Luke, Master Jedi

Star Wars (1987 Famicom Game)

I don't think expects video games adaptations on movies to be all that accurate. The various modes of storytelling that work well in movies, such as long scenes of dialogue spiked by quick bursts of action, don't tend to work as well in video games. Sure, cut scenes are more prevalent now, and plot is important, but players really want to get into the action and enjoy the experience. They don't want to sit around for hours watching the characters talk.

This has led to a long stream of video game adaptations that only take a loose attitude to the films they're tied into. You had the Scarface game that started at the end of the movie and acted like the main character didn't die. There was the Fight Club title that focused only on the fighting and, for some reason, included Fred Durst. There was The Matrix: The Path of Neo, approved by the creators of the films, which changed the ending of the third movie because it didn't make sense to end a game with the hero dying. Video games are just like that.

Still, even among these titles some special award has to be given to Namco's Famicom interpretation of the original Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same. trilogy adaptation. This game looks like it's playing with the story of the original film, Star Wars, but then wanders further and further afield until it feels less like an adaptation and more like a fever dream cooked up by designer Wan Wan and programmer Yoshihiro Kishimoto after they read the barest story treatment of the films. When people poke fun at foreign interpretations of American films because of all the weird changes they make, this game is a perfect example. It's just on Bollywood number away from peak perfection.

The film starts with Luke on Tatooine, forced to chase after R2-D2 after Jawas steal the robot. Already trained up as a Jedi, clearly, Luke goes in hot pursuit, swinging away at sand creatures, sand people, and stormtroopers with his lightsaber, all before being forced to climb into the Jawa Sandcarrier to get his droid. Inside he come up against Darth Vader who, after a single hit, turns into a giant scorpion for the true boss fight. I mean, we all remember this whole sequence from the original film, right? It's so iconic it's been referenced time and again throughout the series. Darth Scorpion is my spirit animal.

From here Luke then has to venture from one planet to the next, with visits to places like Hoth, Kessel, and Yavin-IV, saving C3P0, Obi Wan, Leia, Chewie, and Han, all before heading back to the Death Star for a run at the trench. Defeat the Death Star and you save the day, with a hearty round of medals and the championship song. The perfect way to look back on the whole of the trilogy and revisit all your favorite scenes. My favorite is the time Luke has to go swim in a ocean world to defeat Darth Vader. A real classic.

So yes, it's a very loose interpretation. Frankly I hated it at the start because of its inaccuracies, but then the designers kept putting more and more ridiculous stuff into the game to the point where it all managed to cross the line a second time and go back to being fun. It's stupid, for sure, and it hardly resembles a proper Star Wars game by any measure, but it does try ever so hard to give you the trippiest acid experience while still vaguely resembling the original trilogy. Points are awarded for that, for sure.

I also appreciated that the game included multiple play modes within its single package. The movies are about more than just blasting away with sabers and guns so, to reflect that, the game has more than just platforming sections. At the end of the each stage Luke will hop into the Millennium Falcon and go for a ride through space, force to battle TIE-Fighters before reaching the next planet. This helps to break up the experience and keep things lively. Then the end of the game gives us a recreation of the trench run, with a third new game mode, and it feels fast and action packed. It's not accurate at all but it is lively.

And as stupid as it is to have Luke with all his Force powers already, it is fun using them to get through levels. He can Force speed, Force fly, rain down Force lightning, and more. And, in certain levels, he can find a blaster which is just as strong as the saber but has solid range. Yes, it's a little weird that the blaster is the better weapon, but considering all the other dumb stuff in this game, that's a minor quibble. All of this together does make Luke stupid powerful, assuming you can live long enough in the levels to revel in his power.

With that being said, the game is deeply flawed, and that's due to the challenge. This game is hard (especially on the upper difficulty levels), clearly designed to hit peak "Nintendo Hard", and it does that and more. Luke has no health bar (nor do any of the ships he flies in the game) so if you take a hit (from an enemy, a projectile, or a trap) you die, back to the last checkpoint. On top of that you only get three lives for most of the run (nine during the trench run) and two continues (assuming you have the Jedi points to use them). This game is meant to be played over and over again, getting through it by inches instead of whole stages. It's pretty annoying, and I have no doubt plenty of Japanese kids threw down their controllers in disgust over this game.

And though the game is composed by Hiroyuki Kawada you'd be hard pressed to say they did a good job. The main Star Wars theme is used in every single stage, and it's the only song you're going to get barring a theme for boss fights, on in the trench run, and the ending celebration theme. That's a good 40 minutes (at least, assuming you can get through the game in one try) of the same song on a loop. It's obnoxious, to say the least, and you end up wishing they could have made any other song in the cart to alternate in.

I would call the 1987 Famicom Star Wars a good effort. It doesn't feel like a cheap cash in, with plenty of stages and a few different game modes baked in. Certainly it feels like the designers cared, they just missed the mark in a number of ways. With that being said, if you can get into the game and not get destroyed by the challenge, there is something endearingly goofy about the whole experience. It's not a great game by any measure but it does have an amusing bit of heart to it all the same.