May the 4th be with you! Yes, it's Star Wars day and, after that thoroughly disappointing Blu-ray publicity crash-and-burn that had thousands being directed to the X-Men First Class trailer, it's time to stop whining about the unremarkable news and start reminiscing about what made us love the series in the first place. Tom already put together a Star Wars top ten last year, but with the nature of such lists being all subjective and whatnot, I figured it might be a good idea to pick out five of the forgotten gems from the past couple of decades and highlight a handful of Star Wars games that could use a re-release or a reboot.
Honourable Mention - Star Wars: Rebel Assault
Nintendo seem to have adopted a recent strategy of bringing previously uncool things back into fashion (augmented reality games, fitness titles), and the Wii provided a new lease of life for the rail-shooter genre. Some were still relatively unassuming (Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles), others provided a fresh take on existing franchises (House of the Dead: Overkill, Dead Space: Extraction). Under these circumstances, one might have expected and anticipated a return for Rebel Assault.
...though unfortunately the first game was woeful.
Star Wars: Rebellion
I know what you're thinking. A large chunk of you will think I've gone mad choosing this over Galactic Battlegrounds, but that's where you're wrong. I love that game, it's the only one that does ground combat at all well, but that's not really the point. Rebellion wins out here just because there are very few games like it around these days. In many ways it's akin to the tactical, diplomatic parts of the Total War series - the Football Manager to Galactic Battleground's Sensible Soccer. It's strategy writ large, echoing the gameplay of Master of Orion more than any of its strategically-minded namesakes.
As an RTS fan I like mixing it up on a more hands-on level, but Rebellion provided something different, something rather more tactical. Instead of single units, you amassed fleets. Instead of taking over bases, you took over sectors. Instead of building construction yards (well, you could pretty much still do that), you could build a Death Star. And a fully operational one at that. it deserves a reboot, or at least a re-release. GOG, I'm looking at you. pretty please?
Star Wars: Battlefront
I think we can all agree that although Pandemic never made killer apps, they never delivered a game that wasn't fun. Sure Battlefront was a bit patchy in places, but it was also an absolute riot, and its sequel was even better, adding in Hero units. The single campaign mode - Rise of the Empire - was a lot of fun, taking a more focused narrative approach and telling the story of a veteran Imperial stormtrooper who served in the 501st legion, codenamed Vader's Fist. Let us not forget, too, the Risk-flavoured Galactic Conquest mode, throwing a bit of tactical gameplay into the mix , before letting you blast ten tonnes of poo out of your opposition in the traditional fashion
But the sheer number of ways to do that was what really made the series. Taking a leaf out the Battlefield series, there were vehicles to jump into, turrets to man and checkpoints to conquer. And space battles. Awesome space battles. Admittedly the AI was still as thick as two short planks, but after you got involved in the multiplayer side of things - and pitting Heroes against Villains was never anything less than hilarious - you didn't really care. As with every Pandemic game, it had it's little quirks and foibles, but when you were having that much fun, who gave a monkey's left nut?!
I don't understand why there have been no sequels to the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series. It's utterly incomprehensible. As with Full Throttle and Grim Fandango, it's almost as if LucasArts are actually afraid of making a good game these days. So afraid, that they're completely unwilling to revisit their golden age of all encompassing brilliance to make a quick buck. Rogue Squadron was good...but it had nothing on this series. Nothing!
X-Wing kicked things off, but talk to nybody in the know and they'll point you in the direction of TIE Fighter. Flight dialogues and message logs, ship status windows, a 3D HUD and improved flight handling and texturing, it was a massive step up from the first game. Plus, playing as the baddies, getting an engrossing spin on a narrative we fans know and love, was utterly fantastic. Space sims - and especially space flight sims - are few in number, so when a good one comes along surely it's the industry's duty to keep it alive. We have the technology! We do it for significantly worse franchises! Do the right thing LucasArts!!
Jedi Knight III: Jedi Academy
Forget The Force Unleashed and its wet fart of a sequel, the Jedi Knight series had lightsaber combat and Force powers locked down way before Starkiller and his floozy showed up on the scene. Not only that, but ascerbic stormtrooper-turned-smuggler Kyle Katarn was a far more interesting character than the shaven-headed Sithling.
The third game in the series (fourth if you count the vastly underrated Dark Forces) let you do your own thing and, most importantly, let you craft your own lightsaber. Finally, the thing we'd been waiting to do since we first laid eyes on Darth Maul in the Phantom Menace was within our grasp, and it was fantastic. The series just provided a far more robust, solid and entertaining Jedi package than any other title has done before or since, and that is why it needs to return. We're done with pretenders. Let's have the real thing back again please.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer
You see, there was more than one good thing that came out of The Phantom Menace! I absolutely loved Racer, and I know I'm not the only one. The courses were well laid out, aggressive racing really counted for something, and there was a really well-implemented system of upgrading your stable with parts, pods, wrecks and junk, not to mention those useful little buggers, the Pit Droids.
It wins extra bonus points for the arcade version - for featuring a proper, life size, sculpted pod - and for being probably the only game where you could plough the annoying little bastard that was Anakin Skywalker into a rock time and time again.
Got a favourite Star Wars game? Let us know what it is and why you love it in the comments box below!