There are plenty of candidates for the greatest Star Wars video game ever made. Perhaps Battlefront II, Knights of the Old Republic or The Force Unleashed are high on the list. Or even Empire At War. Maybe Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga deserves a mention. Not for me. The video game that I will hold up as my favourite will always be the 1991 NES game, simply titled Star Wars.
Firstly, it had a badass trailer. Your mum almost got killed by Darth Vader? Who cares? Because video games.
Secondly, it’s one of the toughest games out there. If you manage to get hold of the game, you’ll immediately see why. The controls aren’t necessarily frustrating, but the sheer length of the game, limited continues and the fact you have to do it all in one sitting (yes, in 1991 nobody had invented a way to save a game) all stack up to make it a tough ask.
The goals of the initial part of the game are fairly simple. Take Luke around Tatooine, retrieve R2-D2 from the Sandcrawler, find Obi-Wan Kenobi in a (really annoying dripping) cave, collect Han Solo from the Mos Eisley cantina (with beautifully recreated 8-bit audio), all whilst collecting shields for the Millennium Falcon. These tasks can be done in any order you wish, though I always found it easier to get Obi-Wan first. Then you take the Millennium Falcon for a spin towards the Death Star. Once inside, you destroy the tractor beam generator, rescue Leia, then destroy the Death Star itself.
Sounds simple, but don’t forget that in 1991 anyone wanting to make a sidescroller game really hard would just throw in more near-impossible jumps and flood the screen with enemies and harmful projectiles.
There’s a great walkthrough of the game here by Heroes of Xanadu – Sloth. Watching it brings back a lot of fond memories. If you want to know just how tricky it got, look at the video around the 26 minute mark.
I’m not saying it’s the best Star Wars game ever. I mean, it doesn’t even allow you to have a dance off with the Emperor. But it was technically advanced for its time and was mesmerizing as my seven-year-old self. I’ve never been as gripped by a Star Wars game as I was for this one.
In researching this article I’m astonished to discover that there was a sequel to this game, again with the simple title of The Empire Strikes Back. I’m not surprised this wasn’t big news for me. I remember the game cost £60 when it was released. That’s a whopping £121 in today’s money! Thanks mum.
Find it, play it, cry.