Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Star Wars Video Game (Not The Fun Ones)

As people might recall, growing up my primary source of video game entertainment was on the original Nintendo Game Boy.  I have a lot of fun memories of that system, and there's a reason why it still has a permanent place on my shelf.  There are still games that are fun to dust off and play, as I've said before.

However, digging down through some of the video game history I have in my cartridge bag, I discovered one I haven't played in a very long time.  Which is surprising, since I've talked about before how much I love the source material.

So what's the problem with Star Wars for the Nintendo Game Boy?

It's absolutely insane, is the problem.

Star Wars came out on May 25, 1977.  The Nintendo Game Boy was released April 21, 1989.  Star Wars (the video game, one of many) came out in November, 1991.  This means that the people developing the games had fourteen years to know the story, so the fact that the game is extremely liberal with the plot is rather mind boggling.

Granted, there's no Scorpion Vader this time, but let me see if I can remember the plot of the game.

We start out with tinny little music playing out the theme song followed by a pretty okay recreation of the opening shot from the movie.  I always tended to skip this and get straight to the game play, because even as a child I knew that games were meant to be played, not watched.  This attitude wouldn't change until my discovery of Japanese RPG games.

The game play starts with Luke driving his landspeeder straight into a cave.  You can't stop it, you can't control it, he just plows it right into there.  I think it's meant to be a tutorial stage, letting you learn the basic controls (press down to crouch, press B to shoot your gun, hold B to run, jump with A).  It will also teach you that gravity is a harsh mistress, and if you miss a ledge, you're pretty much dead.  99 times out of 100 there will be spikes at the bottom of any ledge you find, and they take half your health each time you hit them.  Oh, and you can't escape from them, so you're guaranteed to get hit twice.

When I did pay attention to the story, I found out that Luke Skywalker's uncle is the proud owner of two new droids, one of whom escapes in the middle of the night on some "mission."  This is why Luke is out driving his landspeeder across a map with no real way to determine where you are or where you're going.

It turns out you're going to the northwest corner of the map, because apparently Artoo has been captured by Jawas again and is being stored in the Sandcrawler.  We all remember that pivotal scene in Star Wars where the dead Jawas lead to the realization that Luke's aunt and uncle are in danger?  This winds up being the final note that makes Luke join Obi-Wan and starts the whole adventure for him.

In the game, on the other hand, you arrive at the Sandcrawler to rescue R2-D2, shoot your way through the vehicle that's apparently ten stories tall, and rescue Artoo.

"Only Imperial Stormtroopers have this kind of accuracy."
"Or bored farm boys with a fence full of tin cans."
"What?"  "Nothing."
Then go cave hunting to try to find "General Kenobi."  You explore another cave which has two possible exits: one is finding Obi-Wan by essentially leaping to your doom off a ledge to land on another ledge you couldn't see at the time and keep running and jumping blindly until you discover him, or you fight a ten foot tall monster that shoots spikes out of its chest.

You remember that from the movie, right?  The cave monster that was hanging out with Obi-Wan trying to kill everybody?

From there you go straight to Mos Eisley with not a single moment is devoted to the death of Luke's aunt and uncle.  In fact, they're probably still alive, since the Stormtroopers needed to interrogate the Jawas in order to locate Luke's family, and Luke slaughtered the Jawas himself.

So Luke instead abandons his family, goes to Mos Eisley, meets Han Solo, and they all make their way to the Millennium Falcon, shooting stormtroopers and Jawas the whole way because not one of those filthy little glowy-eyed freaks will survive, DO YOU HEAR ME, NONE OF TH- ahem.

Here's what I remember next.  There's a stage where you're flying the Millennium Falcon first person through an asteroid field, and the only way to survive is to wait it out by steering the ship permanently down towards the corners of the screen.  Not the sides, you'll still get hit.  Just straight diagonally down will you through it.

Then you're at the Death Star where you need to save Princess Leia, avoid all sorts of pit traps and figure out an elevator system that moves you around the screen, and I'll be honest, the few times I finished this game growing up, I don't think I ever saved the Princess.  I knew you were supposed to, but I could never figure where she was and eventually I'd just find my way to the trash compactor and then back to the Millennium Falcon.

You'd leave the Death Star, go to Yavin, climb in an X-Wing, and blow up the Death Star (in my case with the Princess still on board).

So not only is Luke a mass-murderer/genocidal madman, but Obi-Wan survives, the Princess can be left behind, and your lightsaber is, I kid you not, the worst weapon in the universe.  Luke swings it extremely slowly and can only affect an area about two pixels in front of him, so if you're going to, say, hit a stormtrooper and slice through a blaster bolt, your timing needs to be spot on or you'll get hit and get knocked backwards about thirty feet.

Oh, and Obi-Wan can raise the dead, since Han and Leia only get one life each in the game while Luke gets multiple lives.  However, if Han or Leia die, Obi-Wan can resurrect them five times through the game.

What I'm trying to say is this game is weird, and it's not very good.  But I loved it growing up because I didn't know better.  I trained my muscles to learn exactly where to land, when to shoot, and where the traps and cheap deaths in the game were so I could complete it easily.  Not once did I ever manage to save Princess Leia.

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