Author: John Legendoffzelda
Star Wars is one of my favorite movies, and my high opinions of it colored my initial desire to play Super Star Wars. My reasoning, I think, was that the Star Wars franchise held up so strongly as video games; titles like X-Wing, Rogue Squadron, Shadows of the Empire, even the very first Star Wars arcade game from the Reagan administration were regarded as solid, even essential video game experiences. My thought was that since the original movie is my favorite of all of them, featuring a strong amount of set-pieces and assets, it would translate into an additionally superb gaming experience.
I was mistaken … Super Star Wars is a mediocre platforming game, bolstered only by a couple of good levels and Star Wars stuff in it.
Super Star Wars is not a well-designed game. It’s playable, but clunky, like maybe a misbegotten imitation of Castlevania. The player starts the first level as Luke Skywalker, wandering around the Dune Sea of Tatooine where he’s assaulted by several different alien life forms; scorpions, sand worms, flying things and womp rats. They respawn infinitely. There’s no strategy to beating them besides blowing them all away and hoping Luke gets out of there before they come back.
There are weapons in this game, of course, along with power-ups that can be found along the way. Luke starts out with a blaster, which can be upgraded to shoot fire and plasma beams and such. The trick is, though, that Luke is frozen in place whenever he fires his blaster. So he is stuck with the choice of either standing still while firing at infinitely respawning enemies, or trying to run away from them and hoping they don’t move fast enough to reach his hit box. Certainly this is a “run-and-gun” game; it’s just that the “run” and “gun” parts can’t happen simultaneously.
Han Solo and Chewbacca are playable characters along with Luke, but there’s nothing to differentiate them; they all control the same, and with the exception of Luke’s lightsaber, they have the same weapons.
The game also times every platforming level, which is an inconvenience because those levels just get longer and longer without ever getting better. The platforming itself, meanwhile, is probably the most annoying thing about this game. Super Star Wars requires an absurd amount of vertical platforming, particularly with the Sandcrawler segment. There’s a regular jump function, but with certain jumps a “Force jump” is required. The Force jumps are accomplished with a combination of Up on the D-pad and the Jump button (The default button for jump is B, but the control pad can be altered in the options menu found at the title screen), which is fair enough – until you find a gap that has to be cleared with a Force jump and the player has to awkwardly hold Up and either Left or Right while pressing the Jump button.
Why the Force jump couldn’t involve one of the unmapped shoulder buttons instead, I’m not sure. I just hope it wasn’t an oversight, because small things like difficult platforming, endless cookie-cutter enemy respawning, stubborn attacking mechanics, a lack of a password or save system (I forgot to mention, there’s no password or save system) and long, droning levels eventually add up to a sub-par game.
Aesthetically, parts of the game hold up, and even give it some identity. Starting the game triggers a recreation of the Star Wars opening crawl. The famous words (“A long time ago”, “It is a period of civil war”, et cetera) that appear between the 20th Century Fox fanfare and the Star Destroyer panning across the screen is here, though sadly botched. Ben Burtt’s iconic sound effects are here as well, and their simplistic, banging-on-metal-cable nature translates well to the Super Nintendo and enhances the game feel.
John Williams’ music made it in as well, but it suffers in translation; orchestral grandeur isn’t as easy to re-create on the Super Nintendo as the nature of Ben’s sounds, and some of the impact is lost. Apart from that, Williams’ music isn’t meant to be listened to on a loop. It’s good music for sure, but it doesn’t feel conducive re-playing itself endlessly while running through Mos Eisley and blasting through endless Stormtroopers while trying to reach the Cantina.
The game’s few bright spots are the vehicle levels. There’s three of them, two with Luke’s landspeeder on Tatooine and one with an X-Wing during the Death Star battle, and they’re great levels; being able to move without holding down any accelerator button seriously irons out controls, which allows for a smooth focus on firing lasers at Jawas and TIE Fighters. The Mode 7 capabilities are in full effect, and their simulations of horizons help to create a sense of vastness and a powerful image from which the camera never turns away.
The Death Star battle, undoubtedly the original Star Wars’ most famous moment, is the game’s high point. There’s a lot to be said for how well the Death Star battle translates into a video game, and a lot of it involves how the scene invites – or even is enhanced by – interactivity, but that discussion is better saved for another place. Here, it’s the high point by virtue of the game’s superior vehicle controls and the scene’s iconic stature.
Super Star Wars is one step forward and two steps back. The vehicle levels and the aforementioned aesthetics are outstanding and involving elements of the game, but they’re brought down by the abundance of sloppy, monotonous jumping and shooting. I never thought I would be this negative about this game, considering my initial enthusiasm about it. But the more I think about the game’s flaws, the more disappointed I get. I just can’t compare it to Rogue Squadron or Jedi Knight or any other Star Wars video games of the 1990s. I don’t think I can even recommend this to a serious Star Wars fan as the only good Star Wars games would be the ones that don’t take place on foot.
Two out of five stars.