SUPER STAR WARS Review
STAR WARS EPISODE IV sure was a great movie. Remember that time Luke Skywalker was on his way to Mos Eisley in his landspeeder, but he had to kill every Jawa he came across in a drive-by shooting? And then he had to break into said Jawas’ Sandcrawler, jump over pits of lava, and blow up a fire breathing monster with a missile launcher? How about when Chewbacca visited a cantina the size of an airport runway and gunned down a hundred breakdancing werewolfs? You don’t? Well, the folks at Sculptured Software and LucasArts sure did when they created SUPER STAR WARS for the SNES back in 1992, a run and gun platformer that happily flies in the face of Star Wars canon. The Nintendo classic just got a port onto PS4 and Vita this week as the first installment in a deal between Disney and Sony to bring older Star Wars games onto the latter’s consoles.
SUPER STAR WARS is a sort of CONTRA clone in the classic sense. Playing as Luke, Chewie, or Han, you navigate through very arcadey, 2D depictions of Tatooine and the Death Star. Levels are timed and enemies, from Tusken Raiders to Stormtroopers, will constantly respawn, encouraging players to keep moving forward. Platforming involves jumping between floating rocks and conveyor belts, usually while dodging mines or enemies (or both). The blasting and the jumping are solid, which is key considering how much of each you’ll be doing.
A long time ago on an SNES far, far away
The default (easiest) difficulty setting is incredibly unforgiving, to the point that casual players might throw a controller or four into their TV. Boss fights reach DARK SOULS levels of intensity, and certain pitfalls or lava traps can result in instant death, causing you to restart half a level back and losing all upgrades. This is very much a product of its time, where the longevity of a game wasn’t measured necessarily in content, but how long it took to master and memorize each level in the game. The Sony port addresses this issue by introducing a very welcome save feature that allows players to retry challenging segments as many times as they need to. The only other new features included in this 2015 edition are a higher resolution and options for widescreen. Otherwise, SUPER STAR WARS feels very much like a game from 1992.
Though I never played SUPER STAR WARS until its rerelease, I loved SUPER RETURN OF THE JEDI as a child. Maybe I’m spoiled by those improved versions, but the EPISODE IV game lacks a lot of the diversity of the other two. SUPER EMPIRE STRIKES BACK had mountable Tauntauns, and SUPER RETURN OF THE JEDI had playable Boushh, Slave, and Commando versions of Leia, as well as Wickett the Ewok, all of whom played differently. While Luke gains a lightsaber halfway through SUPER STAR WARS, he otherwise handles identically to Chewie and Han, making character selection in this game more or less an aesthetic choice.
Ah, Lava Beast Jawenko, my favorite STAR WARS character
Perhaps the greatest aspect of SUPER STAR WARS is its loose interpretation of the Star Wars universe. EPISODE IV doesn’t have the most action-packed of beginnings for Luke, but SUPER STAR WARS says otherwise. By the time you leave Mos Eisley over halfway through the game, you’ll have unleashed several Death Star volleys worth of destruction upon the planet’s hapless populace. And while I wasn’t crazy about the playable character selection, enemy diversity is the greatest in the series, with some truly bizarre and fun designs. Who would’ve thought Gonk droids and Womp Rats would be serious enemies in a Star Wars game? 3D vehicular segments with landspeeders and X-Wings are also included, and they do a good job at breaking up the 2D action.
SUPER STAR WARS isn’t a perfect game by any means, but it’s more than a steal for $10. Star Wars fans will get a good laugh or ten from the ridiculous set pieces, and modern concessions exist that make sure the game isn’t too esoteric for modern gamers. If you have to pick up a Star Wars game this month, make sure it’s SUPER STAR WARS.
Reviewed on PS4, also available on Vita, Nintendo eShop, Super Nintendo.