STAR WARS / Namco / NES
 
 
 
Is it weird that I kinda like this game? I think it could have saved itself a critical beating just by calling itself SD Star Wars, marketing itself as a cutesy parody-ish take similar to SD Splatterhouse and SD Snatcher. If you look at it that way, it's at least a little more enjoyable. Maybe it's just an overreaction after having just played the unplayably difficult Super Empire Strikes Back, I dunno.
 
 


So the game roughly follows the story of Episode IV, but with more than a few creative liberties taken. Luke starts out immediately with the lightsaber, races off to the Sandcrawler to rescue R2 from some adorable Jawas ... then faces off with Darth Vader in a duel inside? Except when you hit Darth once, he reveals himself to be some sort of scorpion monster in disguise. This turns out to be  a running theme, as you'll fight Darth multiple times only to have his disguise pop off and a weird monster (who is usually much tougher) come after you instead.
 
 


I was sad to see that the game skips Mos Eisley Cantina, that could have been brilliant in this setting. Instead, right after the Sandcrawler escapade, you're off on the Millenium Falcon to ... ancient Egypt? The planet of the snake cult from Conan? Hard to say. En route you have to shoot down a few TIE Fighters in a first-person style similar to Star Voyager, which was disappointingly short as it seemed kinda fun.



Once at the temple, things take a slightly non-linear bent. You can explore a few different passages, one of which leads to another faux-Vader boss battle and another to the captured Obi-Wan. The rest of the game is going to various planets to rescue each of the supporting characters, like Chewie and C-3P0, one of which actually ends up being an underwater complete with Luke in scuba gear and battle against Shark Vader (not a joke, this actually happens). I didn't make it this far myself, but apparently the game winds up with a platformer level on the Death Star followed by a recreation of the trench run as a 2D sh'mup that comes out of absolutely nowhere.





The platformer gameplay is kinda like Monster Party meets Mega Man. The former when you've only got the lightsaber, the latter once you pick up a blaster (usually hidden in some random rock you have to hack apart in each level). You gradually accumulate Jedi powers, accessed from a menu by pressing the Select button and fueled by all the crystals you pick up from dead enemies and terrain you can hack. Some of these are neat, and are actually needed to get through portions of the level, like the ability to float for a short time.



Accompanied by some actually pretty good chiptunes renditions of the John Williams score, I actually thought this could be fun at times, but I understand why other sites have totally trashed it. It's a one-hit-and-you-die game, and while most of it is manageable, there's a few sequences where the deaths feel cheap. Save scumming with an emulator helps, but some of the boss battles are almost as irritating as those in the SNES games.The Stormtroopers are also actually deadly with a rifle in this one, most of the time they just blunder around stupidly but some will randomly pop off a quick shot either high or low at you in Rolling Thunder style that's tough to avoid.

Oh, and there's no password or continue feature either -- burn up your lives and it's all the way back to level 1-1. So I don't feel it's worth more than a 2/5, though it is oddly charming.
 
 
                             A tender reunion
 
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