SummaryDoes This Game Honourably Represent Star Wars?
The GoodLucasarts and JVC (two of the most respected entertainment brands of the time), teamed up to make an important entry into the Star Wars series. I'm no longer a Star Wars "enthusiast", but let's just say that back in 1992 I was more than a little curious about this title! I remember flipping the SNES box art over and being impressed by the couple of screenshots displayed there. The 16-bit graphics looked very promising and the idea of having a character selection for most of the levels was an exciting idea, and showed that (maybe!) the game design was faithful to the film.
The title screen, in the true spirit of those clever montage movie posters, was appropriately inspiring with somewhat detailed renditions of Mark Hammil, Alec Guinness and the supporting players. This, coupled with the iconic fanfare, was another promise of a great game to come.
On commencement of the game itself, we have a descendant of the modern "cut-scene" as the very first scene of the film (where Vader's ship pursues Leia's) is played out in 16-bit glory. This emulation of the film is intended to give the player a sense of simultaneity - a sense that the game is the film, and the film is the game.
So, as like the film, the game starts at Tatooine, and players take control of a pre-jedi Luke who is (quite heavily) equipped with a blaster. In an effort to extend game play and flesh out the action, we are now exterminating all kinds of Tatooine fauna! Scorpions, mynocks, and other vermin are your first in a massive list of hostiles. Luke, (Han Solo and Chewbacca) can jump flip-jump, shoot and slide. These three moves are enough to get you through most of the levels, while the vehicle levels require another set of simple moves.
So how does this game actually play? Is there any fun to be had playing as these characters in the Star Wars universe? Yes and no. The enjoyment is in the details of the game. The magnificent score (even a reproduction on the SNES synthesiser is memorable!) and the various locations and enemies are all spot on. The sandcrawler for example, (the Jawas' mobile scrap plant) is a phenomenal example of imagination and creativity. Battling through this industrial zone filled with conveyer-belts, droids and booby-traps is a 16-bit platform-game milestone - John Williams' Tatooine theme only compounds the enjoyment.
It has to be said that the production values are supreme, and that there is no rival for this title at the point of its release, (in fact, I believe it to be better than its sequel, which has the same problems made even larger). Sound effects are good, music is top-notch and the cut-scenes are welcomed and add context and colour to the adventure.
The question for any Star Wars adventure is whether the space battles are of any playable quality. You don't need me to tell you that there have been great successes and great failures in this department for the series. So does Super Star Wars fall in the former or the latter? I would say neither, and that it is somewhere in the middle. Sure, this is a two-dimensional action game primarily, but it would be hard to call it Super Star Wars without at least a brief sojourn in an X-Wing. And so, the final battle sees Luke in the cockpit re-enacting one of cinema's most recognised science-fiction sequences. Thankfully, the Mode 7 capability of the Super NES allows a respectable (and very brief) slice of trench warfare. From the cockpit view, it's up to you to make that final pot-shot into the single weakness of the mighty Death Star.
The BadThe game disappointed me in two areas. Firstly, I found the action repetitive. The old habit of running right and holding down the fire button is a crime this game does commit. Sure, it's not as bad as say "Turrican" or "Contra", but nine of the sixteen or so levels are strictly a left-to-right affair. It seems the designers did try to break this up with the Mode 7 Speeder levels and the climbing levels (Tractor Beam Core). Nevertheless, you begin to feel that there's more that could have been happening in the level design area.
The second problem I had is in the actual game play mechanic and collision detection. Everything moves faster than you, and it's not uncommon that even the most junior of enemies will score a cheap hit due to that advantage. This problem extends to boss fights, where it's more of a stand off-between energy bars than it is about skilful playing. Avoiding some of the attacks is practically impossible - you WILL get hit, and it's really only a question of whether your life bar can hold out. Set the difficulty to "brave" or "Jedi" and you've got even less of a chance.
The Bottom LineSuper Star Wars is successful because it has captured the spirit of the Star Wars universe very well. All of the key ingredients are there, and the fact that the side-scrolling game play is repetitive takes a back-seat somehow. You can get caught up in the Star Wars flavour very easily and it pretty much excuses the less memorable action itself. It's a landmark title, but I'm not likely to ever try to take on the Empire in THIS particular Star Wars release again.