The Star Wars Dissection – Video Games

2000s:

The year 2000 brought along many more educational and youth video games for the PC based on Episode I, including Anakin’s Speedway (podracing on Tatooine), the Star Wars Early Learning Activity Center (various), and Star Wars Math: Jabba’s Game Galaxy (math-based games in Jabba’s palace). More serious tie-ins to Episode I, such as Racer Arcade (another podracing game released in arcades), Jedi Power Battles for the Playstation, Dreamcast, and Game Boy Advance (a platformer where you play through Episode I as various characters), Obi-Wan’s Adventure for the Game Boy Color (a re-telling of Episode I through the eyes of Obi-Wan; interestingly, this is the only game where a player can pilot a Bongo), Battle for Naboo for the Nintendo 64 and PC (as Lt. Gavin Sykes, you fight to free the Naboo people from the Trade Federation, piloting various tanks, speeders, and fighters), Starfighterfor the PC, Playstation 2, and Xbox (as various starfighter pilots, you fight the Trade Federation on the planets Lok and Naboo), and Obi-Wan for the Xbox (playing through various missions as Obi-Wan, ending with the events of Episode I).

There were several fringe games that were also released in the early 2000s, whose gameplay was less about story and more about action and fun. These included Demolition (a vehicular combat game not unlike a demolition derby, featuring various characters from across the series, including Darth Maul), Super Bombad Racing for the Playstation 2 (a racing game aimed at kids, not unlike Mario Kart), and Racer Revenge for the Playstation 2 (the sequel to Episode I Racer, centered around Sebulba).

The early 2000s also saw the rise of the Star Wars-themed real-time strategy. These games involved controlling large numbers of combat units (infantry, vehicles, fighters, etc.) at once, ordering them to attack enemy units and perform mission goals.  These games were popular for the PC, whose mouse-and-keyboard controls made them easier to play. The first such game was Force Commander, where your character is an Imperial officer ordering around Imperial troops during the events of Episode IV. Halfway through the game, you defect to the Rebel Alliance, and play as them, culminating with the capture of the Imperial Palace on Coruscant years after Episode VI. The next real-time strategy was Galactic Battlegrounds. This game was based on the Age of Empires titles, using the same engine and controls. Civilizations must gather resources (food, carbon, ore, and Nova crystal), build bases, and fight off enemies. The training campaign is the Wookiee colonization of Alaris Prime. The Trade Federation campaign is the invasion of Naboo. The Gungan campaign is the liberation of Naboo, and also tells the story of the ancient Gungan civil wars. The Imperial and Rebel campaigns surround the events of Episodes V and VI, and the final campaign is the Wookiee liberation of their homeworld. The Naboo are also a playable civilization in multiplayer modes. When Episode II came out in May 2002, an expansion pack for Galactic Battlegrounds was released, called Clone Campaigns. It tells of the initial battles of the Clone Wars. The game and its expansion pack featured a wide variety of units on all sides, many of which are unique, or variations of known ships. It is the only game where you can control the aquatic navies of these civilizations. Later, in 2006, we saw another real-time strategy, Empire at War. This game shifted the base-building aspects to a Galaxy-map, where you slowly built up your forces, and diverted them through your civilization. The game also added the idea of unit strategy: certain units were better used against others (TIE Bombers were great against Rebel frigates and Mon Cal Cruisers, but terrible against A-Wings and Corvettes). You had a campaign as the Empire and one as the Rebellion, set shortly before the Battle of Yavin. Its expansion pack, Forces of Corruption, took place between Episodes IV and VI, and added a campaign for the Zann Consortium, a criminal cartel.

Figure 7: The Battle of Geonosis, from Galactic Battlegrounds: Clone Campaigns (Ensemble Studios, 2002)

The early 2000s saw sequels to series that began in the 1990s.  Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader was released in 2001 and re-told the Battles of Yavin and Hoth, and then allowed players to fight numerous battles as Wedge Antilles. Among these include the theft of the Shuttle Tydirium (for use in Episode VI) and the Battle of Kothlis (originally featured in Shadows of the Empire). Another sequel, Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike, added new elements from Episode II, and a new set of missions. Both of these games were for the Nintendo GameCube. Another franchise getting sequels was the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast followed from the events of Mysteries of the Sith. Starting out as a mercenary, Kyle Katarn finds a mystery involving a Dark Jedi imbuing the power of the Force into his troops. The Dark Jedi Desann supposedly kills Kyle’s partner, driivng him mad, causing him to get his own Force powers back. In the next game, Jedi Academy, you play as Kyle’s apprentice, Jaden Korr, who must stop a cult worshipping the ancient Sith Marka Ragnos. Both of these games were first-person shooters for the PC/Mac, Xbox, and, in the case of Jedi Outcast, the GameCube.

In 2002-2003, we saw numerous games tied into Episode II. The official game adaptation of the film was a 2D platformer exclusively for the Game Boy Advance. Bounty Hunter was a tie-in game for the Playstation 2 and GameCube, where you played as Jango Fett trying to get the bounty on Dooku’s former apprentice, Komari Vosa, in competition with Mandalorian traitor Montross. The Clone Wars was a vehicle-based adventure game for the GameCube, Playstation 2, and Xbox, which began with the Battle of Geonosis and told the story of the Dark Reaper Crisis.  You played as Mace, Anakin, or Obi-Wan, piloting numerous speeders, tanks, and gunships. Jedi Starfighter for the Playstation 2 and Xbox was the sequel to the Episode I tie-in Starfighter, where you pilot Delta-7 starfighters against militants and terrorists, ending with the Battle of Geonosis. Last, in The New Droid Army for the Game Boy Advance, as Anakin, you track down a CIS foundry building lightsaber-resistant battle droids armored with cortosis. This game was interesting in that it portrays Anakin killing Count Dooku. This was later retconned that this was a clone, projection, or conjured doppelganger of Dooku. Several years later we got Republic Commando for the PC and Xbox, a first-person shooter where you played as a Clone Commando named Boss, and commanded a squad of other commandos in Delta Squad. The game has three main levels, starting with the Battle of Geonosis.

In 2003, the first of the Knights of the Old Republic games was released for the PC, Xbox, and Macintosh. It was also the first game set in the Old Republic era, and the first true Star Wars Roleplaying video game. You played as Revan, a Sith who had his identity erased, and must defeat the forces of Darth Malak by solving a complex puzzle on several Republic worlds. The sequel, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, was released in 2005 for the Xbox and PC, where you played as the Jedi Exile (later given the name Meetra Surik), a Jedi who was banished for disobeying the Jedi Council years earlier, and must stop the new Sith Lords Nihilus, Traya, and Sion.

Several tie-ins back to the original trilogy were released in this time period. Flight of the Falcon was a Game Boy Advance game where you flew the Millennium Falcon through numerous missions, some of which were tied to movie events. Apprentice of the Force was a platform game also for the Game Boy Advance, which told the events of the original trilogy through Luke Skywalker’s eyes. Lethal Alliance from 2006 for the Playstation-Portable (PSP) and Nintendo DS. In it, you play a Twi’lek cyborg called Rianna Saren, who serves as a mercenary for the Rebels. Star Wars Galaxies was the franchise’s first Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG). You could create your own character and perform missions with other players for the Empire, Rebellion, or others, on any number of planets. Starship flight and combat, new classes, new planets, and new missions were added in three expansion packs: Jump to LightspeedRage of the Wookiees, and Trials of Obi-Wan. This game was for the PC. Last, The Empire Strikes Back for the mobile phone allowed gamers to play various missions from Episode V in fun ways on the go.

In 2004, the first of the popular Battlefront games was released for the PC, Xbox, and Playstation 2 (among others). In these games, you commanded one soldier (battle droid, clone, stormtrooper, Rebel infantry, etc.) at a time. You could pick one of any class; any time you died, you could respawn at a Command Point as any class you wanted. The goal of the game was to kill all the enemy troops, or capture all their Command Points (so they could not spawn in new troops). Battlefront did not have much of a story; instead, you played 2-3 missions per civilization (Trade Federation/CIS, Republic, Empire, Rebellion). Battlefront II was released one year later and tied heavily into Episode III.  The unit you played from was the 501st Legion, an elite clone trooper group. Following Order 66 and Operation: Knightfall, you transitioned from being clone troopers to stormtroopers for the Empire. This game added space combat to the mix as well, flying Republic and later Imperial fighters. Battlefront: Renegade Squadron was a PSP-exclusive, where the unit you fought in was a Rebel commando squad. The last game was a bit different; in Battlefront: Elite Squadron you played as a prototype-clone Jedi named X-2, fighting first for the Republic, and later joining the Rebel Alliance. It was for the PSP and Nintendo DS.

With Episode III came a variety of game tie-ins. The official game adaptation was released for the Playstation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and mobile phones. It followed the film quite closely, and included a Dark Side ending, where Vader wins the duel on Mustafar, kills Palpatine, and takes over the Empire. Three unique cellphone games came out to tie into Episode III, including Battle Above Coruscant (flying Jedi starfighters during the Battle of Coruscant), Battle for the Republic (various battles during the Clone Wars), and Grievous Getaway (fighting Grievous on Utapau). They also released Republic Commando: Order 66 for the mobile phone, where you selected individual clone commandos in squads of three to take down Jedi Masters.

In 2005, LEGO began putting out a wide variety of Star Wars-themed games. LEGO Star Wars for the PS2, Xbox, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PC, Mac, and Cellphone allowed players to run through Episodes I, II, and III as LEGO characters. In LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, PSP, PC, Mac, and Cellphone, you played through Episodes IV, V, and VI. The games were repackaged as LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga in 2007, which redesigned several levels, for the current-generation consoles: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and PC. The LEGO website released in 2009 LEGO Star Wars: The Quest for R2-D2, a browser game set during the Clone Wars. Most recently, in 2011, they released LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars for the same platforms as The Complete Saga, plus the PSP and the Nintendo 3DS. This game allowed you to play through numerous episodes from the movie and first two seasons of The Clone Wars TV series.

Over the years, there have also been a large number of very small video games which went by almost unnoticed. Jakks Pacific released a game re-telling Episode III, another covering the original trilogy, and a third covering The Clone Wars (starfighter combat) called Republic Squadron. These games were included in a controller that plugged directly into the television. Handheld units for kids also attracted several games, including Jedi Reading and Jedi Math for the Leapster and The Clone Wars and Jedi Trials for the Leapfrog Didj. A variety of mobile phone games not previously covered were also released, including Imperial Ace 3DLightsaber CombatStar Wars TriviaAsk YodaJedi ArenaJedi Assassin, and Puzzle Blaster. All of these were developed by THQ.

2008-2012:

In 2008, we saw the release of two near-simultaneous multimedia projects not unlike Shadows of the Empire from 12 years earlier. In The Force Unleashed, you played as Starkiller, the secret apprentice of Darth Vader, as he hunts Jedi and gathers the Empire’s enemies. It was released for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, 2, and Portable, Nintendos Wii and DS, PC, Macintosh, Mobile Phones (including iPhone) and the N-Gage. The next year, LucasArts re-released the game as the Ultimate Sith Edition, which packaged several downloadable levels, including one that was said to be exclusive to the edition (that mission was later made available for download anyway, to the chagrin of many fans). In 2010, they released a sequel, The Force Unleashed II, released only for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, DS, and PC.  It continued the story, but as a clone of the original Starkiller. These two stories were also released as novels and graphic novels.

The other multimedia project was The Clone Wars, with the movie released in August 2008 and the first episode of the cartoon series two months later. Numerous video games were released to tie into The Clone Wars, including Lightsaber Duels for the Wii (one-on-one lightsaber battles spanning the events of the movie and several Season 1 episodes), and Jedi Alliance for the DS (a new story involving a group of Jedi taking down a new CIS weapon, the Devastator). In 2009, several games were released that tied into the Season 1 finale and Season 2 premiere. The biggest was Republic Heroes. As a Jedi or a clone trooper (the perspective changed in-game), you fight across numerous planets, taking on battle droids and the bounty hunter Cad Bane to stop a Separatist superweapon. Also released at around this time were three flash games for the PC, found on StarWars.com. They were Gunship Over Florrum (destroying droids on the ground and in the air in a LAAT gunship), Swamp Station Sweep (destroying battle droids on Rodia), and Droids Over Iego (destroying droid fighters in a V-19 Torrent). These games all involved the end-goal of capturing one of the bounty hunters from the Season 1 finale, and tied directly into the webcomic Hunting the Hunters. The last tie-in game to The Clone Wars is Clone Wars Adventures, an MMORPG where you are given missions set during the Clone Wars. These missions vary widely, and often tie into key episodes of the TV series. Clone Wars Adventures is free to play, but paid members can get more benefits (items, customization, exclusive missions, etc.)

Figure 8: A screenshot from Gunship Over Florrum, a flash game (StarWars.com, 2009)

In December 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic was finally released. A new MMORPG, the game allows you to create your own character, choosing between the Republic and Sith, and choosing one class out of four per faction (two Force-using, two not).  This MMO has full stories, and fully-voiced cutscenes. It can be played by yourself, but is more fun when teaming up with others (indeed, certain levels are designed to be played in groups). The Old Republic was released with a variety of tie-in novels and comics, but the stories in the game are unique. I’ve been playing The Old Republic for the past two months, and have loved every minute of it. The story of my Sith Warrior, Tarahl, is deep and intriguing. I look forward to trying out more classes; I have two other characters ready to go.

The most recent game to be released is Kinect Star Wars. Released on 3 April 2012, the game is exclusive to the Xbox 360 and must use the Kinect peripheral. Playing as a Jedi, you use arm motions (which the Kinect can detect) to wield a lightsaber and use Force powers during the events of the prequel trilogy. There are also side games, where you pilot a podracer, devastate a city as a loose rancor, or dance!

The Future — Post-2012:

I expect that further Star Wars games will be released in the coming years. While no new games have been announced for 2012, I expect that sequels might be released soon. Rumors regarding Republic Commando II or Battlefront III have renewed interest in those titles, even if they are rumors. The Force Unleashed II ended on a note that requires some resolution, which may result in The Force Unleashed III. There was also once a rumor of Rogue Squadron IV for the Nintendo Wii, which may yet be re-packaged as a new title for the yet-unreleased Wii U.

New content will undoubtedly be released for The Old Republic. Game updates that add new missions are released on occasion (Update 1.2, which added a Legacy system, was released in early April 2012). Expansion packs with new classes may yet come out, as they had with Star Wars Galaxies and other MMOs, such as World of Warcraft.

Last, I imagine that more games will be tied directly into Star Wars television shows. There will probably be more The Clone Wars games. Video games will probably also released that tie into the upcoming Live Action series, Star Wars: Underworld. If the other rumored/announced TV shows, such as the Seth Green comedy series and the probably-defunct Squishies series based on the Galactic Heroes toys, are ever released, then I imagine games will be released for those. I note that Marvel’s Super Hero Squad (a TV show based on toys similar to Galactic Heroes) has several video game tie-ins.

Personally, I would like revivals of older series such as X-Wing and TIE Fighter. Those games were incredibly immersive, and the prevalence of gaming consoles with analog sticks means that more people can play. Furthermore, I would love to see new First-Person Shooter games, specifically sequels to the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series. I remember several fans on the old StarWars.com forums praying for a Jedi Knight game set during the New Jedi Order, but those were merely the wishes of fans like me.

CONCLUSION:

Star Wars games have been released consistently since the Expanded Universe revitalized Star Wars in the early 90s, when at-home video game consoles and PCs were powerful enough and prevalent enough to allow gaming to be a valid medium for Star Wars distribution. Star Wars games will continue to be released for the foreseeable future, tied into whatever Expanded Universe area is most prevalent. Their stories will continue to be interesting, being either entirely unique or portraying the events of the films or other media.

I love Star Wars gaming. I have been playing Star Wars games since my NES and my first Windows PC, and continue to play them on my PS3, Wii, DS, and Windows 7 PC. I will undoubtedly continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Written by Andrew Halliday
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About the Author

Andrew Halliday contributes to EUCantina as a writer. He writes our column "The Star Wars Dissection," published every second Monday, and also reviews episodes of The Clone Wars television show. He began writing in 2010, sending letters to the SoloSound.net podcast The EU Review, using mathematics to look at certain trends in Star Wars content. These monthly analyses were expanded into his column in 2011. He has a degree in biology and a love for all things science and math.