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The fact that I’m a Star Wars fan boy, which I’m willing to admit that might be one of the reasons we’re here today. However, I promise this pick can stand on its own simply by being a very well-crafted game. The Star Wars franchise is fascinating because people know the movies very well, even the people who aren’t fans. What some may not know is that the universe of Star Wars has been enormously expanded through novels, comic books, audio books, and video games. Luke, Han, and Leia’s story continued on after Return of the Jedi and took many amazing (sometimes stupid) twists and turns. Today’s forgotten favorite is no exception and makes me wish that this was the actual upcoming Episode VII.
#4: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Shadows of the Empire saw its North American debut in December 1996, and it was released a short time after the Shadows of the Empire comic book storyline premiered. As we stated, many of these supplementary stories took place after the movies ended. Shadows of the Empire, however, takes place alongside Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The comic series sought to expand on what was going on behind the scenes while the story’s main heroes were doing their thing. As it turns out, Darth Vader was embroiled in conflict with a crime syndicate known as “Black Sun” for favorable standing with the Emperor.
The game contains no spoken dialogue; however, the story is adequately told through motion comic cut scenes, and features the smuggler, Dash Randar, as the main protagonist. Randar, like Han Solo, has made his living across the galaxy the only way any respectable rouge can, by smuggling contraband, weapons, and drugs. Randar’s role in the story picks up just as the battle of Hoth (famous from Empire Strikes Back) begins on the opening stage of the game. Mechanically, most of the game plays as a third person shooter and will occasionally shift gameplay to first person vehicle sections. The controls have a tendency to be a little stiff and can take some getting used to, particularly when trying to execute a jump across a large plane. Remember, this was still a time when Nintendo was getting used to offering games in three dimensions. Along the way, Randar picks up several other space-age energy attacks, each more exotic than the next. He never acquires another physical weapon, therefore it begs the question as to how Randar’s little sidearm is able to toggle between low-level blaster shot and low-yield nuclear explosions. I guess the space bacteria in his blood used the force to make his weapon more powerful; that or its simple game logic that I’m currently reading too deeply into.
Twice the game takes the player to flying missions involving Randar’s mini-me version of the Millennium Falcon that he calls the “Outrider.” As with Randar himself, the camera can be toggled from cockpit, to third person, to the infinitely useless far away perspective view. These segments were a lot of fun and only made better by the classic Star Wars score playing in the background. Bosses are also scattered throughout the game at the end of various stages. However, the most memorable boss – and difficult – was a one on one fight with Boba Fett himself. You and Fett square off in a giant walled arena and as soon as the fight starts you’re instantly assaulted by a wall of rockets and blaster fire. Get too close and Fett roasts you alive with a flamethrower. After slowly diminishing Fett’s life to 0 percent, he falls down into a hangar and you think the battle is done. Then he flies up in his ship, Slave 1. It was at this moment that the controller would have fallen out of your shaking sweaty hands. There was still more to do.
From there, the game goes to space, back to a planet, to an obligatory sewer level, and then back into space for a battle that in no way ripped off Return of the Jedi. Shadows of the Empire was one of those classic N64 titles that comes with every collection sold on eBay. Like Jedi Outcast it was a cool way for fans to experience more of a beloved story. There was a charming simplicity to it. The new protagonist was a bit flat at times, mostly due to his character looking like a mate painting most of the time; but overall, it worked. The game is available in shops, Amazon, and eBay. Pick it up and experience a slightly less civilized slice of the Star Wars Universe.