I make no secret of the fact that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I love the universe and consume all the media I can around it, especially the video games. I love them so much I created my own YouTube series called Star Wars Play Time where I play old Star Wars games and see how they hold up. I’ve been doing it for two years now and have reviewed 24 games. I have plans to do many more.
This Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you, get it?) I’d like to take you all on a trip to relive some surprising things that I’ve found or rediscovered during these play throughs. They could be good or bad (or possibly both) but they were surprising to me either on my replay or when I first played them.
Without further ado, here are 11 surprising things I found playing old Star Wars games.
This Easter Egg In Shadows Of The Empire
The N64 was a huge step forward in gaming. The way it jumped to the 3D realm with titles like Super Mario 64 and GoldenEye was incredible. For me though, I could never go past Shadows Of The Empire. The concerted marketing push for this title through video games, comics and books made it feel almost like Lucasarts were launching a new movie.
A lot of people forget that Lucasarts didn’t just make Star Wars games though. I loved the old point-and-click games like Day Of The Tentacle and Full Throttle. One of my all time favourites is Sam And Max. This dog and bunny detective duo made an appearance as a special collectible in Shadows of the Empire and gave me a stupid little grin when I found it. I’m even grinning now just thinking about it.
I Must Go, My Planet Needs Me
With a vast array of powers, it’s very hard to make a good game with a Force-wielding character like a Jedi or a Sith. It’s why old Star Wars games didn’t really feature them. Jedi Knight tried its hardest but it was still pretty clumsy in the way you used the Force powers. It wasn’t until 2008’s The Force Unleashed that it felt like we were truly free to go wild with Force abilities.
Taking the mantle of Galen Starkiller, Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, you’re let loose on the galaxy doing your master’s bidding. Honestly, he’s overpowered and ridiculous in places but that’s what makes the game fun! Being able to yeet enemies into a Sarlaac pit or fry those suckers with Force lightning looks and feels incredible.
All these amazing Force powers and so much destructible environments does make for some interesting effects though. I came across one such effect in the boss fight with Jedi Shaak Ti. She jumped into the air to power an ability so I also jumped up and used a push ability to see if I could counter it. Instead I launched her into the air and she just stuck there. It’s easily repeatable as well. The specific combination of her powering up and my Force push sends her flying into low orbit.
Why Does Star Wars Need A Fighting Game?
Fighting games can be a lot of fun. I loved Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct as a kid and I still love the Smash Bros series. But for the life of me I cannot work out why Star Wars ever thought they needed one.
Masters Of Teras Kasi is just, it’s just so god-damn bad. If you think you might enjoy this do yourself a favour and frisbee that shit into the sun. The premise is ridiculous. There’s a galactic civil war going on but Luke, Han, Leia and Vader are just going to take time out of their busy schedule to compete in a fighting tournament? Makes sense. Why can’t all conflicts be resolved this way?
And why can you block lightsaber attacks with your forearms? WHY? It makes as much sense as the Wookie defence from South Park. You know, because Chewbacca is a Wookie and lives with Ewoks on Endor. IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE! There for you must acquit my client and never play this game.
Now This Is Podracing
Well no, it’s not podracing. It’s flying! I grew up on the X-Wing and TIE Fighter flight sims. I loved them as a kid and it was no surprise that when the Gamecube released in 2001 with Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader as a launch title, that was the game I got.
I loved it so much and I constantly replayed it trying to get the medals to unlock bonus missions and new ships. I knew it was a sequel to Rogue Squadron on the N64 and PC, but I kinda avoided it. Why would I go back to it when I had the new hotness?
Turns out that was a mistake. Rogue Leader is basically a nicer looking version of Rogue Squadron. Everything I loved about Rogue Leader was there and it was incredible that they were able to pull it off on an older console. I’m not even sure which game I like better now, which is a testament to how good Rogue Squadron is.
What The Hell Am I Looking At?
Not all games age as well as Rogue Squadron though. My love for flight sims came from playing X-Wing way back in the day. It was so much fun to zoom through levels and shoot down eyeballs (TIE Fighters) and squints (TIE Interceptors). One of the missions even made its way into a simulator mission in the X-Wing books.
But while X-Wing and its graphics were a technical wonder for its time, it has not aged well. Half the time I don’t know if the pixel I’m aiming at is an enemy or just a star in the background. It’s incredibly hard to go back to and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want your childhood memories of it ruined.
Sometimes You Find a Diamond In The Rough
There are so many old Star Wars games out there that I have missed playing. Sometimes there’s a reason for that. But there have been times when I’ve come across a hidden gem.
Movie tie-in games aren’t the greatest at the best of times so it was extremely surprising to find that Episode 3: Revenge Of The Sith released on Xbox and PS2 in 2005, was a really great game. You could tell that there was a lot of collaboration between the devs and the movie makers because even though the game released two weeks before the movie, it had footage from the movie in it!
The combat in it is incredibly fun. It’s not just hack and slash, you have to time your hits and use the right attack. I love it so much! It’s great to see that I can still be surprised by a game after so long.
How Is This Game So Bad?
Sometimes there is no diamond. Sometimes what you’ve found is just a great big shiny turd that’s been polished to within an inch of its life. This is the case with The Clone Wars on PS2 and Gamecube from 2002.
This is how I imagine the pitch meeting for the game went:
Exec: You know what kids love? Jedi. We just showed a heap of them fighting in Attack Of The Clones. We should do something with that.
Dev Team: Jedi and lightsaber combat are really hard to do well and it’s going to cost a lot of money.
Exec: Are tanks expensive to program?
Dev Team: No…
Exec: Perfect! We’ll put the Jedi in tanks! That way you won’t need to spend all that time and money programming lightsaber fights and the kids still get to play as Jedi! Everybody wins!
Dev Team: Are you high?
That’s pretty much The Clone Wars in a nutshell. It’s a game about Jedi, with a Jedi storyline, but in tanks. None of those flashy coloured blades that move around a lot, we’ll just have the Jedi using much more uncivilised weapons.
Why would I want to play a game featuring Jedi but not actually be a Jedi?
You know what happens in real time strategy games (RTS) when they let you carry your resources between missions? It breaks the game. That’s what happened when I played Empire at War. Resource generation is done by controlling planets on the galaxy map. What this means is that you can just sit there and wait for the credits to roll in and completely break the economy of the game.
Sure, there’s a population cap, and you’re limited to how many units you can bring to a battle, but you can have reserve forces and bring in reinforcements to bolster your ranks, meaning that it’s virtually impossible to fail if you have significant control over the galaxy. There’s no point in being all strategic if you can crush your enemies with your numbers.
You can even do this as the Rebels, which makes no sense. Ultimately Empire At War left me unfulfilled.
Why Must Everything Explode?
My first real console was the SNES. I loved that thing and I played Super Mario World to death. I also played Super Star Wars to death as well. Looking back on it, Super Star Wars is an insanely hard game and I have no idea how I did so well in it as a kid. Probably something to do with finding a cave full of lives and just farming that.
I loved the feeling of playing through my favourite movie, even the bosses were faithful to the source material. You remember the lava beast in the bottom of the Jawa’s Sandcrawler right? No? Oh that’s because it didn’t exist. Same with all the bosses in the game, with the exception of Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter right at the end.
That’s not what I want to talk about here though. It’s how these bosses die. In a firey ball of flame and death. And it’s not just the bosses. Everything in this game explodes! Even the small enemies die with a little puff of flame. But my favourite enemy death of all has to be the Banthas. They die so epically for such a big ball of fluff.
I don’t know what they feed things in the Super Star Wars universe, but I’d advise against naked flames.
Did You Know It’s Possible To Play A Game Wrong?
If you know anything about old Star Wars games at all you’ll know that Knights Of The Old Republic (KOTOR) is considered a master piece. There’s a reason for that. The gameplay and the story still holds up today. It’s an incredible game, but it’s a different game to what people are probably used to.
That was me when I first played KOTOR. I moved and dodged to avoid enemies and I kept getting absolutely trounced, wondering what the hell was going on. Eventually I just stopped playing it and thought everyone that loved it was crazy.
Years later when I returned to it I discovered I was playing the game wrong. There is no dodging the damage. Or at least there wasn’t the way I was trying to do it. Every attack and defence in KOTOR is based on a dice roll. If your dice roll is high enough you hit, or if your defence roll is high enough you might block or dodge the attack. You don’t need to physically move your character.
Once I realised this I had a much better time with the game and really enjoyed the main story, along with the stories of your companions. It’s amazing how much easier a game becomes when you pay attention to the instructions.
I’ve Played SWTOR For How Long?!
I generally don’t spend too much time in a game. Once I finish the story it goes back on the shelf. Sure I might dig it out years later to give it another go, but for the most part I don’t go back to old games.
So I was a little surprised and shocked when Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) turned 10 last year and it hit me that I’d been playing it for the life of the game. The only thing I’ve made a bigger commitment to is my mortgage.
The SWTOR launcher moved to Steam in mid 2020 and I’ve played over 213 hours since then. In researching this story I found a command (/player) that you can put in general chat to see how long I’ve played each character for.
Let’s see…add those…carry the 3…take off my shoes so I can count past ten…and I have been played SWTOR for 1930 hours and 49 minutes. That’s very close to 80 and a half days.
I think I’m going to have a little lie down.
There’s my list of 11 surprising things I found playing old Star Wars games. What do you think? Have you found any surprises along the way? Let us know on our socials!