Developed by Lucasarts and Sculptured Software in 1992 as an 8 MEGA POWER cartridge, Super Star Wars combines a few different types of game play to craft an experience that still holds up surprisingly well.
The story needs little introduction.
…a farm boy on a middle-of-no-where desert planet goes on a journey of self-discovery and encounters natives, wildlife, and native wildlife as well an assortment of other monsters, beasts, and mutants that forge him into a rampaging omnicidal maniac; leaving a trail of destruction, and an incalculable amount of property damage, wherever he goes.
The bulk of Super Star Wars consists of 2D side-scrolling levels, with a couple of mode 7 pseudo-3D vehicular levels thrown in to mix things up. As Luke, Chewbacca, or Han, you get to make your way through 16-bit representations of familiar locations on Tatooine (and eventually the Death Star), blasting enemies that should be instantly familiar to fans of the series.
The 2D segments combine shooting, exploration, and platforming; with liberal sprinkles of slow-paced, yet surprisingly intense strategy. If anything, the 2D levels of Super Star Wars are about slow methodical progress. Enemies also drop health restoring hearts; occasionally along with an extra goodie like a health bar extension, a score multiplier, or a screen clearing bomb. Exploration is generally rewarded with additional health, life and/or weapon upgrades which are something of a necessity in the harder difficulty levels, since you won’t get far without an upgraded blaster.
The platforming parts have a reputation for being unnecessarily difficult and requiring leaps of faith, but some of that can be alleviated by peeking above & below using the shoulder buttons. Simply trying to rush to the end of the level, on the other hand, will result in an untimely demise.
The 3D levels consist of free roaming shooting sections in the Land Speeder and on-rail shooting sections in the X-Wing. The vehicles are represented about as accurately as they can be in 16 bits. The Land Speeder level controls feel similar to an FPS, with the ability to strafe. It makes for an enjoyable break from the platforming segments; lining up shots to take out Jawas, destroying moisture towers for jet fuel, and bulls-eyeing womp-rats.
The first X-Wing level is set from a third person view, taking out TIE fighters and towers on the surface of the Death Star. Once enough TIE fighters & laser towers have been destroyed, the Death Star trench run begins in a first person perspective culminating in a one on one with Darth Vader.
Presentation-wise, the developers knew what they were doing with the Super NES hardware and it shows.
The visuals were amazing in 1992. Over two decades later, they still look good.Â The in-game bits are colorful & detailed. Even the mode 7 pseudo-3D levels have aged considerably well, which is no small feat. The cut scenes progress the story in between levels. Though, the story has been altered to fit the game in some instances.
Good as the visuals are, the audio is where the game really shines. The SNES audio processor recreates John Williams’ iconic score brilliantly and all of the well-known tunes are there. The familiar sound effects are clear & crisp with an occasional bit of digitized speech thrown in. (Bonus points for including Porkins’ “Stay on target!” should the player veer off the course during the Death Star trench run.)
Unfortunately, the game play is where things go down a few notches. There are a few rough edges that keep the game from being perfect; the roughest of the edges being the checkpoint system. Dying results in restarting the level from the last checkpoint with the health bar and weapon being reset to their default settings. While this wouldn’t be so bad by itself, continuing after losing all lives still restarts a level from the last checkpoint. This is usually helpful during the platforming segments. However, it becomes downright sadistic in some levels, where the last check point is right before the boss battle. Death during these boss battle means having to go at it with even less health & fire-power until the game ends one way or another. While this can be circumvented via cheat codes, having to resort to cheat codes just to enjoy a game is a major no-no.
The platforming controls can feel a little archaic at times (inability to run and gun simultaneously, inability to control super-jump in mid air). The difficulty and slower pacing might also turn off modern gamers. To make matters worse, the AI can and will get in some cheap unavoidable hits. This can make some boss battles an exercise in frustration and futility.
This could just be me nitpicking, but the lightsaber seems more like a punishment than a reward. A fully powered-up plasma blaster can take out regular enemies with one shot whereas a lightsaber can take a few swings. The elegant weapon also requires the player to actively approach enemies in order to attack them. If the attack doesn’t kill the enemy, someone’s getting bulls-eyed at point-blank range. By comparison, the clumsy blasters allow the player to shoot away at enemies with a healthy amount of space between them.
Level 6: Land of the Banthas, the first level where Luke gets to use the ancient weapon of the Jedi Knights, is also the level where the game makes it abundantly clear just why it’s no match for a good blaster by his side. (Perhaps that’s why Obi-Wan keeps repeating “Lose the force Luke”…?)
Overall, is Super Star Wars a good game? Yes. Is it a perfect game? No. (Though it’s not as clumsy or random as Kinnect Star Wars.) Would I recommend Super Star Wars? Well… sort of.
Super Star Wars is a classic SNES game that is still immensely fun to play. While it has its flaws, what it gets right, it gets gloriously right (And in the defense of the game, the cheat codes do smooth out a few of the worst bits. Especially the ability to select levels.) However, its sequels polish the formula introduced in Super Star Wars to a near-flawless shine. To that extent, I wholeheartedly recommend the Super Star Wars trilogy.Â All three games are uniquely enjoyable, enough to warrant their individual purchase.
However, if you’re looking for only one Star Wars game on the SNES for some reason or another, I suggest either Super Empire Strikes Back (which focuses a bit more on the action aspect), or Super Return Of The Jedi (which focuses a bit more on the adventure aspect).
The games are available on Wii Virtual Console for 800 points each, and loose copies can be found on ebay for around the same (or less) monetary equivalent. And it’s more than a fair price to pay for a momentary trip to a galaxy far far away. RetroYak Dave says: I used to play this game a lot; so much, that as I lay in bed waiting to go to sleep I could still hear the sounds of collecting hearts and the cries of Jawas as you blasted them (OOTINI!!). This is a game that both Star Wars fans and none-fans would enjoy .. go and play it! (and try to stay calm when you fall off the sandcrawler for the 63rd time).