For this installment of the Comparison Series, we will take a look back at one of the most entertaining franchises – the Star Wars Trilogy. No, not the movies, but the Super Nintendo installments, aptly titled Super Star Wars, Super Empire Strikes Back and Super Return of the Jedi. These three games are often forgotten about in the great debate involving video games based off movies. No one seems to remember how impressive these games were, for its powerful MIDI compositions of the beloved Star Wars tunes, to the gorgeous and colorful visuals. For the most part, these can be considered the greatest trilogy of video games based off a trilogy of movies. But which one of these games was the most well rounded title? Was it Super Star Wars? Was it the one based off what could be described as one of the best sci fi movies of all time, in the form of Super Empire Strikes Back? Maybe it’s the one with the larger cast of character to choose from in Super Return of the Jedi? Lets take a closer look at each title throughout the next three days. As always, during the last day of the Comparison Series, a winner will be select for Audio, Visuals, Gameplay and Replay Value, with each games score following each ranking.
Today’s game will be Super Star Wars.
The Star Wars video game franchise was a very unpredictable batch of movie licensed titles. Early on, it was difficult to really find any worthwhile titles, due to hardware and media limitations. Some games, notably The Empire Strikes Back on the NES, were so unforgivably piss poor, that it seemed like there was no possible way in this realm of reality, that we’ll ever see an outright excellent Star Wars video game on a home console. Enter the 16 bit era and Super Star Wars – a Lucasarts masterpiece that feels like you’re taking the journey along with Luke, Han and Chewbacca.
Right off the bat, the music comes off as a quality attempt at bringing the series’ memorable music into a much inferior audio format. Some of the music sounds off, but the care and dedication that went into the conversion to MIDI, is apparent and extremely commendable. The sound effects are all surprisingly spot on, rounding out this audio package quite nicely. For the time period that Super Star Wars was conceived, it’s quite impressive to have such a quality laced audio score, especially since the music isn’t digitized.
Star Wars relied on a lot of special effects, costumes and sets to drive the movie forward, and Super Star Wars does quite a commendable job at helping to replicate the world from a visual standpoint. Character detail is quite impressive, from Luke Skywalker, right on to each of the enemies you encounter. Many of the earlier stages take place outdoors in the desert wastelands of Tattoine, so these early stages have some limited background variation. They change up ever so slightly, but for the most part, the first half dozen outdoor stages are very bland. Moving onto the later stages, variation does play a role.
One of the neat features that breaks up the monotony of the 2D platforming stages, is the inclusion of some Mode 7 vehicular stages. You’ll encounter a couple early on in Tattoine, though they are a bit on the dull side. Towards the end, you’ll pilot an X-Wing fighter on the surface of the Death Star, as well as the trench portion from the end of the fist movie. Those portions of the game are quite spectacular, offering a change of pace to the gameplay, as well as an opportunity to participate in one of the most memorable sci fi scenes ever.
The controls in Super Star Wars is a mixed bag of relatively loose and easy to get used to X-Wing flight stages, to some frustrating platforming segments. One particular stage near the beginning of the game has you jumping from small platform to smaller platform on a giant Sandcrawler vehicle. All the while, you have jawas popping up and shooting you, trap doors opening above you and shooting jets of fire at you and other trap doors that spawn flying robots towards you. While the distractions are not much of a deterrent, the actual jumping is. It’s way too easy to miss a jump, as the higher jump you have (holding up while jumping) has a somewhat finicky way of moving. Not only that, but it becomes increasingly difficult to see the platforms above or below you, as the camera seems to be panned in just a bit too tightly on you throughout the game. Getting hit doesn’t send you flying backwards violently like in Castlevania, so you won’t have to worry about that artificial roadblock getting in your way, but the jumping mechanics and zoomed in perspective will get in your way.
The default difficulty is actually a well balanced setting offering a fair, though very noticeable ramping up in the challenges that await you, with each passing level. The early stages, mostly the ones before you acquire you lightsaber, are a bit dull, and don’t really offer anything memorable, and the early Mode 7 portions are not very much fun. Once you do get your lightsaber, you’ll notice a couple of thing – for one, you’ll notice how utterly useless and weak the lightsaber is when compared to a powered up blaster. Soon after you get the lightsaber, you’ll gain the ability to play as Han Solo or Chewbacca, who really don’t odder anything new. You can play any of the three characters and not notice any difference, other than Luke’s ability to wield a useless lightsaber. That’s not to say the game isn’t any fun – it’s a blast (no pun intended). The problem comes with the early stages being too bland, the lightsaber having too little power and the three character choices offering next to nothing in terms of variety.
While Super Star Wars, for many many years, is really the only good game based off of Episode 4, its competition lacked quite a bit, as most Star Wars games before it were based off The Empire Strikes Back, or didn’t take a direct path through the first movie. Super Star Wars is definitely a strong title that lets you play through the first Star Wars movie, for better or for worse. The audio production is top notch, the character models look well detailed, and the end of the game is a lot of fun, thanks to the X-Wing battles. Unfortunately, the early stages are a bit boring, the platforming portions need considerable tweaking and there’s no real diversity between the three playable characters. Regardless, it’s a must play for Star Wars fans.
Check back tomorrow for part two of this Comparison Series: Super Empire Strikes Back!