Super Star Wars

Super Star Wars
4
Game Name: Super Star Wars
Platforms: Super NES
Publisher(s): JVC
Developer(s): Sculptured Software
Genre(s): Platform
Release Date: Jun, 1992

It had to happen eventually. The only thing LucasArts loved more than pimping out its Star Wars franchise was staying on the cutting edge of technology. So when scrolling action platformers became the new buzzword, you could have bet dollars to doughnuts that you’d be seeing a scrolling action platformer Star Wars title. This is that game.

It’s the first one anyway. In the early 90’s, JVC got the rights to publish action games based on Lucas’ more beloved films. Yes, this was back when LucasArts was more interested in creating creative, hilarious adventure games, and leaving the nickel-and-dime exploitations of the films to someone else. Oh, how money changed George Lucas. Anyway, Indiana Jones got an SNES version, as did a one-a-year release for the first three films in the Star Wars trilogy. The name “super” attached to the front really had dick-all to do with the game itself, except possibly to differentiate the game from the NES title, which was just named “Star Wars.” We have an entire entry dedicated to how ludicrous this name is, so I won’t continue on about it. But as far as the game goes, the is the superest Star Wars of the time, way more super than any previous Star Wars game, and only later games in the Super Star Wars trilogy could even hope to be superer.

The game is a lightning-fast, but fairly standard action scroller. You know the deal with these games – run left to right, shooting any and all creatures that stand in your way, and vacuum up all the powerups you can. The levels are all based on scenes or locations from the film, albeit with a few creative challenges thrown in. You probably won’t remember the scene where Chewbacca had to shoot his way out of a cantina full of hostile aliens, or the one where Luke had to carve up a giant sandworm with his lightsaber, but you’ll at least recognize the deserts of Tatooine and the interior hallways of the Death Star when the mayhem rolls through.

You begin the game as Luke, but later missions will allow you to select control of Han Solo or Chewbacca. This offers you nothing other than variety, and the special character abilities invented for the later SSWs are absent here. Each and every character uses a standard blaster, which can be upgraded to more lethal variants by repeatedly collecting weapon powerup icons. About a third of the way in, Luke will also be awarded his lightsaber, though he is inept at using it. He swings it like a powerful glowbat, and you’ll have no abilities to block, sweep, reflect shots, or any other fun tricks that are added later in the series.

The game’s greatest asset is its speed. It scrolls smoothly, tracks your jumping and shooting with precision, and throws in plenty of angry creatures on screen at the same time. If you want to do a lot of running while holding down the fire key and bouncing around like Happy Fun Ball, this is a good game for it. It’s also extremely generous in its difficulty – a stark comparison to the later Super Empire – and just about every enemy drops a little heart to refill your life. You can get bogged down by enemies spawning from the top or right of the screen, but never overwhelmed, and simply running and hopping through trouble spots works pretty well when you know that a heart or two won’t be far away.

Graphically, the game is sharp and impressive. It couldn’t be considered a flagship 16-bit title, but it looks clean enough to add to a list of “reasons why you should own a Super NES.” Backgrounds look great, and scroll independently of the foreground action. Detail on the sand dunes of the early levels contrasts well with a beautiful blue sky. Later Death Star levels are slightly less impressive, with a lot of reuse of textures and colors, but I suppose that is fitting with the technological coldness of the film’s sets. The Death Star isn’t supposed to be a resort, after all.

The game includes a few early Mode 7 sequences, allowing for an adequate illusion of 3-D. The sequences themselves aren’t that exciting though. You will have a number of scenes where you must drive your landspeeder around and shoot a set number of Jawas on floating bikes before you can proceed – for no real reason at all. A section where you fly over the Death Star and must shoot a set number of enemy fighters is mildly more interesting, but suffers from some graphical bugs as towers magically appear in front of you and hit for damage. There’s also the final Death Star Trench Run™ level, which is appropriately challenging.

Most of the music from the film has been recreated here, same as with every Star Wars game ever made. But for the time, the conversion here of the film’s orchestral score to a console system was quite an achievement, and impressed fans and critics alike. It’s sad now that these themes have become so commonplace and mundane (especially if you’ve played a lot of Star Wars games) that you probably won’t even notice how good they sound on the SNES. I know I didn’t at first. Yet the work is so spot-on, that I’m fairly confident many of these exact versions were reused for the background MIDI in Dark Forces. That these versions were seemingly reused in other SW games should give you an idea of the quality they achieved here. Effects aren’t too bad, and each weapon does create a distinct noise. There are never any audio cues to events occurring in the game or dangers in the level, so it’s mostly there to complete the experience, and it does its job as expected.

There are no passwords or level saves. Forcing you to play through the entire game in one sitting feels artificially difficult. I would suspect that is why the kid gloves are put on for the regular levels, and health powerups are so rampant. Boss fights are also present, but not particularly frustrating. You can usually just shoot and shoot until they fall, with maybe a jump or two required to avoid a meek counterattack. This game is a great introduction to what the series will become, and the most easy-going fun of the three. Even if you’re not a fan of Star Wars, it’s probably worth checking out just for the quickness of the action, and the impressive look of the scenery.

The Good

Fast and smooth. Rather laid back compared to the nightmare difficulty of a certain later SSW title.

The Bad

Not much beyond the license to set it apart from other action scrollers, but even non-fans can appreciate how well-made this is.

3 Comments

  1. CarlMarksGuy says:

    I finally caved and bought a copy of this game again (it’s one of the only games we had back in the day which I’ve bought “again” since the 4-5 I got when I re-bought the SNES).

    I was surprised how much luck I had with climbing the outside of the Sand Crawler — I think I only had to “re-do” stuff for missing a jump once. But the inside? Holy crap, I’d forgotten that “cheap lava death” memorization issue before the boss…and if you die, you’re back half-way through, right AFTER the power-ups that give you the Ridiculous Gun. It’s definitely a “Better Hit Reset” moment, trying to beat that place with the power-zero blaster is brutal enough, but then trying to war-of-attrition the bossfight…yeesh. And I thought climbing the sandcrawler was going to be the nostalgia-breaker for me!

    • Uncle Dave says:

      I think I speak for everyone by saying those laser gate things can get fucked, also.

      • CarlMarksGuy says:

        Ok, so I played through again and managed to keep my powered-up blaster and trash the lava beast the jawas keep in the lava pool inside their sand crawler (which somehow doesn’t eat through the hull)…and it keeps going and going, without getting any less irritating.

        I’m now convinced we must have been playing it on EASY mode (rather than BRAVE, which is the default) as kids, and furthermore — I used to think that Super Empire Strikes Back (which I bought a few years ago and gave up on due to its Wizards & Warriors-style constant tiny enemy bombardment) was a bad game, unlike Super Star Wars, which I remembered as being a good game.

        Now I think that Super Star Wars is a bad game, and Super Empire Strikes Back is an even worse game — but Empire shows itself as horrible so quickly that you give up on it within the first few levels, unlike SW, which gets you to play along for hours until your thumbs are sore from constantly holding down attack and jump 😛

        My message to JVC? Loosen up!

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