I’ve dabbled here and there talking about Star Wars games on this site, but I haven’t made it clear how important they are. We take for granted just how good LucasArts was at making video games. Nowadays we live in the days of Star Wars Kinect and EA using microtransactions and pre-orders to sell us our favorite franchise for triple the price. In the mid-2000s and prior, though, we had some truly amazing games coming out.
I’m the biggest Star Wars fan I know, and the video games were a huge part of my childhood. I’ve played so many Star Wars games, and every so often I’d like to talk about them. This is going to be the first of a few posts where I talk about my favorites. It’s officially Star Wars season 2017 now that The Last Jedi has come out, and I’m very excited. To celebrate, I’m going to talk about three Star Wars games I just love.
Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter
Jedi Starfighter is the sequel to Star Wars Starfighter for PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. It was actually a more recent play for me, the only similar game I’d played was Rogue Squadron for N64. I’m not the biggest fan of Rogue Squadron, but the formula of flying around in a starfighter is all good with me. That was my favorite part of Battlefront, for sure.
Jedi Starfighter follows the adventures of Adi Gallia, a hugely underrated character from the extended prequel universe. I don’t really remember the plot all that well…something about a rogue bad guy looking to unleash deadly weapons of mass destruction on the galaxy who needs to be stopped. Basically it’s an excuse to fly around and shoot things.
The project was headed up by W. Haden Blackman, who was also a project lead on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and wrote a few Star Wars comics like Jango Fett: Open Seasons. He also wrote the story, which does a decent job. It all comes down to a lot of “destroy this” and “protect that” because frankly it’s a game, and story just needs to provide a solid backdrop. And as a game, Jedi Starfighter is a lot of fun. Since you’re playing as a jedi, you can use multiple force abilities, like a shield or a lightning burst. These were a fun add-on to some already good dogfighting, and hearing your companions over the staticky comm channel provided a nice Star Fox vibe. This is the kind of game that works great with Star Wars. Nice and simple, and it shows how much goes on behind the scenes in the universe.
Criterion did a great job creating the space combat for DICE’s Battlefront II, so I’d love to see them make some kind of Poe Dameron game just like this one.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
When people say there are no good movie tie-in games, most of the time I point them towards this game. Episode III is not a very good movie, but the game represents it really well. It’s not a long game, but it’s essentially an 3D action beat-em-up that tells the story of the film. It starts with a few missions of the Chancellor rescue, then Obi-Wan’s mission to Utapau, Anakin’s destruction of the Jedi Temple, and finally the confrontation between master and apprentice.
What I enjoy most is that the tone is actually more intense than the movie. It includes practically no mention of Padme, and Anakin turns to the dark side full tilt, no brooding, no beating around the bush. You get to live out the destruction of the Jedi Temple that you don’t get to see in the movie, actually fight General Grievous and Count Dooku. In a lot of ways I like to experience the story better this way than by watching the movie, because it’s all action.
The movesets of each character are also impressive. Every character has a unique moveset, from Dooku to Mace Windu. This is especially cool because there’s also a versus mode with about a dozen characters. There are also five bonus missions where you get to play as Magnaguards, Master Yoda, and even Darth Vader. Vader and Old Ben Kenobi are also unlockable for versus mode, so you and a friend can fight each other as young and old Vader, or young and old Obi-Wan.
Each character has a moveset that fits their personality. The dev team spent some time training with Hayden Christiansen and Nick Gillard, the coreographer for the prequel movies, to make sure their work was faithful. And it shows. The combat is surprisingly deep, with some pretty complicated button combos. I used to love playing this game’s multiplayer with friends.
The story mode is also pretty decent. The climactic moments of the movie are well-realized. The prequel soundtrack is used at its finest, and I love the combo of James Arnold Taylor as Obi-Wan and Mat Lucas as Anakin Skywalker. I think this may be my favorite video game adaptation of a movie.
Star Wars: Bounty Hunter
Now THIS is a big one for me. I don’t know if I’ve ever said it, but of all the Star Wars characters, my favorite is Jango Fett, the intergalactic bounty hunter. The DNA template for the Republic Clone Army, possibly my favorite thing about the prequels. Back in 2003, the geniuses at LucasArts decided to make a video game that tells the story of how Jango Fett was chosen as the template for the strongest army in the galaxy. That game turned out to be Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, an action-adventure shoot-em-up platformer. My absolute favorite game for the first eight years of my life.
Bounty Hunter is a story of mystery, twists, betrayals, and unnecessary dual gun twirling. The goal is to hunt down Komari Vosa, the rogue apprentice of Count Dooku. Its story consists of several stages. It starts you at a pit fighting arena in the sinister Outer Rim, takes you through the high society of Coruscant, through a breakout from the highest-security prison in the Galaxy, and then to the dusty hive of scum and villainy that is Tatooine, before you finally reach your prey at the Moon of Bogden. I just love how all the areas look completely different, and how you visit all of the seediest places in the Star Wars universe.
I absolutely love the look of this game. The third person camera is in just the right place, and the HUD is practically nonexistent. It shows only your health bar and whatever weapon you have equipped — exactly what you need to know at any given time. It becomes much easier to take in your surroundings completely without information constantly in your face. This game is also great because it rarely tells you how to progress through a level. Sometimes you’ll have to climb a small tower or a rock and jetpack over to where you need to be. The ability to jetpack around gives you so much horizontal and vertical mobility that the scale had to adjust to match it. And thankfully, it does. There are a lot of moments when you barely make it to where you need to go, and those moments are extremely satisfying. It feels like the world is not built for you to traverse it. Sometimes that gets frustrating, sure, but it’s also why the whole world feels so damn convincing.
I’m just gonna gush about this game for a minute. You can light people on fire with a flamethrower. Whipcord-tying people and neck chopping them is usually an instant-kill. Roz and Zam Wesell are genuinely cool characters that the movies could ever have done justice. There’s one late-game level where you can’t use a jetpack because Jango decided it was too heavy and he doesn’t need it. Freakin’ amazing. In another one you have to fight your way out of a jail cell with only your bare fists until you reclaim your equipment. Love it. There are so many interesting things in this game that are small, but particularly sell it as a movie tie-in. Actually some of the cutscenes are leagues better than the prequel films.
Star Wars: Bounty Hunter is criminally underrated. Definitely pick it up if you can find it. It’s a good example of solid world design and HUD.