It has never been a better time to be a Star Wars fan. Sure, there was a lot of excitement going into the prequels many years ago, but with this new trilogy promising a return to old school form, it feels like everyone is on the hype train. With The Force Awakens now less than one month away, the entire brand is reaching critical promotional mass. 30 second TV spots with only smidgens of new footage are being analyzed with a fine toothed comb. Star Wars: Battlefront, the newest version of one of the franchise’s best series, came out on the 17th to mostly positive reception and high sales. Advance ticket sales for the new film have already raked in a cool $50 million, and analysts expect it to be the biggest debut in American film history. If JJ Abrams can successfully deliver a top-notch new installment, we will officially reach peak Star Wars fanaticism (as if it can go any higher).
Amid all of this news, Sony quietly took a page from these new films and brought back a real hit from the past into their library: Super Star Wars. It’s understandable why this was pushed into the background over the past week. Battlefront was a reboot to a series that people have wanted more from for nearly a decade. It also has the added benefit of connecting to the upcoming film (and beyond) which is what everyone’s talking about. A Super Nintendo game from 1992 based on the franchise’s very first film doesn’t quite measure up to this hype at the current time. On a normal week though, this wouldn’t be the case. Super Star Wars was an awesome little adaptation, and the fact that it’s now available in another form gives people more of an opportunity to check it out.
Based on the inherent law of video games, in that most film adaptations are generally terrible, Super Star Wars risked falling into that same trap. It was also an enhanced version of a very similar game that the NES received one year earlier. Yet it was actually a lot of fun, giving gamers a revised, more action focused version of a true cinema classic. The game starts off with Luke Skywalker on Tatooine and it tells a slightly altered version of film’s story. Luke, as one of the last Jedi in the universe, fights his way through various enemies to get off his sandy home with Han, Chewie, and old Ben Kenobi. He of course can wield a lightsaber, but the main weapon is your trusty blaster pistol with various enhancements. There are also levels where you control a landspeeder or X-Wing, including the final level with the classic Death Star trench run. Han and Chewie are playable later too, because no self-respecting game based on the films would leave those two out (Leia first became usable in Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, finally bringing her into the fold).
Super Star Wars did what a lot of movie-video games tend to do and wasn’t an exact replication of its source material. Obviously, A New Hope is filled with a lot of dialogue, and that isn’t always wanted when people play a video game. Super Star Wars primarily leaves any story material to the occasional cutscene. In place of those scenes are run and gun action platforming. A great example is in the very beginning when Luke goes to get R2-D2 and C3-PO from the Jawas. Fans will remember that pivotal moment filled with Luke and Uncle Owen negotiating price and the red astromech droid breaking down, prompting our hero to get R2. Super Star Wars however told this scene much differently. In this version, Luke fights his way inside the sandcrawler, shooting murderous Jawas and flipping his way through conveyor belts. There’s a boss at the end too that must be defeated so R2 and 3-PO are rescued. Right after that is a speeder level where your vehicle can actually destroy things.
Anyone who is a fan of games like Contra would definitely feel at home with Super Star Wars. The gameplay was so similar, the only major difference was the obvious Star Wars branding. True to form, the blaster upgrades you get make fighting various enemies so much easier, and you lose it all when your character is killed. Difficulty is also a shared quality. No matter how good you are at these games, there’s no hiding the fact that Super Star Wars is a massive challenge. Enemies come at you from all different directions, controls could get a little messy, and your heroes are extremely vulnerable. People should only play this game if they’re really looking for a challenge. Otherwise you could end with frustration at your inability to get past level one.
There are a lot of reasons why Super Star Wars was such an appealing game for me. First off, I love the Star Wars brand, so anything with that name instantly gets attention. Even if a game is really terrible, I think, “Well it’s Star Wars. Must be at least somewhat fun.” Fortunately that reasoning wasn’t necessary here. Secondly, the game was on the Super Nintendo, which is one of the best systems ever produced. The SNES occupied the middle ground where graphics were right on the cusp of 3D but weren’t quite there yet. This meant that a lot of these games were gorgeous looking, highly detailed sprite adventures. Super Star Wars was no exception. Lastly, it was just fun! Something special happens when you can play a slightly different version of an already classic character. This gun-toting, enemy destroying Luke Skywalker definitely has an appeal. As far as I’m concerned, all of this makes up for the fact that I could never get very far.
Already already hinted at before, Super Star Wars extended well beyond its New Hope material. It grew into a trilogy that covered both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. All featured similar gameplay but the final game is considered to be of lesser quality. Only Super Star Wars is available in the North American PlayStation Store right now, but with the franchise rapidly growing in strength, the others are sure to follow with a wider release. It would be really cool if Disney commissioned more Star Wars games in this style too. Retro styled releases are on the rise, especially when you look at successful new hits like Shovel Knight. A “super” version of The Force Awakens could actually be pretty cool, and would fit perfectly as an app game. Someone make this happen!
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.