sw classics 3x3

With so many PC Star Wars games being re-released recently, we here at Good Old Reviews couldn’t help but spend a few weeks exploring the franchise classic library and sharing our impressions. With other beloved retro titles bound for upcoming re-release, however, I felt it was finally time to move one from games based in a galaxy far far away. That being the case, all of this Star Wars-ing has left me with a few ideas about some of the other games this column’s touched on in the past and how they could have been improved with a little bit of Force.

Star Control 2 Box

Star Control 2
It’s established fairly early on in Star Wars: A New Hope that the galaxy is pretty freaking big. One of the classic frustrations of many franchise fans is the fact that the films only ever show us a handful of them with Tattooine being given far too much screen time when you consider that it’s just a massive world of endless sand. Star Control 2‘s great strength, comparatively, was how it managed to use limited assets and resources to fashion a game universe that feels genuinely massive. And while I absolutely adored the game that it was, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that even a simple Star Wars re-skin would have made it even better for me. The real potential, though, would lie with someone fully committing to converting Star Control 2 into a Star Wars experience.

Imagine this. The game starts off on Tattooine (because of tradition). You’re given a junky old ship that initially can barely make it out of the star system intact. You build up funds collecting resources and doing odd jobs that gradually let you upgrade with new components (hyperdrive, for example) that allow you to extend your reach. As time goes on, you add weapons that come in handy as you start running into pirates, bounty hunters, rebels and, of course, Imperial ships commanded by beings that prefer to shoot first and ask questions never. Eventually you build up enough capital to add new ships to your fleet which, in turn, give you the strength to push even further into the galaxy. Finally, these in-game encounters embroil you in the Galactic Civil War, with your recorded actions landing you on either the side of the Rebels or the side of the Empire.

There would have to be some mechanical changes -altering resource collection/dropping realistic ship inertia- but I think a game like this could be a lot of fun.


wingcommanderprivateer_cover

Wing Commander: Privateer
Wing Commander: Privateer is a decent space sim renowned for its dedication to player freedom and its massive universe. X-Wing is a Star Wars game beloved for its faithful adherence to its source material as well as its intensely excellent gameplay. As they say, 2+2=4.

Similar to my thoughts on Star Control 2, I think the massive universe and freedom offered by Privateer could make for a wonderful experience when paired with the Star Wars setting. Whereas I feel like Star Control 2 would be great in terms of exploration and eventual larger scale adventure, however, I’d love to see a Privateer-style game focusing in on smaller conflicts and more person-to-person interaction. Basically, I want this to be a game about Han Solo (or someone like him) prior to his meeting Luke and joining up with the Rebellion.

Just think about how much fun it would be to run guns for the Hutts, take on mercenary missions for the Rebels (or Imperials) or even just play it straight and live your life as an honest trader trying to get by in a darkening galaxy. My only caveat would be that the combat would need to take its cues X-Wing and Tie Fighter as opposed to Privateer itself. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Wing Commander games and Privateer is not a bad experience. Its combat, though? Nowhere near X-Wing‘s.

Ultima Underworld cover

Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
Ultima Underworld is a game about being dropped into a mysterious and hostile environment and finding the will and skill to survive and master it. I don’t think I need to elaborate much on why that’s a cool concept. The thing is, how much better would be if you were a Jedi?

Let’s say your character is a Padawan. You’re not fresh-faced but you’re still far and away from ascending to the full rank of master. You and your teacher are sent to explore some ruins at the behest of the Jedi council only to discover a party of Sith there also intent on discovering what it contains. After a brief scuffle there’s a cave in that leaves your master dead and you with no choice but to venture deeper into the tunnels with only your wits and limited control of the Force to keep you alive.

My main interest with this idea would be exploring the idea of being a Jedi while still not being a supremely capable one. Games like KOTOR or even Dark Forces II tend to skip that section of your character’s training or put you in the shoes of someone who was already capable in their pre-Jedi life. Being forced to deal with tough situations with only a limited and developing power set could be great fodder for a fun game if done properly.


Ultima IV

Ultima IV
You know what most Star Wars are terrible at? Morality.

To be fair, Star Wars is a universe where the morality can be restrictively black and white (or light and dark). I could see, in turn, how it might be hard to build a game where your moral choices expand beyond the “Asshole-Neutral-Saint” model of something like Knights of the Old Republic. It’s not impossible to do it right, however, and Ultima IV is the evidence.

What does it do that Star Wars games could learn from, you ask? Simply put, it makes the act of becoming a hero the game’s primary quest. You’re given a set of virtues that you need to follow and much of the game is simply watching your actions and making sure they vibe with tenets that your character has subscribed to. Just take that experience and transplant it into the setting of a Jedi Academy.

And then, better yet, make use of advancements in storytelling and game development to make it feel even more interesting. Who’s to say you can’t have an interesting, BioWare-style story coupled with morality mechanics like those in Ultima IV? You’d just need to pull the narrative in a bit so that you’re telling the story of one person as opposed to an entire epic conflict. Follow them through their life as a Padawn; their trials and tribulations. Let them form bonds with people and then explore the consequences of those relationships as they develop and eventually clash with the standards of the Jedi. Would you turn to the Dark Side if being one of the good guys meant sacrificing a friend or severing the romance you’ve been nurturing since the game’s opening hours? Ultima IV didn’t do anything especially spectacular, it just held players accountable for their actions. Any game, based in any franchise, could do the same thing.

ninja gaiden nes

Ninja Gaiden
I don’t play a lot of platformers or action sidescrollers. It’s not that I don’t like them, they just tend not to interest me as much as some of the other genres available out there. There are a few that I love, however, and standing tall at the top of the heap is Ninja Gaiden. Mind you, I’ve never been able to beat the damned thing and most of my attempts eventually leave me frustrated to the point of throwing things (NES controllers can be amazingly durable). That said, there hasn’t been a single occasion where I’ve been able to pick it up and not spend hours obsessively playing it.

I really want a Star Wars game like that. There have, of course, been good 2D sidescrolling Star Wars games (I’m working on Super Return of the Jedi currently), but to my knowledge the franchise hasn’t produced anything as fast-paced and reactive as Ninja Gaiden. It might be a shallow request, but I’d love it if someone would even just produce a Star Wars reskin of that game. Replace the ninjas with Stormtroopers and Sith. Replace the monsters with space aliens. Replace those cursed birds with those hovering ball droids from A New Hope. You could leave everything else the same and it would still be a fantastic experience.


arma box

ArmA: Cold War Assault
ArmA, or Operation Flashpoint as I originally knew it, is probably one of my favorite shooters. There’s something about its combination of gritty realism and open world freedom that really clicked for me. In any given mission I could happily spend hours exploring the countryside, looking for new ways and new vantage points from which to destroy my enemies.

How fun would that be as a Star Wars game? Imagine playing as the leader of a Rebel commando squad or the leader of a Stormtrooper unit and being dropped onto a planet to take out a heavily defended outpost. Then imagine how much fun it would be to stalk your way across the landscape, all the while knowing that a single, well-placed blaster bolt is all it will take to put you in the ground. Couple that with ArmA‘s included ability to hijack any and every intact vehicle in the game and you open up some additionally awesome possibilities. Can’t breach that bases defenses? Try attacking with that poorly guarded AT-AT a few clicks down the road. Plagued by enemy air support? Hop into an X-Wing and show the Rebel scum what’s what.

homeworld box

Homeworld
Do I really need to explain why a Homeworld-style Star Wars RTS would be a good idea? Really? Fine. Please watch this and when you’re done come back and we can talk some more.

While some would probably consider it to be unnecessary considering how high quality some of the existing Homeworld franchise mods already are, I’d still love to see an official fully 3D space strategy title created for the Star Wars universe. A lot of it simply boils down to my loving this kind of game and wanting to see more of them. That being the case, I also think there’s just something to be said for having a great Star Wars game that was designed, from the get-go, to be a Star Wars game.

While existing mods have made amusing use of the existing Homeworld 2 interface, a new game could think of and do things that gamers haven’t even thought of yet. Moreover, while Electronic Arts obviously doesn’t have a perfect track record, it’s still a gigantic publisher with a lot of resources that, in the right hands, could be used to make a Star Wars game that might supersede what Homeworld accomplished back when the franchise first launched in 1998.


FF6 box

Final Fantasy VI
Anyone who likes Star Wars and has played Final Fantasy VI knows that their stories share more than a few passing similarities. You’ve got your evil Empire, your plucky group of Rebels, magic, epic battles against impossible odds; they’re different to be sure, but they’re cut from the same narrative cloth. My dream game, in turn, would probably be a 16-bit RPG take on the original Star Wars trilogy.

Now this, of course, is purely wishful thinking on my part. A big part of what made games like Final Fantasy VI special was the era it was made in, the people working on it and the restrictions and mindsets that arose from the technology they had to work with at the time. The conditions of the mid-90s simply don’t exist anymore and, even if someone decided SNES-style JRPG based in the Star Wars was something that need to be bankrolled and published, I’m not sure if it would be as good as what my brain imagines.

That being the case, you go right ahead and tell me, with a straight face, that you wouldn’t love to see this too. Let the image of a teeny-tiny pixel-sprite Darth Vader pop into your head and try not to smile. You can’t do it can you? That, my friends, is because it would be awesome.

master of orion 2

Master of Orion 2
There have, in the past, been several solidly made Star Wars 4X games. However, they’ve always focused their attention firmly on the conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. What I’d love to see is a game that takes place in that same universe but that also kind of places that war off to the side.

Maybe, for instance, instead of focusing on those two opposed sides, it took place in an area space on the very edges of Imperial power. The player could take control of one of a variety of alien races with the goal of spreading their power and influence throughout the sector.

The twist is that, like in Master of Orion 2, you’re playing against the clock. Much like the Antarans, the Empire will leave you alone in your early days, but will start appearing periodically in your sector to flex their muscle. As the game goes on these incursions become bigger and more aggressive. How you respond to this threat could vary. Maybe you submit, becoming a vassal state of the Empire in order to stave off destruction. Or maybe you respond to envoys of the Rebellion, taking up arms as a partner in its fight for freedom. Regardless of what you choose, I think setting the player up as responding outside could be a neat way to look at Star Wars from a different perspective.


cod4 box

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
It goes without saying that this one is a huge cheat. Call of Duty 4 is, after all, only eight years old and hardly the sort of material that most would consider as a proper subject for a retro column. That said, I’m going to make an exception just so I can rant a little bit about how much I want the Star Wars franchise to get its own Call of Duty-esque rollercoaster shooter.

I mean really, how do we not have one of these, yet? I can’t even think of another series that would translate as perfectly to the sort of spectacle-centric campaigns that Activision’s various studios continue to make and sell like proverbial hotcakes. I mean granted, DICE making a new Battlefront is an obvious step in the right direction. The thing is, I don’t just want a solid multiplayer experience, I want a great campaign, thrill-a-minute campaign. I want to dash through urban mazes filled with Stormtroopers, overly epic battles against Imperial walkers and pointless QTE sequences that are cringe-worthy while still being kind of awesome.

Someone give me that and I’ll gladly you give my dollars and cents.

Homeworld Remastered lands next week and I, being an unabashed lover of that franchise will be subjecting myself to the torture of replaying the entire series (including Cataclysm). In the mean time, feel free to PM me with suggestions for future reviews and other good-natured/constructively critical comments.

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