Retro Review: Super Star Wars (SNES)

super star wars

Release Date: June 1, 1992

Developer: Sculptured Software, Inc., LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC

Publisher: JVC Musical Industries, Inc.

Once upon a time, I was in love with the Star Wars universe. It wasn’t all-encompassing; I loved Star Trek as well. But back in the day, an upcoming Star Wars movie would whip me up into a frenzy. My love wasn’t so all-encompassing that I’d go to the theater dressed as a Stormtrooper, but I’d definitely be at the theater on day one.

That’s changed. Today, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is hitting theaters. Despite Digital Crack cohort Punisher’s excitement at going to see it, I’m not interested. In fact, I may just skip its theatrical release completely. That’s how severe my disinterest has become.

I haven’t lost my love for video games, however. So I figured it’d be a good idea to play a Star Wars video game. Eventually, I chose Super Star Wars for the SNES. I hadn’t played it in years, but I remember it being a great game. Plus, any excuse I can make for playing on my SNES is a good thing. So I popped the cart into the console, powered it up, and had at it.

Twenty minutes later, I was ready to chuck my SNES controller into my TV. It’s a great game, but it’s harder than vibranium!

First, a bit of backstory. Super Star Wars was developed by Sculptured Software in conjunction with LucasArts Entertainment. The latter company, now defunct, most recently worked on games based on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones universes. Back in the day, however, they were responsible for some of the most influential and loved PC games ever made, including Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, Sam & Max: Hit the Road, Maniac Mansion, and the Star Wars PC games.

Super Star Wars was the first of a trilogy of games they both worked on. The games aped the original Star Wars trilogy, with this game mimicking the plot of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The others, Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, follow their respective movie entries.

When I say it mimics the plot, I mean it in a very loose way. Players do assume the role of Luke Skywalker initially in Super Star Wars, guiding him through his home planet of Tatooine. Eventually, players play as either Han Solo or Chewbacca. The set pieces during the game match locations in the original movie, from Tatooine to the Cantina in Mos Eisley and all the way to the Death Star. While the main characters and locations are accurate to the movie, the enemies that roam them vary wildly from the source.

The game is primarily a side-scrolling action platformer, meaning players navigate the stages by jumping on platforms and shooting enemies in the face. The enemies mainly reside in the Star Wars universe, so you can expect Stormtroopers, Jawas, and Tusken Raiders. Some enemies, like scorpions and random droids, are thrown in to add more obstacles for the player to navigate through. Other enemies are a bit extreme, like the TIE Fighters Chewbacca has to dodge in the Death Star hangar.

The stages also contain bosses that must be defeated. Here, creative license is taken liberally. The Sarlacc pit makes an appearance in Super Star Wars as the first boss, though he only appeared in Return of the Jedi. That’s no big deal; Sarlaccs reside in Tatooine. But the Jawas saw fit to house a Lava Beast in their Sand Crawler as a boss. I guess the hull of a Sand Crawler is pretty indestructible.

Those bosses are pretty tough to take out. Hardcore gamers will recognize patterns and whittle at the bosses patiently. The average gamer will blast in and get eaten alive. The fact that the bosses have huge life meters don’t help the cause. Seriously, patience is a virtue with these bad boys.

The side-scrolling levels are broken up by the occasional third-person level where players pilot vehicles like Luke’s land speeder and an X-Wing fighter. These levels take advantage of the SNES’s Mode 7 hardware scaling and rotation abilities to provide smooth and fast movement. The speed can make some like me a bit nauseous, but it does look pretty impressive for the era.

However, it also makes the levels a bit difficult to navigate. Certain enemies and power-ups often pop up too quickly for players to react. That leads to either cheap hits or missed opportunities to power up. But hey, the game recreates the trench run in the X-Wing, and it’s pretty awesome.

Those power-ups turn out to be important. The number of enemies thrown at players, combined with the natural obstacles experienced during platforming, mean that traversing the levels is difficult as-is. Throw in the bosses and their enormous life bars and you have a game that pegs the difficulty meter at its near maximum.

As if the game wasn’t difficult enough, Super Star Wars suffers from overly-tight controls. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But with the amount of insta-kill spikes and pits on display, the tight controls add to the stress. Add to that the cheap hits thrown at you, as well as some blind jumps, and the difficulty reaches a point where some players will give up in frustration.

What holds the player’s attention? The game’s attention to detail. Throughout the game, the soundtrack winds players up. Combine that with the game’s visuals, which were the height of awesomeness back then, and you have a recipe for continued plays. During my playthrough, I experienced multiple instances where I felt like I hit a brick wall. The sights and sounds almost willed me back into the fray, where I would eventually triumph.

Does the game still hold up? Actually, very much so. I get it that the game is harder than a twenty-year-old virgin male watching porn for the first time, but the experience outweighs the difficulty. I found myself sloughing through stages that were balls-achingly difficult more times than I would like to admit. But I kept grinding through and, eventually, I would persevere. It took a while; besting the Maintenance Droid took some effort. But every time I progressed I felt like I had accomplished something. That feels good. And the game’s sights and sounds definitely help keep players invested in the game.

For those that want to try Super Star Wars, there are a few of ways to do so. In addition to the original SNES cart, Nintendo released it on the Virtual Console for the Wii. Sony also released ports for the PlayStation 4 and the Vita. The Sony ports improve the controls and add trophies and leaderboards.

Did Super Star Wars reignite my interest in the series enough to go watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Nope. Punisher can go watch it and do the write-up himself. I’ll stay home and look for Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi on eBay.

Good: Great visuals and sounds reminiscent of the movie; varied gameplay

Bad: Relentless difficulty; stiff controls

 

Final score: 8.5/10

He has been playing video games for longer than he would like to admit, and is passionate about all retro games and systems. He also goes to bars with an NES controller hoping that entering the Konami code will give him thirty chances with the drunk chick at the bar. His interests include vodka, old-school games, women, vodka, and women gamers who drink vodka.

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