?As one of the most, if not the most popular sci-fi franchises in history, Star Wars and its expanded universe churns out videogames like lightsabers slice off limbs — consistently and effectively. The midichlorian counts for scores of the franchise’s electronic outings have been high to boot, and include games for almost every console of the past 30 years. After all, most studios recognize an opportunity to print money when they see it and respect (or fear) fans enough to deliver a title worthy of their time. Sadly, a few of these games went rogue over the years, turning to a dark side of blandness, ineptitude and godawfulness. To paraphrase a chestnut from a galaxy far, far away: The Force was weak with these games. Continue reading for a look at eight Star Wars titles that failed to live up to the series’ legacy (well, at least the Original Trilogy legacy).
8) Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels
Before the Nintendo Wii’s unique motion-capture gameplay came along, the closest most fans could get to simulating decent lightsaber combat came from using clumsy arcade joysticks. With the release of Lightsaber Duels, it seemed like a console had finally delivered an ideal gaming option for would-be Jedi (or Sith lords). Despite endearing graphics, gameplay felt more like aimless waggling than engaging combat. Maybe it’d be a more responsive and fun game in today’s MotionPlus era, but it fell short of its potential in its initial incarnation.
7) Star Wars Giga Pets
?During the virtual pet craze of the late ’90s, Tiger Electronics offered up a few Star Wars-friendly items housing Yoda, R2-D2 and, amazingly, a Giga Pets Rancor. Somehow, the Rancor managed to kind of be awesome. Jabba’s prized pet basically lived to eat guards and dancers and fill its quarters with fodder. The gameplay for each of these Giga Pets was cooler in concept than practice, however, leaving fans feeling like janitors rather than masters and ultimately, that’s not really enough.
6) Star Wars: Episode I: Battle for Naboo
Despite a smattering of excellent titles, the N64 went largely ignored by developers (and players) when it came to certain kinds of games. Battle for Naboo is a fairly good example of how decent flight sims/vehicle-based titles tended to fall flat on the system. Of the 2-3 actually exciting situations presented by Jar Jar’s Big Adventure, the actual Battle for Naboo is an ironic choice. Players were likely even compelled to lose, especially if it meant revenge on the world’s most despised Gungan. With the phrase “Kidsah wanna loosah to doom da bombad Binksah, okee-day!” likely on the minds of developers, retailers and ultimately players, it’s really no surprise this game fosters foul memories for many players.
5) Star Wars: Obi-Wan
Seemingly spurt out in time to greet the Xbox’s initial launch, Obi-Wan shows serious signs of a rushed release. The controls are muddled, the camera is sticky and there’s very little immersion offered to players given its water-thin plot and relatively few hours of gameplay. As one of very few characters who doesn’t completely drive fans to thoughts of swallowing a lightsaber, it’s a shame his solo outing failed to live up to expectations.
4) Star Wars: Masters of Ter?s K?si
As the first ever Star Wars fighting game, anticipation for Masters ofTer?s K?si was high in 1997. But what fans got was a game that looked rough even for the PlayStation graphics of the day, and a fighting engine that was half-bizarre, half-terrible. Each character had a weapon they could draw, but some poeple had lightsabers, some had blasters, and some had sticks. Much like in the Star Wars movies, the people wielding the lightsabers always won — anyone with a lightsaber could mow down opponents via simple
button-mashing, clearing the game in less time than it took to make a
trip to Blockbuster to rent it in ’97. Ter?s K?si‘s most grievous (hee hee!) sin was this complete and utter lack of character balance — well, that, and introducing a Tusken Raider character named Hoar. Still, far too many desperate Star Wars fans bought to play a game where Slave Leia and Mara Jade were unlockable characters.
3) Star Wars: Ewok Adventure
Even with a title only half as annoying as an Ewok feature film, it’s not surprising this lifeless Atari game required a “caravan of courage” to play. Playing as an Ewok (I think) gamers flew – and “flew” is a generous verb considering vehicle’s relative clamber – a speeder bike through a wooded landscape while avoiding/attacking AT-AT’s (purple squids) and scout troopers (marshmallow skeletons). The game never saw an official release, otherwise it might very well have ranked higher on this list.
2) Star Wars: Flight of the Falcon
For those looking forward to even the roughest X-Wing or TIE-Fighter translation on the Game Boy Advance, Flight of the Falcon is the ultimate letdown. Compared to modern handhelds, the GBA isn’t a powerhouse, but whatever potential it packed for a fun flight game was squandered with this release. Cutscenes look like Office 95 Powerpoint presentations, music and sound effects seem halfhearted and the gameplay experience comes off more like a sluggish rail shooter than a speedy outer space flight sim. Each mission’s glacial pacing turns what should be zero gravity dog fights into labored punching matches, with ironically inaccurate lasers that leave the heavy lifting up to scarce missiles. If this game represented the Falcon’s true capabilities, Lando and Han pretty much both lost their game of Sabacc.
1) Star Wars: Jedi Arena
Released for the Atari 2600 in 1983, SWJA had the deck stacked against it from the beginning. Its age and system limitations make it an easy target for criticism, but considering how difficult it is to perceive the gameplay from videos, it’s generous to characterize it as anything less than a nightmarish strobe of pain. Challenging players to use a lightsaber-y beam against a training orb, the game probably summoned A New Hope nostalgia within fans who had just wrapped up the original trilogy. Developers may not have had the option to ape classic games or overhead flight sims, but I question the sanity of any player who could cope with the sound effects after more than even the briefest gaming session. By today’s standards, this relic does merit a place in the history books – but it’s probably best to observe from afar rather than attempt to play at this point.