keskiviikko 13. huhtikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1993)

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: October 1993
AVAILABLE ON: SNES, Wii Virtual Console
DEVELOPER(S): Sculptured Software, LucasArts
PUBLISHER(S): JVC, THQ (SNES), LucasArts (Wii)

I don't need to go over this again, but I'll do it anyway: The Empire Strikes Back is without a single doubt, my favourite Star Wars movie. It has most crucial plot twists in the whole Star Wars universe out of all the movies and spin-offs. "Luke... I am your father" must've be one of the corniest lines in all of movie history when the movie came out, but later, it became one of the defining ones of the whole franchise, the basis of all of Star Wars. In 1993, Sculptured Software and LucasArts developed a sequel to Super Star Wars, which had left many seasoned video game players' asses sore a year prior. They refused to tone down the difficulty of gameplay, but graced players with some slack with the addition of a password system. In Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back we basically have another one of the better movie licenses of the 16-bit era, which is nice to return to due to the authentic Star Wars atmosphere, and because it's based on one of the top films of all time... but all that ice really gives me the creeps.

Ready, are you? What know you of ready?

This place is hell. This is the only spot that
was safe enough for me to capture a
Since his defeat and the destruction of the Death Star, Darth Vader has become obsessed with rebel commander trained in the ways of the Force, Luke Skywalker. He finally locates Skywalker and his troops on a remote system named Hoth and sends a myriad of Imperial troops to attack the base and force the inhabitants to evacuate. Guided by a vision of his late mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke travels to Dagobah to seek out Yoda, the last of the Jedi masters, to complete his training. Meanwhile, Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca and the two droids seek refuge in Cloud City, a colony run by Han's old friend Lando Calrissian.

The moment you slap in this game, you might falsely think to yourself you've gone and bought the same game as last year, just the packaging is different. Have you been screwed? No, the title card clearly states: "Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back". Whew! Indeed, it's the very same engine. In the long run, the game looks better and more dynamic than its predecessor, but by the first quick glance, you won't know the difference. Which is cool, the game really feels like a solid part of a trilogy, rather than a stand-alone sequel. The sound is still absolutely magnificent, even better than before, in fact. Vintage Star Wars music plays throughout, and even more vintage sound effects are the icing on the cake. Excellent work.

That animal's as useless as ever.
I've got to get it out of my system right now: no matter what you think about it, the way I see it I have two options upon reaching the SECOND stage (that's 2nd, Stage 2!). 1. I can swipe a password to the next stage off the net, just as I did back in 1993: I swiped it off a magazine. 2. Or, I can change the difficulty level to Easy. Let's reflect. 1. Passwords are for pussies. 2. If you can't handle any game on a normal difficulty level, you can't claim to be able to handle it at all. So what'll it be? I choose to be a pussy. Yeah, I know: it's ridiculous, it's the second stage of the game, how can it be that hard? Well, let me tell you!

Remember the movie the game is based on? What is the main natural element in the beginning of that movie? Yes, ICE. What was the one natural element from platformers that could've made Super Star Wars even more difficult than it already was? The answer is once again: ICE. You see what I'm getting at, here? It isn't just the ice. In the Hoth ice cave, where you must do battle with the wampa, everything that moves hurts you. There are bats everywhere. Not only are they flying bastards, they're HORDES of flying bastards. There are spikes, everywhere - walls, ceilings, floors. Then there are these large creatures that are able to freeze you by breathing at you, making you easy prey for everything that moves. Finally, there are sharp crystals, sticking out of the ground when you are nearby - there are just small graphical hints of where they're located. Once again, this is the second stage of the game. And I'll NEVER be able to beat it. It's just that simple. I have to use a password to be able to make progress. We're not off to a very good start, but from that point on, Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a quite fruitful experience, a true, ultimate challenge to only the most dedicated players. It gets even more difficult later on, of course it does, but at least the later stages don't have ice. That unholy element is quite enough to make me want to stop trying, and there's so much more than that in this cave of horrors.

Han's last stand.
Upon entering the password, I gasp in terror; that ice cave was only the first of two. However, the second cave's not quite as bad. Since the game follows the movie's plot quite faithfully, we're going to spend a lot of time on Hoth, half of the game takes place there actually, but after these two caves, we're back on the surface and at least most of the ice and spikes are gone. It's pointless to start listing all of the game's most difficult situations that aren't already familiar to those who played Super Star Wars, but I'll mention a couple. I guess a large boss droid stalking you underwater while you're balancing on a block of ice, and a small buff electrifying the water just waiting for you to slip into the wet, is pretty bad. I was going to say the Mode 7 snowspeeder and X-Wing sequences are pure hell, 'cause that's what I remembered about them, but they're not really that bad at all, as long as you can keep a level head; unlike in Super Star Wars, there are no obstacles. Only the enemies are capable of damaging you, which is a bigger relief than it sounds like. The only really difficult thing about the 3D sequences (there are also 2D ones) is that your own vehicle keeps blocking your view!

The X-Wing's easy enough to manouver, but
it keeps getting in your way.
The gameplay mechanics haven't changed much. There's no time limit since it never made any sense in the first game. Since Luke is now better trained as a Jedi apprentice - that's the official explanation - you can use the Force (I've always wanted to say that) to pull off some quite neat stunts via random power-ups. The controls are a bit better, which is somewhat of a relief with all that ice scattered about. There are still three playable characters, but this time you can't choose the character yourself; after all, Luke is separated from the rest of the group most of the storyline's duration, and Han becomes incapacitated at a certain point. Chewie is a bit underutilized this time around. The worst thing about this game - again! - is that the standard 2D stages repeat themselves, even more than in Super Star Wars. There are only three main locations to begin with: Hoth, Dagobah, and Cloud City - that doesn't give much time or space for diverse level design.

"Do, or do not. There is no try." He actually
says that, you know? Yoda's being an asshole!
The game is really hard to review. In terms of atmosphere, I like it more than Super Star Wars, since it's based on a better movie and it's faithful to its plot, and it's also way much better in every way than any game based on The Empire Strikes Back that came before it. The password system really helps to bear it better than Super Star Wars at its bitchiest. Actually I thought this review would turn out to be highly in the game's favor (something like 8.5?), but nowadays, I'm able to see past the artificial qualities of the game a little too well. It's a good, very playable game, no doubt about it, after all it's Super Star Wars in a different setting. But, it's absolutely merciless from the beginning to the end as it is - at least the first game had some slight gradual increase in the difficulty level - and the source of the license alone brings in the singled-out worst element of any platformer that was ever released... lots of it, and on top of all, every possible nuisance from Super Star Wars is still present, from fatal debris to severe enemy powerplay. If you're a die-hard Star Wars fan, and up for some ultimate, sweaty 16-bit challenge, The Empire Strikes Back is definitely on your list of must-haves, but don't beat yourself up if you find it impossible. And remember, true Jedi don't cry.

SOUND : 9.4


a.k.a. The Empire Strikes Back, Super Empire Strikes Back

GameRankings: 79.50%

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