The internet is quickly becoming one giant repository of lists of youtube videos followed by idiotic comment boards, all linked through various social bookmarking sites (with their own idiotic comment boards). Thus, in the span of one day, you can read a full twenty lists of the “Worst Video Games Based on Movies,” or “Best Video Games Based on Movies,” or “Worst Video Games Based On Movies Based on Video Games” (I can think of only one, but can YOU think of any others? I am pointing at my computer screen right now, because that is where I imagine YOU are!). Well, in each of those lists you’re going to find the same games ranging from Goldeneye to E.T. However, these lists tend to be pretty western-centric, while, as you do know, there are other continents full of crap-ass video games waiting to be played. In fact, over the last few weeks I have played and fully documented a game that never stumbled across the Pacific Ocean, a game that is so wonderful, it partially convinced me that the movie that it is based on was actually quite different in Japan than the one we know and love in America: Star Wars, made by Namco in 1987 for the Famicom.
Everyone has seen Star Wars. Everyone. If you are that one person claiming that you’ve never seen Star Wars then YES I heard you and I believe you, but that does not make you special. YOU ARE NOT too cool for Star Wars. Nobody is too cool for Star Wars. Seriously. Well, Lucasarts has pooped out many, many stupid Star Wars themed games over the history of the franchise, and the earliest games to appear on the NES were made by JVC, and released in the early 90s. In 1991, they made Star Wars for the NES, and then a year later made The Empire Strikes Back, and Super Star Wars, a remake of the original, but now on the SNES. These were followed by Super Empire Strikes Back and, because everything on the SNES had to have “Super” in the title, Super Return of the Jedi. You may have played some of these games. You may have enjoyed them. They tended to follow the plot of the movies they were based on, but added some platforming elements and vehicular stuff.
Well, in Japan, way back in 1987, Namco, who by this point had made Dig Dug, Galaga, and Pac-Man for the NES, released their own version of Star Wars. It is also a platformer, with some vehicular portions. It however, is way better. I recently played through a fan translation of the game, and I am in shock. See, I know the plot to Star Wars. It’s about how a lonely nerd, with the help of a sarcastic asshole and some gay robots can blow up a poorly-constructed space station. This game is sort of about that. In this article, I am going to walk you, the reader, through the plot of Namco Star Wars, filling in the little holes with what I can only assume are the details of the plot from the Japanese version of the film that only Namco was able to see. It is a story about love, deception, and scorpions. And it begins high above Tattooine…
We fade in on a familiar title screen, and a now-classic text that slowly fills the screen, moving upward. It tells us about a period of civil war, and a rebellion striking back against blah blah blah, etc, etc etc. This, it turns out, does not have any bearing whatsoever on the events that the player is about to witness. As the text finishes with that famous title-crawl-ellipses, in scrolls a >paragraph of delightful copyright information about Lucasfilm and Namco. Then, we move down and see a Rebel Blockade Runner being chased by a looming Star Destroyer, the desert planet of Tattooine in the background. What is the meaning of this chase? What could the empire want with this blockade runner? It doesn’t matter!
We abruptly cut to Luke Skywalker next to an adorable R2-D2, who sends out a hologram of a beautiful princess prostrate on her knees, begging Luke to save her and her friends, who were taken by the Empire. The transmission cuts out, and Luke Skywalker jumps to his feet, dyes his hair black, and picks up his trusty light saber. While this is happening, I would assume, some mischevious Jawas kidnap R2! Luke heads out into the desert to find the droid, light saber at the ready.
(As you can see, the plot is now departing from anything that you may know as Star Wars. It will not make any more sense after this.)
Luke, light saber blazing, kills any creature between him and the Jawa’s sand crawler. He takes down wamp rats. He vaporizesSand People. He kills a bird for good measure. When he finally reaches the Jawa’s slow moving machine and enters, he knows that something is amiss after he kills a lone Storm Trooper standing sentry. What is a Storm Trooper doing guarding this droid? he thinks, as he ascends a ladder searching for his friend.
This next scene is one of the pivotal scenes in both the game, and I would assume, the film. In the next room, Luke can sense, is his droid friend R2. But, blocking his path is a new and terrifying figure, Darth Vader. Luke is speechless at seeing the Dark Lord of the Sith in the back room of a Sand Crawler on his backwards-assed planet. Darth Vader, with a wheeze, speaks.
“I AM SCORPIAN VADER. YOUR FRIEND IS HERE!”
Before Luke can react, Vader’s lightsaber glows white and he attacks. Luke parries, and goes in for a strike, when suddenly, astonishingly, Luke discovers what Vader’s words truly meant! Darth Vader transforms into a giant Scorpian, with red glowing eyes! The scorpion Vader attacks, moving back and forth in the small room. Luke and the Scorpion trade blows, but it is Luke who comes away victorious, claiming his giant force diamond in the process. The door opens, where R2 and some Jawas are held behind a glimmering force field that only descends when Luke swings his saber.
“BLIP BEEP. [THANK YOU FOR RESCUING ME]” says the polite robot. Luke smiles, and, friend in tow, leaves the sand crawler, using a glowing orb to manifest his landspeeder, which zooms across the desert, vaporizing a whole bunch of storm troopers who were too foolish to get out of the way. Also, the landspeeder can jump, I guess. His destination? Mos Eisley spaceport. Why? Because, of course, that’s where his beloved ship, the Millenium Falcon is, and as he settles into the pilot seat and leaves the near-empty spaceport, he grits his teeth in determination. But where to first? Who should Luke save? Luke gets an urgent signal, and a face he’s never seen, but somehow knows, materalizes.
“LUKE, I AM OBI-WAN. I’M BEING HELD ON KESSEL. HELP!” What a hurried introduction! Luke had heard of a Ben Kenobi…but…could this be? He guns the hyperdrive, destination Kessel. Before you can say “twelve parsecs,” he’s there, but wait! TIE Fighters! Luke glances down at the deflector shield. He only has power for three bursts of shield! Determined, he takes to the guns, slowly picking off the advancing TIE Fighters one by one. Boom! Explosion! Deflector Shield Noise! Luke got ’em! He got ’em! Luke gets all cocky, and nobody is around to warn him not to.
The Falcon descends to the surface of Kessel, a green and mountainous planet.
Kessel is not for the weak of heart, and Luke climbs vines and makes dangerous leaps from crag to crag. The planet has a vaguely Egyptian theme, but since this is a galaxy far, far away, Luke of course has no idea. As he gets near the top, a glowing orb allows him to use a blaster, which he uses to defeat various Storm Troopers that stand around towering Pharoah statues. He moves into a temple that is very, very much Egyptian themed, scrawled with hieroglyphs. Inside, after crossing spike pits, ducking flames, and even shooting a few floating robots, Luke climbs up into the topmost room. A large bust of King Tut hangs on the wall. Out of the shadows steps…Darth Vader!
“I AM GYAOS VADER. HE IS IN THE BASEMENT.”
Luke is so glad that Vader has given him this information, but doesn’t even have time to smile before he is set upon by Darth Vader. Again, when Luke’s saber touches Darth, the latter is transformed into a…giant skeleton pterodactyl(!). It flies around the room, and it is not even very scary, as Luke finds out when he crouches and is unable to be hurt by the creature at all. A few well placed saber slashes, and down goes the pterodactyl. Luke breathes a sigh of relief, and then ambles back down to the basement. When he finally reaches the force field, he sees an old man standing there calmly.
“IM INDEBTED TO YOU FOR RESCUING ME. I WILL BE HERE TO HELP YOU.” says the old man, taking Luke’s hands in his…and I guess causing his hair to become blond for a few seconds. Luke wonders to himself if Obi-Wan means “here,” as in “here by your side, always,” or “here,” as in “inside the basement of a vaguely Egyptian temple.” He ponders this as he touches a landspeeder orb and mows through some more local wildlife. Behind him, a trooper in a red landspeeder shoots blaster bolts, but Luke dodges them nimbly. At the end, he enters a cave and pilots the Millenium Falcon into orbit. Now where to? He says, and of course, because this is how these sorts of things go, he receives a message from a glowing golden head, who politely says:
“IT’S C-3PO. I’M BEING HELD ON ISCALON. COME SAVE ME!”
Luke throws his hands in the air and says, to nobody in particular. “Jesus fucking Christ, you lazy fucks are so goddamn needy. I haven’t even ever heard of Iscalon, and I fucking edit Wookiepedia. For fuck’s sake!” He turns on the hyperdrive towards where he assumes is Iscalon. After the jump, he gazes upon an ocean planet. Again, TIE fighters rush to meet him, and again, he defeats them, now just kind of annoyed. He lands on one of the only dry patches on the surface of the planet and looks out over the endless sea. “Wait, so I have to go swimming for this stupid ass robot?” he wonders. “Fuck.” Luke puts on his scuba gear, pulls his light saber out, and dives into the waters of Iscalon.
Ok, so this part is kind of slow. Luke kills a bunch of fish underwater with his light saber, and the U.S. Capital building is down there, too. When he gets to a deep cave at the bottom of the ocean, of course, there’s Darth Vader, who doesn’t have to swim, and mumbles something about being “KRADOS VADER“. He turns into some sort of pink robot shark, and Luke and him fight for a while. If it weren’t for the fact that we’ve seen this transformation before twice, this would be pretty scary shit, because it’s a shark! But seriously, it’s kind of boring at this point. Luke wins, and swims into the next room, where 3PO waits. He meets up with his best pal R2, says his thanks, and does a little dance. Luke gets into the Millenium Falcon, which is underwater at this point, and they fly by the capital building on their way off the planet.
Luke sits down in the pilots seat, still dripping wet from his fight with the pink shark, and the annoying communicator blinks on, showing a familiar female face.
“THIS IS LEIA. VADER IS HERE. COME SAVE ME!”
Luke sighs. “Are they paying by the letter? Is this some sort of space-telegraph? She didn’t even tell me where to go. Christ! Also, something tells me that’s not the real Vader, but a Bear Vader or a Donkey Vader.” He turns on the hyperdrive towards the Death Star, which he probably learned about from the opening crawl. When they arrive, as you could probably guess, there are TIE Fighters, and they are quickly dispatched. It is easy at this point. Luke lands inside the giant armored space station, and then gets out, standing in the middle of the docking bay with a chip on his shoulder. “This had better not be some sort of dumb maze.”
It turns out, it is. And there are spikes everywhere. And these huge pits, and robots that shoot crap, and Luke is having none of this shit. He kills fucking EVERYTHING. He finally finds the detention block, and, light saber in hand, he opens the first detention cell. Empty. He opens the second, expecting to see the fair haired Leia. Instead, there stands the notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett! Boba Fett? Boba Fett? Where? Here, apparently! In the Death Star! Luke destroys him with a well placed light saber chop. “That was close,” he thinks, opening the third door. Inside stands the notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett! And an extra-life! “Seriously?” Luke says, killing the green-clad hunter for the second time in like forty seconds. He collects the one up, shakes his head, and enters the fourth door.
It’s Leia! And she, probably showing solidarity, has dyed her hair black too. She is reclining on a bench, but she jumps up and embraces our young hero.
Luke leaves, and is assaulted by wave after wave of storm troopers. He cuts open a garbage duct and jumps down into a trash compactor, where two creepy eyes burst out of the disgusting purple trash. Snicker snack goes the light saber, and then the walls start to push in, just like in the real movie! Luke looks around for a flimsy tube he could possibly use to prop the doors open, but there is nothing. He pulls out his communicator and shouts for R2, who responds quickly. This does not allow Luke to screech out his trademark and completely annoying “THREEPIO? THREEPIO? WHERE COULD HE BEEE?” After a BLIP BLEEP, the door springs open, letting Luke out into the Death Star again.
Luke heads up, knowing that if the exit to his ship is anywhere, it’s probably up, which is the harder direction to travel in video games. He defeats floating orbs and angry storm troopers. He climbs one final ladder, and opens a door into the docking bay where the Millenium Falcon is. Of course, there is Darth Vader, who is in a kind of dick mood.
“LUKE, YOU’VE DONE WELL TO COME THIS FAR.”
He lights up a red saber, and attacks. Luke dodges and swings, bracing himself for the inevitable transformation. No dice! This fucker is invincible! HaHA! Luke freaks the shit out, thinking that maybe before he faced the real Vader he should have at least met Yoda or fought himself inside of a magic cave. Nope, instead, he has to fight this invincible asshole. Oh ho! Luke, you crafty rogue. In the midst of battle, he gets on the com and radios to Obi-Wan, who calmly responds “LUKE, USE THE FORCE“. Suddenly, Luke starts landing blows, actually doing damage to the powerful Sith Lord. With a poof, Darth Vader is vanquished! Luke has defeated the great Darth Vader! The movie should be over! He climbs into the Millenium Falcon and flies into space, settling in for a well-deserved nap. His communictor glows with life. A hairy beast glowers at him.
Who is the hairy beast? Will Luke ever meet Han Solo? Is Darth Vader really dead? What the fuck hell is going on? Click here for the second part of this epic new tale in the Star Wars Universe!