When it comes to video games based on films, the main consensus is that they aren’t that spectacular. Such grandiose stories over the years have been reduced to unimaginative mayhem. How is this, you may ask? In a sentence, most are released on the eve of the movies success with little actual effort put into them. However, in the case of Star Wars, one of the largest film franchises on the planet, you’d think that the stakes would be a tad higher. Oh ho ho, my dear readers, bantha fodder by name, bantha fodder by nature…
We begin our chronicle of digital atrocities a long time ago, in a games studio far, far away. Atari were at the forefront of gaming’s encapsulation into the minds of the youth, and what better way to tap into that than what was on every kid’s mind at that point? Unfortunately, the first two games on the Atari, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back respectively, were repetitive, difficult to understand, and other than the cover art depicting an AT-AT firing at rebels you had no idea what was going on. This was the early eighties however, and some liberties were taken.
Luckily, an early setback was not about to contend with the unstoppable weight of this franchise. Noticing the incredible potential in their own series, Lucasarts entered the fray: the company on whose namesake depending on the context will either make you cry in gleeful nostalgia, or cry as if a lightsaber had been shoved somewhere unpleasant. The sheer volume of games pumped out by this company is gargantuan, enough to rival the Death Star itself, and with the same destructive capacity. In fact, some of these that became critical successes like Grim Fandango and The Secret of Monkey Island had no relation to Star Wars whatsoever. However, in 1993 X-Wing was released, a game which would become one of the many diamonds in the rough of the gaming empire. It drew heavy crowds in arcades and it was heavily praised for its impressive 3D models that most companies had only just began to experiment with. All in all, it was a solid game that allowed you to step into the boots of an X-Wing pilot from Red-Team and blast some TIE Fighters. Luke Skywalker, eat your heart out!
But the death knell had rang, and in 1999 the largely anticipated Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released, the era of the Dark Side of Star Wars video-game’s had begun. It was during this period that Star Wars video-game’s were being released at such a rate that the quantity had viciously overcome the quality of the titles. This was clear from games such as the film licensed Phantom Menace game, which I am convinced to this day has the most vomit inducing camera angles and perspective known to man, more so than Sonic 06…. what else is there to be said? There also seemed to be a rising focus on racing games. I have no idea why, but whereas Star Wars Episode I: Racer was an extremely faithful and energising homage to the Pod Racer scene in Episode I, Lucasarts managed to trash that gem with Bombad Racing. I feel like Jar Jar managed to wrest control of the game development for a brief amount of time, meesa very disappointed.
This era of darkness was relatively short-lived however, due to Bioware and Lucasarts collaborating and subsequently creating arguably the best Star Wars game ever made, Knights of The Old Republic in 2003. It was the first Star Wars game I ever played, and I had an absolute ball. An excellent role-playing game with a deep, engaging story, game-play that was unseen at the time, and graphics that would set the market standard. The Star Wars hype train continued to plough through, with Star Wars: Battlefront/Battlefront II which introduced a Battlefield-esque shooter on land combined with outrageously fun Space-Battles that made me feel like I was high on death-sticks… I need to go home and re-think my life.
However, with the collapse of Lucasarts and the absorption into Disney a few years ago, the fate of the Star Wars game franchise lay dormant for a while. But out of nowhere, Star Wars fans received a new hope. Electronic Arts and developers DICE announced the return of Star Wars: Battlefront (but this time with super fancy graphics). Critics gave it relatively positive reviews. Consumers on the other hand were left conflicted, with some thinking it’s the greatest Star Wars experience ever made and others being sceptical of Darth EA and their £40 “season pass”; making us all ask: has The Force truly awakened?