With the announcement of Star Wars episode VIII's title, "The Last Jedi," I was inspired to revisit the ol' Super Star Wars romping--or rather whomping--grounds. Yes, I'll be taking a look at JVC's run and gun Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. So, did the Empire strike back with the same amount of difficulty as they did with the first game? Or did I find a new hope for the series when this Star Wars game was rented?
Graphics and Style:
The character sprites are designed well and really give you the feeling that you're playing as a character from the Star Wars universe. As you blast--or lightsaber--your way through Stormtroopers, wampas, swamp monsters and the like, it's hard not to admire the work done on the character design. The development studio really had a chance to show off their stuff with the Super Star Wars games and did so to a tee. If you have the time I encourage you to look up a little of the backstory into how they approached doing these characters.
When it comes to style, I'm happy to say it too has the classic Star Wars feel. Even though the design team obviously had to take some liberties when it came to building this run-and-gun, they never feel like something totally out of the bounds of what you would find in the Star Wars universe.
Music and Sound:
I think I could write a whole separate blog based on how well the sound was done in these games. From blaster shots to lightsaber strikes; great care was obviously taken to preserve as much as possible the original sound of the movie, and it shows. When it comes to the music, while I agree it's a pretty good 16-bit adaptation of the film score, it doesn't quite grab me as I wanted it to. In fact, I find some of the renditions a little too tinny for my tastes. However, they do convey the tone of the game and film melded into one and do a pretty good service for your gaming needs. They never get too annoying or too over-looped. Here's a rendition of the Imperial March which I think is the best of the lot as it really captures the fast paced violins well:
Gameplay and Control:
You run and shot, saber, or even thermonuclear detonator your way from the beginning of the level to the end. Along the way you can pick up hearts of varying sizes to replenish your health meter, extensions for said health meter, and various weapon and point power ups. These are dropped with a fair amount of regularity, so keeping your health up doesn't become an issue. You can choose between three difficulty settings from Easy, Brave, and the highest, of course, is Jedi. You get the "Brave" setting as the default mode if you hop right in, but if you're looking for your best chance at beating the game on your first go around, I'd recommend going to the menu screen and selecting the easy setting. On the topic of difficulty, this ranks up there with some of the hardest run-and-guns and platforming you'll ever encounter. With constant barrages of enemies, obstacles, and death-spike laced pits, the game challenges you every step of the way. In addition to the natural high difficulty of the in game objects, whenever you die, you are sent back to the beginning of an area as there are no checkpoints. Even on the easiest of settings you can find an ill-timed jump into a pit will result in the loss of what can feel like hours worth of labor. And with only 3 continues, you need every life you can get.
It's so fitting that you start out on Hoth, because the controls feel slippery and you would just assume that since you're on an ice planet, that's how it is for that level. But no, that's how it goes for every level. With the aforementioned assault of enemies and death-pits, this not only fast becomes a nuisance, but a built in difficulty setting itself--albeit one that you cannot change. While you can alter the button configuration, this does nothing to change the actual control you have over the character. Luke is just as likely to hurl himself into a pit of spikes as he is to ever confront Darth Vader.
Memories and New Thoughts:
It was a Star Wars game, so I rented it. Need I say more? I mean, I think I may have made it to the second stage as a kid, but I don't ever recall making it that far. I loved the Super Star Wars games as a kid and I loved renting them. Who wouldn't want to play as Luke, Han, or even Chewie?! Well, I never got to play as Han or Chewie. I only got past the first level or so as Luke when I was kid.
Each of these games brought a little something new to offer in terms of stages and layout, but each one had that unforgiving difficulty we've come to associate the game. Part of me wants to just say, "I was a kid and it was Star Wars," and leave it at that. I should have known at this point though just how insane and frustrating the difficulty was. Years later this still gets to me. I have a mix of love and deep-seated resentment for this game, and all the Super Nintendo Star Wars games. Why did the game have to be so stupidly hard? Clearly kids were going to play this game as well, why couldn't the developers have cut a break to us kids? Not that I was looking for hand holding, I love a challenging game and still do to this day. But when a game gets this brutally difficult, it's hard to keep those rose-colored kid glasses on for too long. Now, don't get me wrong, I still like the game and hope to beat it one day. It's just hard to imagine that I'd ever want to have owned it as a kid as I liked to have games around that were something I could eventually beat. I can't imagine younger me ever beating this game. So I guess I have to settle for the hope that my adult self will have the patience to get it done.