Nintendo game – now on my Vita – and check out how it compares with the movie.
Okay I have to be honest with you. I wanted to compare Super Star Wars with the original Star Wars movie in very specific detail. I was ready to pick this game up, run through the areas, examine how well the game follows the movie in plot and in action, what it adds, what it takes away, and what it shares with the film. I mean, for a 16-bit title, how well does it really evoke the epic space saga phenomenon that is “Star Wars.” I had it all planned out!
Then I played the game.
I’m currently stuck on level 4 on EASY and I’ve been playing it pretty regularly all week long. You guys know I play a lot of video games just through the cacophony of Retro Weekends you can find here at Invisible Gamer and even in a short amount of time I’m able to get through a good chunk of them to have something to write about. Nope, not Super Star Wars though. To be clear, level 4 takes place inside a Sandcrawler, a giant tank-like vehicle used by the Jawas, and in terms of the movie, I’m basically still in the first 5-10 minutes. No space, no Jedi, no Lightsaber, no Han, no Leia. It’s just Luke running around Tatooine with a dinky old pistol and I can’t for the life of me, get out.
I even contemplated using cheat codes. Scratch that, I tried to use cheat codes just in an effort to see more of the game. I don’t know if it was because I was playing the Playstation Vita port, or because I haven’t entered a cheat code in probably 10 years, but I couldn’t get anything to work. So stuck in the Sandcrawler I stay.
So why do I suck so much? Well, Super Star Wars is one of those games that seems to settle on punishing the player with a ridiculous amount of obstacles in order to pad out and make the game seem longer because you’ll be dying so much. Of course, since I’m stuck in Tatooine, I can’t say for sure that’s 100% accurate. Maybe the game is 50 levels long! (It’s not, I looked it up. 14 levels.)
One of the biggest offenses is the Ninja Gaiden-like respawn of enemies. While there’s already quite a few sprites roaming around on screen at any given time, as soon as the camera goes out of view, those enemies can respawn. It doesn’t seem like it’s 100% of the time, but even in the first level if an enemy hits you, you get knocked back, and as soon as you walk forward, there’s that enemy again. It’s one thing to do this when there’s only a few enemies here and there, but Super Star Wars throws so much at you at once, it’s like running a gauntlet and trying not to get hit is damn near impossible. The only solace is that most enemies will drop small bits of life that will hopefully be enough for you to scrape by.
To make things worse, not only does Super Star Wars refrain from easing the player into the game, they throw new and deadly obstacles at you regularly. Inside the Sandcrawler, I’ve dealt with hazard after hazard that basically left me to die and try again without any warning and then being sent back to a checkpoint that has me running the gauntlet again. It would be okay if there were some steady, and predictable enemy patterns, but they seem so unpredictable that one run may leave you with a full life bar while another has you knocking on death’s door. Oh, and for the first part of the level you can fall in pits and get damaged from spikes, then without warning it switches to lava and you die instantly. UGH!
So it’s safe to say I’ll never experience the full game of Super Star Wars. I won’t get to blow up the Death Star. I won’t get to try out the other playable characters Chewbacca and Han Solo, and I doubt I’ll ever reach the Cantina scene. But even with all my difficulties and frustrations about the game, I can’t say I hate it. I can’t even say you should avoid it. Why? Because even within the first three levels you can see a rather faithful recreation of the movie. You can see that a lot of work was put into this game not just to make money off of the Star Wars name, but to adapt it into something gamers would recognize and enjoy. Maybe I didn’t fully get the enjoyment, but the production as a whole is pretty fantastic.
The graphics look great, Luke runs around with plenty of animations including slides and two different types of jumps. You get upgradeable blasters and eventually – I never saw it – a lightsaber! And even on the Super Nintendo the sound effects for these weapons, as well as everything else, feel like they were ripped right from the film. The hum of the lightsaber is there. The zap of the blasters hitting an enemy is there. Those sound effects have become iconic in our culture and the fact they’re used so well in the game help bring you into the world ever more. The same can be said for the music with many classic scores from the movie coming alive through the SNES’ soundchip.
There’s also some use of Mode 7 here. Early on you get to cruise around in a speeder and shoot Jawas. I can only assume you probably do something like this in an X-Wing later. Getting to pilot a vehicle and using that pseudo-3D view is actually a pretty cool thing and once again adds to the overall production value, giving you that epic Star Wars feeling. In some ways, you get to see more of the world in the game than the movie even and the environments look great from what I’ve seen. Playing Super Star Wars almost feels like reading one of the expanded universe books because you just get to spend a bit more time and dig deeper into some places like Tatooine.
Now that I’ve played Super Star Wars, I actually want to watch Episode IV soon. There’s only so much plot in that SNES cart and I’d like to see how it all began another time. I’m not even a huge Star Wars fan but it’s been a fun, exciting week for me between playing Super Star Wars, writing this piece and getting ready for the new movie. Now quit reading and go use the Force or something while I contemplate my thoughts on Episode VII.