The Nerd: I have a bad feeling about this. We're gonna play a bunch of Star Wars games. The movies were a prime target for video game adaptations. They were full of all kinds of action setpieces with battles taking place in space and on land, lightsaber duels, speederbike chases. They had lovable characters, great storylines, and a classic mythology that was right for expanding upon in the world of gaming. So how could they fuck that up? Let's find out. Our journey begins, innocently enough, with the Atari 2600.
The Nerd: This is the first Star Wars game, or at least the first Atari version based on the first movie. It follows the same format as the arcade version which came out before. It focuses on only one scene from the movie: the climactic rebel attack on the Death Star. It's unimpressive to say the least, but for the time, it was ambitious to try to create a 3D perspective. And besides, the Atari 2600 is well known for not being able to live up to the arcade standards of quality.
The Nerd: The Empire Strikes Back again only borrowed from one scene: the fight against the Imperial Walkers on the planet Hoth. Unlike the other game, this follows the 2-dimensional side-scrolling format, similar to games like Defender. All you do is shoot down an infinite army of Walkers while avoiding their laser beams.
(laser beam shoots out from behind)
The Nerd: Did that blast just come from its ass? Are these Walkers or are these dogs shitting out airborne turds? They take a lot of hits. You just keep shooting them until they change different colors and eventually explode. The control is fluent. The longer you drive the joystick, the more momentum your ship gains.
The Nerd: Return of the Jedi focuses on the second Death Star battle. It figures out of all the scenes they could have chosen, they go with the space scene. You know why? Because Atari loves space. The best way to describe Atari in a nutshell is spaceship shoot laser, boom. That's it. Just the amount of games that begin with the word "star" is overwhelming, or... damn, "space." What was this, the fucking space age of gaming?
The Nerd: If this game wasn't called Star Wars, it would just seem like any other Atari game. The controls are similar to the classic Asteroids. Even though I said they pick the space scene, there actually was another Return of the Jedi game that focused on the Ewok stage. That's one way to make more money; split 'em up into two different games. However, the Ewok game was never released.
The Nerd: The object is to get closer to the Death Star so you can destroy it. But unfortunately, there's a giant dance floor in space stretching out for infinite light years. You have to wait for a hole to appear, go in the hole and now you engage the Death Star. Going with the dance theme, I think this would be a better game if you were trying to destroy a giant disco ball. Yeah! The storyline is that disco is coming back, and you gotta stop it. It would be called "Disco Fuck Yourself", but now I'm just thinking out loud.
The Nerd: So you just keep shooting away at the Death Star, blasting away all the pieces, hoping that you can make all the pieces go away before all your brain cells do the same. Once you have a clear shot for the center, it's time to go boom! (Atari noises begin) It's gonna go boom. This is Atari, I know, it's gonna go boom! (Explosion) BOOM!!!
The Nerd: There was another game called Jedi Arena. It's supposed to be based on the scene in Star Wars: A New Hope where Luke is training with that flying metal orb thing. So you're waving your lightsaber back and forth, deflecting electric charges. I guess the idea is to deflect them to the other player or computer. Um... Hmm... The best way I can describe this: It feels sorta like playing pinball... when the ball is stuck somewhere... and you just keep jamming the flippers back and forth in vain.
The Nerd: There you have the Atari Star Wars games. Not so good, but it's Atari, so it's excusable.
The Nerd: But now we're moving onto the Famicom. This game was only released in Japan. It never came out on the NES. You know that that can mean one of two things: either it was the only good one, or the worst of all. Let's see. The cutscenes are promising enough, until you get to the gameplay. Luke has black hair? (Even though it's blonde in the cutscenes.) Oh, never mind. Let's get on with it.
The Nerd: I'm dead? Already? All it takes is one hit? Couldn't there be a life bar? Aw, this lightsaber sucks. It goes right through the enemies.
(Luke dies again)
The Nerd: You can only hit them when they're really close.
(Luke dies again)
The Nerd: Oh, come on! I jumped over that! You're telling me if I'm anywhere near a projectile I get hit, but when I'm trying to hit an enemy, I have to be precise? That's real fair. So now I'm inside the Jawa Sandcrawler, murdering some Stormtroopers and... birds? (Luke fights against Darth Vader) Now I'm fighting Darth Vader? Already? He's inside the Sandcrawler because... why? Oh well. Who cares?
(Darth Vader turns into a scorpion, and the Nerd is shocked to see this happen, causing him to drop the controller)
The Nerd: Did that happen in the movie? Did that happen in ANY of the movies? Did Darth Vader say to Luke: (as Darth Vader) "I am your father, and I am also a fucking scorpion." No! It's not true! (yells) THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE! WHY DOES DARTH VADER TURN INTO A FUCKING SCORPION?! That doesn't even happen in the Special Editions! There is no version of Star Wars in this universe or timeline or any other... (I'm... sure of it), where Darth Vader... turns into... (cleans glasses) ...a fucking scorpion.
The Nerd: I need a beer. Hey, where's my Beer Droid? Hey! (to Beer Droid) Come on, bring me a beer! (to viewers) Yeah, that's my Beer Droid. (to Beer Droid) Hey! All right. (Droid emits beeping) OK. (Droid beeps more) Yeah-yeah-yeah, all right, come on, come on.
(Beer Droid spits out a drink to the Nerd, and he opens the drink, and the drink spills out of the bottle and onto the Nerd, the Nerd sighs in disgust and drinks the Yuengling)
The Nerd: The next stage, you're in the Landspeeder mowing down Stormtroopers. Well, this is easy. The Stormtroopers can't even harm you with their laser blasts. If you hit a wall, you lose the Landspeeder, but other than that, you're invincible.
("Level complete" sound effect)
The Nerd: OK, so I guess he's going into the Mos Eisley bar. That's the famous scene in the movie where Luke meets Han Solo. The one thing I didn't know was that they allow Landspeeders in the bar. What, does Luke just crash his way in? (Luke flies into the bar, crashing noises are heard, and Chewie growls, and the Nerd drinks some more Yuengling)
The Nerd: It's quite interesting, actually. In this version, Luke gets to the bar so fast, I bet Han and Greedo were still talking at, at the table, and you know, who shot first, Han or Greedo, whatever. But actually, neither one of them did! Luke kills Greedo with his Landspeeder, right after Han says "Over my dead body." BOOM! All of a sudden, Luke comes through, crashed in with the fucking Landspeeder! I wanna see that in the next Special Edition!
(The Nerd drinks some more Yuengling, and goes back to the game)
The Nerd: Now we're already flying away in the Millennium Falcon? You don't even get to see the inside of the bar. We already established that this game has nothing to do with the movie, so at this point, I'd just like to see what kind of ridiculous shit could go on in there. But no, we don't even get a cutscene. Nothing.
The Nerd: After a pitifully standard space shooter stage, we're back to side scrolling again. (Luke dies) Game over. (Darth Vader breathing that sounds like the ocean) Is that Darth Vader breathing, or is that the sounds of the ocean?
The Nerd: Now I start from the beginning? Yep, it's one of those games. No continues, 3 lives, 1-hit deaths, simple as that. You make 3 mistakes, you go all the way back to the beginning. There's little in the way of 1-ups, no password system, and no stage select code. Doesn't matter how far you get. If you die, you're doing it all over. Even on the novice setting, it's still hard. The odds of successfully navigating through this miserable fuckheap is 3,720 to 1!
The Nerd: There's certain Jedi powers you can use to help yourself through, but you only get these for a limited time. The only way to progress is through trial and error. You need to familiarize yourself with the layout. (Luke dies by falling down a waterfall) Like here, I thought I could jump down that waterfall, but nope, that's the wrong way. Each time I play this, I progress a little farther than the last. But if only I didn't have to keep playing the earlier stages over and over again. After the 20th fucking time, I'm burned out! This is worse than a piece of shit. It's a whole shit.
The Nerd: The NES got a different Star Wars game. Hold on... No LJN? It's a movie-based game, it's on Nintendo, and it wasn't made by LJN? Then it might have a chance.
The Nerd: It starts out with this shitty driving stage. It would be nice if you could just point the Speeder in the direction you want to go, but it has to have that backwards-ass control, like Roger Rabbit and Dick Tracy. I hate that shit.
The Nerd: It also happens to be one of those "Where the fuck do I go?" kind of games. If you haven't played the game before, you can spend hours searching for the right place. The first time, I had no clue I'm supposed to go straight to the Sandcrawler to find R2-D2. Once inside, it turns into a sidescroller. Luckily, it's a huge improvement over the Japanese version. The controls are more fluent, and you actually have a life bar. Thank God.
The Nerd: It still manages to be a very difficult game. One thing that's kind of annoying, if you fall from too great a height, you take damage. (Luke gets hurt from falling) Does that happen in Super Mario Bros.? (Mario doesn't get hurt) No. It doesn't. You find these elevator shaft things that make Luke shoot up into the air. But they land you on a conveyor belt, then you get hit by these metal garbage can lids. Those conveyor belts can go fuck a dick. (spots R2-D2) There's R2-- Oh, shit! The conveyor--- Fuck!! (Luke dies)
The Nerd: Then you drive out to Mos Eisley to find Han, and get the Millennium Falcon. Here, there's actually a stage inside the bar, unlike the other game. It's unfeasible to beat the stage with a blaster. You have to get the lightsaber before coming here. So fuck the bar, first go to the cave. Yeah, it's some cave where Obi-Wan gives Luke the lightsaber. It's not clear at all where you're supposed to go first. And besides, why would Obi-Wan give Luke the lightsaber in a cave?
The Nerd: Now that I have the lightsaber, the bar stage is much easier, but the next stage starts kicking my ass again! All these bounty hunters are flying around blowing me to smithereens. Ugh, jump! Jump! Ugh!
The Nerd: I made it through the hangar, I'm at the Millennium Falcon, flying in space, getting annihilated by asteroids that kill in one hit. You gotta collect shields for the ship, which can only be found back at the hangar. Of course. Too bad I didn't know that, because now, I gotta do the whole game over.
The Nerd: OK, so I went through the whole game again, and now I'm back at the hangar, this time making sure to collect the shields. Now the flying stage is much easier. And after that, it's time for the Death Star. Unfortunately, the Death Star is a confusing maze of elevators. Where do I go? Wouldn't it be nice to have a map or a compass? Anything to help me navigate my way? Instead, it's a guessing game! Man! I don't know how the Stormtroopers deal with this shit. Even worse, one of the elevators can only be found by taking a dive. Try that anywhere else, and it would drop you to your death.
The Nerd: Once you get Leia, she becomes a playable character. Fortunately, she can jump way better than Luke. But it's not gonna help too much, because this whole stage is full of spikes. If you touch them, you die. That's it. Even if you touch the side of a spike, you die. This is a cruel joke. Think about every game that has spikes or any sort of prickly hazards that cover the walls. Imagine all that combined and multiplied a million times. Even worse, you go in this anti-gravity room where you get sucked up to the ceiling against your own will. (The Nerd groans and grunts twice as the game shows Game Over screen with Darth Vader's mask)
The Nerd: Man, the only way to beat an outrageously difficult game like this is to cheat. Like I hear a lot of people use emulators with save states. You know, that'd be pretty handy, I guess. But you know what'd be better? How about just a button you press that makes the game beat? And that's why I invented... (brings out a panel with a big gray button on it) the Beat-A-Game Button. Yeah! All you do... if you're playing a really hard game, you just push the button, and the game's beat. Let's try it out! Ninja Gaiden II. Ooh, that's a hard game.
(The Nerd is getting pwned)
The Nerd: Oh! Man! Oh, shit! I'm getting my ass kicked!
(The Nerd gets out button, presses it, and the game is beat)
The Nerd: Legend of Zelda.
(presses the buttton, same result)
The Nerd: Beat it. Mega Man.
(presses the button, same result again)
The Nerd: Beat it. You never thought you'd beat a hard game like that. Not without the Beat-A-Game Button.
(The Nerd goes to his collection of games)
The Nerd: All right, all you games, consider your ass beat!
(While a "Star Wars" theme plays, the Nerd holds the button in triumph, but then thinks for a few seconds. He then puts the button down and shakes his head in disagreement, meaning he won't use the button on every game.)
The Nerd: All right, back to Star Wars.
(Beer Droid notices the Nerd, beeps, then the Nerd takes a drink out)
The Nerd: Rusty hunk of junk.
(Beer Droid spits a drink at him)
The Nerd: Ow!
The Nerd: Empire Strikes Back is our next game. It starts out in Hoth, like the movie.
The Nerd: What's this, "the lightsaber is the weapon of a Jedi"? Yeah, thanks. Thanks for interrupting the game to tell me that! Might as well tell me "cows go 'moo'."
The Nerd: For the most part, this game sticks to the same format as the first Star Wars on NES. But the control still takes some time to get used to. It doesn't help that you start out riding on a tauntaun. You can get on and off, and if you get off at the wrong time, you can get stuck. Until I found out you can jump higher by first holding down. It's like Super Mario Bros. 2; you duck down and it charges your jump. That would have been much more useful information to tell me instead of "The lightsaber is the weapon of a Jedi."
The Nerd: And what's this? The program engineer shows his face? I wish it was Fred Fuchs. (pronounced "fucks") You can collect different force powers.
Obi-Wan: Luke, choose the force.
The Nerd: Instead of "use the force," it's "choose the force." That's clever. Though I gotta give them credit for the digitized speech. Sounds better than Ghostbusters.
Digitized Voice: GHOSTBUSTERS!!
The Nerd: Even Darth Vader's breathing sounds accurate. (Darth Vader's accurate 8-bit breathing)
The Nerd: For some reason, the tauntaun eats this nasty fungus on the ground. Mmm, yeah, yummy! Eat that shit! Whatever it is. The part where I get really fucked is when I'm trying to jump on these glaciers and these droids keep shooting from all over the place. Aiming the blaster is not as self-explanatory as it looks. You think you'd just point with the D-Pad, but... no, it just shoots wherever the fuck it wants.
The Nerd: Now I'm fighting the Wampa. It takes like nine million hits to kill. And look how easy this is. I could just stand here, and he'll never get me. Next is a flying stage where you shoot down the Imperial Walkers. You even tie them up with a cable like in the movie. Then you're inside the Rebel Base where you can hijack a Walker. The strange thing is that Luke actually destroys it before hopping in. I saw it explode and collapse, but now it's perfectly operational?
The Nerd: Then you're in the Dagobah Swamp. Enemies pop out of nowhere, and the vines must have been greased with oil because I keep slipping off. And of course, there's that classic bullshit where you have to leap off a ledge in good faith. This swamp stage is from Hell. Oh, my God! Damn! Fuck!
The Nerd: And that's where I reach my limit, because the game's too hard. There was no Return of the Jedi game, not on NES. I guess they knew when to stop. Hey, Beer Droid.
(Beer Droid beeps)
The Nerd: You know what? Just...never mind.
(Beer Droid spits out drinks, hitting the Nerd)
The Nerd: To be fair, the NES games aren't that bad. They have decent graphics, music, and are somewhat faithful to the movies. If it hadn't been for an insane difficulty, I wouldn't shake two shits out of it.
The Nerd: The difficult nature of the Star Wars games was like a tradition that carried into the 16-bit era. On the SNES, there was the whole trilogy, and the Force is strong with these ones. These were called the Super Star Wars games, rightfully so. From the beginning, they look and sound just like the movies, although on the main menu screen in the first game, Mark Hamill's face is a... little messed up.
The Nerd: They follow the movies well, and take liberties only when necessary. You'll recognize all the famous scenes from the Hoth battle to the duel with Vader. You even get to play as the appropriate character through each stage: Luke, Han Solo, Leia, Chewie, even Wicket the Ewok. There's a nice variety of side scrolling stages, 3D flying stages, 2D flying stages, and POV flying stages. The voices are great, too.
Yoda: Do or do not. There is no try.
The Nerd: The bosses are huge, and always keep you wondering what's gonna happen next. It also has one of the most awesome attacks in any sidescroller. You can perform a double jump and spin the lightsaber around. I find myself using this move all the time. Interesting to note that in the newer Star Wars movies, you see the Jedi doing this kind of thing more often. Sometimes the action is so intense, it's like blast processing. Oh no, Chewie's going nuts! Chewie's going nuts! (Chewie growls and shoots his laser)
The Nerd: The only downside is that it is extremely difficult. Even on the easy setting, these games are relentless. In the first game, there's this Landspeeder stage where you're going around crashing into piles of shit, a series of tricky platforms that require some lucky jumps, false jumps that lead to nowhere... (Luke jumps and falls to his death) enemies that take way more hits than necessary... (The Nerd is trying to kill an enemy) Come on, fucking die...
The Nerd: ...powerups that come way later than needed... descending platforms that make you think you're going somewhere, but take you into lava with no warning... enemies that freeze you over and over... and boss battles that go on for an eternity. Why do all these bosses have such long life bars? (life bar goes out of the TV, and the Nerd is surprised to see that)
The Nerd: There is a frustration factor, but there's a balance between frustration and fun. These games are mostly fun. They can be annoying, but they're annoying enough that you still want to keep playing.
The Nerd: Shadows of the Empire on Nintendo 64 was when Star Wars games started getting really good, and showed that there was a bright future for more games in the franchise, and that they didn't always have to follow the movies exactly. They could invent their own side stories, and expand on the Star Wars universe.
The Nerd: This game, for example, takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, though it begins with Empire. The battle on Hoth was amazing. For the first time, we really felt like we were playing the movie. We've come a long way since this. ("The Empire Strikes Back" on Atari 2600) Things have changed. We have taken a step into a much larger world.
The Nerd: Of course, we have to stop somewhere, because there's a whole galaxy of Star Wars related games, and this could have gone on and on. There's Star Wars: Rebel Assault, Dark Forces, Jedi Academy, Rogue Squadron, Battlefront, Star Wars Chess, Lego Star Wars, Star Wars: Puzzle Blaster, Star Wars: Pod Racer, Jar Jar Binks Bingo, Death Star Builder 3.0, Chewie Wookie Cookie Cookin', Stormtrooper Tennis, Jabba's Farts Unleashed, that was a good one, Wedge's Wedgie Attack, Fishing for Ackbars, Super Sith Shit Toss: Tournament Edition, Boba Fett's Name Game, find his name in the fucking movies, Governor Tarkin vs Count Dookie--
(A buffalo takes a diarrhea dump through the Nerd's window, breaking it)
The Nerd: (shouting) OH, MY GOD! OH, MY GOD! WHAT THE-- THAT FUCKING BUFFALO JUST TOOK A FUCKING SHIT THROUGH MY FUCKING WINDOW! OH, MY FUCKING GOD, THERE'S SHIT AND FUCKING GLASS ALL OVER THE PLACE! (offscreen) WHERE IN THE FUCK DID THAT COME FROM?! OH, MY GOD! NOW, I GOT TO CLEAN ALL THIS SHIT UP! WHAT THE FUCK, MAN?!
- The Darth Vader who turns into a scorpion is サソリベイダー (Sasori Beidā, Scorpion Vader), therefore a false Darth Vader. There's other fake Darth Vaders in the game like Kurados, Gaos, and Wampa, just like in Super Mario Bros. when Mario throws fireballs at the false Bowsers to reveal their identities.