I was never the biggest Star Wars kid growing up. Hell, even today I’m not the most ardent fan. I’ve grown to appreciate the franchise over the years, namely after purchasing the original trilogy VHS set off eBay in the late ’90s. I had a childhood friend who was OBSESSED with Star Wars. My brother and I used to sleep over at his place all the time in the early ’90s, and one of my fondest memories is watching him play through Super Star Wars. That stunning intro with that iconic score blasting through in stereo sound is entrenched in my soul. I can’t tell you the number of nights I spent watching this opening intro in sheer awe and never growing tired of it. My friend let me play the game here and there but I never got past the second or third level. I recently sat down to finally play this game seriously. Not only did it scratch a childhood itch, it took me right back to my friend’s living room circa late 1992. All those lazy Saturday nights spent watching him save the universe, at last it was my turn. My turn to be the Jedi master. Or try to be, anyway. But I digress. Let us take a galactic stroll down memory lane.
40 YEARS… GOD DAMN, MAN
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope. 40 gawd damn years. Who knew what an impact Star Wars would have when it was released back on May 25, 1977? What can I say about this film that hasn’t already been said a million times before? It just hits all the right notes. It had the classic underdog protagonist, Luke Skywalker (what a name). An absolutely iconic villain (Darth Vader), a charming rebel (Han Solo), a gorgeous female lead (Princess Leia) and several different themes running throughout. It was lightning in a bottle.
IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY…
Sculptured Software, the developer, got no love in the intro.
Presentation was on point. But the best is yet to come…
INSTANT GALACTIC GOOSEBUMPS.
Wouldn’t be Star Wars without the classic text crawl.
Intros became more popular and common place during the 16-bit era. Sure, they were extremely simple in many cases but that’s also why I like them so much. There’s a charm to their simplicity. Super Star Wars easily has one of the more memorable intros on the SNES, thanks in large part to its epic music.
Nostalgic feels! Talk about bringing back memories! The Sea Dune is one of the most memorable first levels in SNES history.
Starting out with a standard blaster, Luke can upgrade his firepower several times over. Beware of the sand worms.
Showing off his new flame gun, Luke’s in for a giant surprise as the terrible, hideous Sarlacc Pit Monster nearly swallows him whole for lunch!
Sarlacc Pit Monster is such an unforgettable first boss. Probably the very first thing that comes to mind when I think of Super Star Wars. It perfectly sets the stage (no pun intended).
Cutscenes occasionally appear after clearing a stage, moving the plot forward.
Admittedly this hasn’t aged terribly well, but back in late 1992 it was quite the sight.
Destroy all 12 Jawas to free R2-D2. Then head for the Sandcrawler.
Outside the Sandcrawler, Luke must penetrate the defenses and power his way in. Tell me that second shot doesn’t scream Metal Slug…
Jumping on ledges of varying sizes is the meat of this level. Some of the jumps can be a little tricky as some ledges are a bit small and the control isn’t as tight as say a Super Mario World. Eliminate those annoying Jawas before they can attack you right off a ledge. Pretty soon you’ll upgrade to the Seeker gun.
LIGHT SABER?! Relax, that will come later. That light saber icon increases your health bar a bit but oddly only for that level. Each level it resets back to the norm. This stage ends by simply dropping into a hatch. No boss fight. Boo.
Inside the Sandcrawler we go. Run to avoid becoming a human s’more.
Skywalker looks over his shoulder only to spot a Jawa coming his way with ill intentions. Instead of turning around and shooting the Jawa, Luke fires straight ahead at the wall in front of him. The Rapid Ion shot bounces off walls and can take enemies out in unconventional ways. Sick.
There’s no switching of guns, though. Once you upgrade your shot, that’s the only gun you have. Dying sadly drops you back to the very first gun, rather than a step down (how unforgiving). The Plasma shot is the most potent.
Sliding through tight spots never felt so good.
Massive mechanical monstrosities and strange creatures await.
Shades of Contra III: The Alien Wars eh? Speaking of shades, is it just me or does the Hydra boss from Shinobi III remind anyone else a bit of Lava Beast Jawenko?
Defeat Jawenko and rescue R2-D2.
Another cutscene ensues [Boy, nothing gets by you -Ed.]
Attention to detail 101! Love the way Luke struggles to free himself from that sticky goo. More Jawas to kill. Watch out for those crumbling ledges.
Sandwiched between a sand worm and a Tusken Raider. Gee, where’s Beetlejuice when ya need him?
Tricky bit, this is. It’s a long way down…
Gifted with the light saber, shit just got real.
Everyone at some point has imagined what it would be like to wield a light saber. Super Star Wars lets you experience it about halfway through. Better late than never! Besides, by the time it’s available, it really feels special.
Banthas die in this dramatic, explosive fashion. Quirky.
Wonder where all those little womp rats come from? Say hello to the mother.
Another vehicle section breaks up the action. Make your way to Mos Eisley. This is where you encounter your first Storm Trooper. Almost brings a tear to my eye. Arguably the most iconic cannon fodder in history. Foot Soldiers and Putties have nothing on these guys!
There’s something really satisfying about slicing a Storm Trooper with your light saber. Especially when you’re jumping. I love how those blocks split up when damaged. Mos Eisley is home to some deadly plant life. Avoid stepping in them.
Chewbacca joins the fray! Let’s give the big wookie a shot…
Chewie’s turn to shine. It’s an old fashioned barroom brawl at the Cantina! Creepy images and enemies abound. I remember being a little spooked whenever my childhood friend made it this far and I sat in the back looking on…
Kalhar is a hulking mess. Watch out for its long neck and limbs.
Everyone’s favorite rebel, Han Solo, crashes the party!
Escaping from the Cantina, there’s a bounty on your head so you better hightail it fast. But being Han Solo, you know no such thing…
Differences between the three playable characters? Chewie is the strongest (his default health bar is the longest). Han Solo has a longer rolling slide than Luke Skywalker. But only Luke can wield the light saber. It’s a small price to pay however to be the coolest rebel this side of the galaxy on your SNES.
Maybe a little TOO cool, though. That’s the last time they get me…
Massive mechanical monstrosities abound.
Consider yourself an excellent gamer if you make it this far without cheating.
Those giant tie fighters fly by and clip our hero. There are quite a few moments in this game where damage is pretty much unavoidable. A little annoying but thankfully there are plenty of heart refills. Ah, nothing warms my heart more than seeing a couple dumb Storm Troopers rushing into the scene.
Nothing beats blasting them to oblivion… except seeing them fall through those pits on their own volition!
Death Star Hangar Bay is a simple but fun little stage. An Imperial Defense Droid greets you at the end. It’s reminiscent of the ED-209 from RoboCop fame.
Switch off to the light saber to make this even more challenging!
Damnit, Luke! Yeah, I’m talking to you! Way to cut it close…
Spider robots can be a pain. Damn, the Storm Troopers are tall in this game.
Detention Guard Boss is no match for a true Jedi. Congratulations on rescuing Princess Leia, but the battle is far from over.
Blasting Storm Troopers left and right makes me happy.
Deactivate the Tractor Beam. Shades of Elevator Action a bit…
Switch over to the light saber and take it out like a real G!
Darth Vader’s token cameo. Maybe he’ll appear more in the sequel…
Death Star — you’re going down!
Gratuitous Mode-7? Check.
Before you can tackle the Death Star head on, you must first obliterate 20 tie fighters and 20 towers.
November 1992. This looked absolutely stunning back then. Some images are just burned into your core. Watching my childhood friend play this over and over is something I still vividly recall… even nearly 25 years later.
Super Star Wars was the first SNES game to combine side-scrolling action with first and third person sequences. Props for the innovation!
Foreshadowing at its finest…
Sculptured Software followed up Super Star Wars with Super Empire Strikes Back (October 1993) and Super Return of the Jedi (October 1994). If I’m not mistaken, Star Wars holds the distinct honor of being the only film trilogy to make it onto the same console in three separate games. Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures doesn’t count since the three Indy films are jammed into one game. As of this writing I have yet to thoroughly play through Super Empire Strikes Back or Super Return of the Jedi. It’s said that they’re even better than Super Star Wars, thanks to more refined gameplay, more playable characters and a much welcomed password feature.
FAITHFUL TO THE FILM
Presentation of Super Star Wars, from the opening text crawl to something as little as the very font itself, is extremely faithful to the film that was released 40 years ago today. Sure, a few of the enemies and bosses were added in but thank goodness — it sure would get boring battling just Jawas, Tusken Raiders and Storm Troopers. Some minor plot points were also tweaked, but it’s forgivable. Overall, Super Star Wars nicely captures the spirit and essence of the 1977 film.
USE THE FORCE (OF CHEATING)
Super Star Wars has a reputation of being one of the toughest SNES games ever crafted. Enemies come at you with relentless hunger. Many attacks are seemingly unavoidable. There are around 15 levels and no save or password feature. The game does become easier when you power up your gun to the max, but as soon as you die you’re back to using the initial gun. Power-ups are somewhat rare so you’re kind of screwed if you die. You’re almost better off starting back from the beginning. To top it all off, the jumping feels a bit rigid. It’s not impossible to beat, but I definitely recommend playing this on Easy. Thankfully, Sculptured Software was so kind as to provide several cheats. Among these include a debug menu, invincibility, a level skip and even a cheat that allows you to begin the game with Luke’s light saber.
- Debug Menu: Press A, A, A, A, X, B, B, B, B, Y, X, X, X, X, A, Y, Y, Y, Y, B at the title screen. During game, press L+R on controller 2.
- Stage Skip: Press A, A, A, A, X, B, B, B, B, Y, X, X, X, X, A, Y, Y, Y, Y, B at the title screen. During game, press START on controller 2.
- Light Saber: At the title screen, press Y, Y, X, X, A, B, X, and A.
Even the cheats were hard!
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The critics loved Super Star Wars. EGM gave it ratings of 9, 9, 9 and 9. Super Play scored it 89%. It was a smash hit success when it came out in November 1992. Many considered it as the first truly playable Star Wars game that held true to the vision of the iconic film. From the theme being perfectly replicated to flying the X-Wing in the trench, Super Star Wars knocked it out of the park. Producer and lead designer of Super Star Wars, Kalani Streicher, had some interesting comments to share. In an interview conducted with Retro Gamer Magazine, Kalani had these following remarks: “From the beginning I wanted to retell the story of the movies in an interactive fashion. I also knew, being a huge Star Wars geek myself, that I wanted to bring in elements that never were explained or expanded upon in the movies, especially areas or characters that were mentioned briefly in the films, such as fighting the Star Wars chess monster as a boss in the Cantina.”
Regarding the trilogy’s infamous difficulty, Kalani had this to say. “These were difficult games. We were aiming at the hardcore. Everybody was a hardcore player back then! I definitely could not deliver such difficult games today. In hindsight, I would reduce the enemy damage by 10-20 percent, make the player character able to absorb more damage, add more power-ups and improve level design.”
But overall, Kalani admits there isn’t much else he would change. “I’m very happy with how all three games in the SNES trilogy turned out. We did an incredible job getting this trilogy out back-to-back-to-back each Christmas. There are a couple of elements I wish we could have incorporated if we had more time, such as all the levels, characters and bosses we had to cut from the game — with each game we built more levels than we actually shipped. I’d also make the games a bit easier to play. I’m very fond of the Super Star Wars trilogy and very pleased with its popularity. They were my very first games and we had such fun designing and developing them.”
It’s hard to believe today marks 40 years since the first Star Wars film marched its way into theatres. May 25, 1977. Who would have ever thunk that it would go on to become the biggest grossing film franchise of all time? Many films come and go. Only a select special few manage to leave an indelible mark. Even fewer go on to become a mainstay in the very fabric of pop culture. Super Star Wars is a fine space action platforming blaster. It’s not without some flaws, but all in all it captures the spirit of the film and was a small landmark achievement back in the early ’90s. As difficult as the game may be, it’s still a blast traversing the landscapes of Tatooine both by foot and vehicle. I love all the little details like the way Luke Skywalker breaks the fourth wall to stare back at you. Or how the pieces of a shattered machine warhead can nick you for damage. Or how the blocks section off into tiny pieces when shot at. It’s a fully breathing universe that feels a bit lived in. It’s convincing and really puts you in the shoes of Luke, Han Solo or even Chewbacca. Well, if he had shoes. Look, you get the point. It’s not perfect but if you’re a fan of the franchise then you can’t help but appreciate the effort and authenticity.
Super Star Wars was the first SNES game to incorporate side-scrolling action with first and third person shooting sequences. It was tough as nails but thankfully playing on easy makes it somewhat manageable. If you’re really struggling though, you can enable a secret debug menu to make life a bit easier. The visuals were very good for its time, despite some drab looking deserts scattered throughout. The music was amazing. This is one of those games you want to crank the volume up for. Each track fits its stage perfectly, ranging from sweeping and epic (Land of the Banthas) to jazzy and toe tapping (Cantina). Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the near perfect rendition of the legendary Star Wars theme. The iconic John Williams score was masterfully handled by one, Paul Webb of Sculptured Software. The sound is also on point, from the guns to the enemy cries to the WHOOSH of the light saber. Explosions are glorious. It’s all part of an engrossing game that sucks you into its digital world and makes you forget for a second that you’re playing a video game. You really do feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of the Star Wars universe. Speaking of which, it’s a good game on its own but when you factor in it’s FREAKING STAR WARS, it’s something quite special.
All of this of course would be for naught if the gameplay didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Thankfully, while it may not cross over into the upper echelon of SNES action games, Super Star Wars delivers for the most part. On the downside, jumping can be a bit stiff. There is a fair bit of slowdown that occasionally plagues the action. And the boss battles don’t require much strategy. It’s just a case of firing away at them mindlessly for the most part. The game is generous with its heart refills but the constant barrage of oncoming enemy waves can quickly overwhelm to the point of undue frustration. It’s still very playable and enjoyable, particularly on the easy setting, but these factors prevent the game from receiving an even higher score. There are minor differences between Luke, Han and Chewie but there could have been a bit more differentiation. The good far outweighs the negatives, though. Old school hardcore gamers will welcome the challenge but less ardent players may find this game overly irritating. For what it is, especially for its time, Super Star Wars is easily one of the more memorable SNES games ever created. Not necessarily one of the best, although it is very good, but definitely one that sticks in your mind long after the dust settles.