Handheld Chronicles #3-Star Wars

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in your dental hygiene cabinet, Rob!) then chances are you’re fully aware that this holiday season the long awaited next entry in the Star Wars movie franchise will be arriving. You may also want to know before continuing that your scribe is NOT a huge Star Wars fan. I know this may make reading the rest of this article a bit difficult, perhaps put a bad taste in your mouth, like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth for the 4th time this morning (See Peter, these Rob Luther jokes practically write themselves!)

Take off, hoser..but before you go, you made sure that's not from concentrate, right?
Take off, hoser..but before you go, you made sure that’s not from concentrate, right?

In all honesty I loved the original Star Wars films as a kid, and I still watch those 3 films in their original form from time to time. However, the 3 prequels nearly killed my whole love for the franchise, as in my eyes it’s almost like watching the 3rd TMNT film (see atrocity) 3 times in a row for no reason other than you hate yourself and don’t value your soul at all.

Aaaand your soul is gone!

Regardless of whether or not you value your soul, I think it’s pretty safe to say that most Star Wars titles are hit or miss, but the question is, which category does this particular Star Wars fall into?

Sound: 8
I’ve always felt the greatest challenge in creating a Gameboy game would be getting the most out of the hardware, especially in the realm of audio, as like many handhelds of the time, the Gameboy had tiny, diminutive speakers that didn’t always pump out the best audio. While this is crucial in general, I feel it is of the greatest importance when trying to capture the feel of a film, and with something as iconic as Star Wars, this ups the ante ten fold, but luckily composers delivered the goods here. Your favorite Star Wars songs are there, but there are also original compositions that fit in well with the rest. The sound effects aren’t really anything too spectacular, but what’s there is good enough I feel. I do think, however, had a voice over, even a poorly done one, had been added, it would have given this game an even greater appreciation from diehard fans of the movie franchise. That being said, could the Gameboy have pulled that off? I mean, that would take quite a bit of power, don’t you think?

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“Chicken biscuit power, bay-bay. May-a The Force, a be with you, if you wills.”-Landon “Dusty Reebo” Long

Graphics: 7
While there’s not much to look at, what is here captures the game well enough on a smaller scale. While the “overworld map” style at the beginning seems bland, it makes way for caves and other areas to explore, as well as more expansive levels of shooting. It’s difficult to take a world like that in Star Wars and confine it carefully into something like the Nintendo Gameboy, without cutting so many corners that you are upsetting your target demographic. While obviously there are far more graphically complex and in depth Star Wars titles, what was achieved here is nothing short of impressive. The key facets of the movie are presented here quite nicely, albeit in the compact sense, and they are done so that while average overall are still good enough that you know what you’re looking at, you know you’re playing a Star Wars game and while that’s not much in the sense of bells and whistles, it is obviously what is most necessary. Some games based on movies haven’t been quite as fortunate.

Here we are, worried about how there’s no flying cars or hoverboards and yet we still haven’t addressed how Doc and Marty allowed THIS to happen.

Gameplay: 8
The strongest and most consistent portion of this game is the variety of gameplay available, from flying around, shooting at enemies, as well as your standard action platform play. While some gamers might be thrown off and disgusted by the lack of save battery or even password in this game, the difficulty offers enough of a challenge to make you feel you’ve achieved something. In addition, this game also has secrets and objectives necessary to finish the game, or at least make the feat that much easier. Two examples are securing shields for your fighter as well as obtaining R2D2 for when you challenge the mighty Death Star. If you just skim through this game, just doing the minimum and not exploring, you’ll miss out on these little things and thus jeopardize the entire experience of the game, especially finishing it, of course. This is a game that can be finished in a few hours, but still, you must make the time to explore to truly appreciate what developers were trying to do here.

Overall: 7
By far this is not the most complete Star Wars title in gaming history. It is, however, one of the better handheld offerings of the movie franchise that’s available, which is saying something since so much technology has come and gone since the original Gameboy debuted in 1989. I think this is largely due to the fact that developers of this title kept things simple, and sometimes that’s all you need to do, instead of getting in over your head and trying to cram as much stuff in as possible.

What do you mean? I made a good living doing that. I almost died, but still.

I’d definitely recommend Star Wars on the Gameboy, even if you’re not a huge fan of the movies, just on the sheer variety of gameplay and the little things that we don’t always see in later handheld titles from the same movie license. The Force may not be at its full power in this one, but it’s certainly strong enough for you to enjoy.

I’ve done a few Gameboy games thus far, so it’s only fair I hop over to the Game Gear and a look at Aladdin!

Until then, keep on travelin’, handheld in the car like the good old days!

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