The announcement of Lucasfilm regaining direct control over what happens with Star Wars video games through the creation of Lucasfilm Games — essentially a resurrection of the LucasArts banner — was received with applause. It’s been more than two years now, and we’ve learned that several studios from different high-profile publishers are working on big Star Wars projects across a variety of genres. And yet, the IP keeps avoiding the one uncomplicated game many fans and the genre’s masters have shown interest in: a Star Wars Musou.
Koei Tecmo’s Warrior games, a big-scale evolution of classical beat ‘em up titles, are built around the idea of making the players feel incredibly strong as they cut or smash through massive armies and face fearsome enemy leaders that can K.O. you in just a few hits. They’re barely balanced and their budgets are usually stretched thin, yet no other competitor has been able to replicate the visceral sensation of being a stylish badass during the Three Kingdoms or Sengoku periods. In fact, Dynasty and Samurai Warriors quickly became Koei Tecmo’s flagship series.
It was only a matter of time before the Musou genre started toying with renowned properties, and such experiments have generally produced solid games, such as the Hyrule and Fire Emblem Warriors games, made in collaboration with Nintendo. Of course, anime sensations like Gundam and One Piece also made for notable Musou titles, but Western IPs have eluded Warriors head studio Omega Force for two decades now.
An easy explanation is that Musou titles haven’t been too popular in North America and Europe until recently, and the increased interest is mainly thanks to the collaborations mentioned above. But it’s still weird that a handful of massive franchises like Marvel or Star Wars haven’t tried to work something out. Musō literally translates into “unrivaled” or “unmatched,” kind of a perfect way to describe superheroes and the Jedi we all know and love. It’s not hard to imagine how a Musou collaboration with those IPs would look, especially given the massive history and rosters of characters available in each universe.
At this moment, it’s reasonable to think a Marvel or Star Wars Musou hasn’t even been officially discussed. But Koei Tecmo producers Hisashi Koinuma and Akihiro Suzuki have actively expressed interest over the years in working with the Star Wars IP. With Lucasfilm Games now working out deals all over the world, this could be the perfect opportunity to get that dream project off the ground, yet here we are, waiting for the most renowned space fantasy franchise ever to get weird with its big video games again.
Ever since Star Wars was reignited under Disney’s watchful eye, Lucasfilm’s leadership has been adamant about canon, and such limitations have reached video games as well. Back in LucasArts’ glory days, Star Wars video games were all over the place and constantly trying out new stuff, for better or worse. Such experimentation has been lost in favor of a more consistent output that clicks together with the Star Wars being told on screens and paper. Mobile cash grab games haven’t gone anywhere though.
A strange exception to the unspoken rule of “no silly Star Wars games” is Star Wars: Hunters, Zynga’s free-to-play arena shooter, which keeps delaying its worldwide launch despite the ongoing tests and beta access in some territories. Mind you, Hunters has been worked into the canon for some reason through a middle-grade novel, but it’s noticeably goofier than any Star Wars game currently in development. Expectations aren’t high, but Hunters might be the proof Lucasfilm needs to give the green light to larger off-beat projects.
The entire discussion about Star Wars canon isn’t even relevant anymore. Lucasfilm has done a good job of locking down what matters and what doesn’t as it keeps building out centuries’ worth of history and lore across an entire galaxy. And yet, stuff like Star Wars: Visions has been allowed to blossom, playful, non-canon animated shorts that give artists the chance to play with the biggest fictional sandbox around. Why can’t Star Wars video games have that again? I mean, some of the franchise’s biggest heroes and villains are currently shotgunning other pop culture icons and dabbing on Fortnite. What’s stopping the IP from embracing non-canon fun beyond such crossovers and on its own terms?
There are many ways in which a Star Wars Musou game could be made canon if needed, such as keeping the Jedi and Sith’s power levels closer to what we’ve seen in movies and shows versus (for example) Mace Windu Force-punching through an entire droid army in Genndy Tartakovsky’s original Clone Wars cartoon (not canon anymore either). I mean, I wouldn’t mind Force-punching over 50 droids in just a few seconds in full Musou fashion, but the core premise could be toned down to work without breaking any in-universe rules.
Disney and Lucasfilm’s direct involvement through the Lucasfilm Games banner could also guarantee a certain degree of quality and a bigger production budget than usual for Omega Force, a studio famous for making do with whatever trickles down and putting out new Musou titles fast and perhaps too often. Nintendo’s quality assurance can be felt all over the Hyrule and Fire Emblem Warriors releases, and I assume the same would happen if the House of Mouse and Lucasfilm ever reached out to Koei Tecmo.
The Clone Wars are obviously the perfect setting for such a game, given the amount of famous Jedi, Sith, and other mighty warriors involved in the conflict and the massive scale of its many battles. The content is all right there, ripe and ready to be used in a video game that isn’t a shooter or an action-adventure romp. Just think about Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One, slashing away dozens of battle droids at once. It’s easy to see why some big names at Koei Tecmo and Omega Force are eager to get the keys to the Star Wars galaxy, and I hope they get their chance at some point.