Monday 26 January 2015

Star Wars Review (NES)

A candidate for one of the best 8-bit Star Wars games, the title received warm reviews at the time of its release. The main drawback of the cartridge was its amazing retail price of fifty pounds, something that severely limited its appeal. A few years on now, we reflect and asks was it worth the money?

Licensed games were extremely popular and like so many releases of this period Star Wars was a platform-based title. However, it managed to avoid the shortcomings of rival releases by including a few tricks up its sleeve. Apart from platforming action Star Wars featured flying segments and speeder sections (from a top down perspective), that added some much needed variety. Furthermore, three characters were available for selection: Luke, Han Solo and the Princess. Also tagging along were Obi Wan and R2 D2, making the basis of the game sound.

Starting off you must search Luke's home planet for caves to explore, in doing so you will find shields for the Millennium Falcon, Extra lives, your Light Sabre, R2 D2 (who has been captured by the Jowas), and Obi Wan himself. Once all these things have been gathered it is off to find Han Solo and to head off into space. After a mild Asteroid storm the Death Star traps you. Here more platform sections come in where you can use R2 to download a map and generally shoot and jump around a lot. Once you eventually find your way out of the space station (rescuing the princess on the way), all that is left is the Death Star trench run and then it's all over.

Graphically, the game is small but almost perfectly formed and it is to the developers credit that characters are easily distinguishable as their film counterparts. Enemies are varied on the whole with Storm Troopers, Sand People, Jowas and even Bobo Fete making an appearance. Each area is lavishly coloured and the backgrounds harness a surprising level of detail at times. Furthermore, the twin curse of the NES (slowdown and flickering) never dare rear their ugly faces - making it all the more enjoyable.

As for gameplay this mainly platform title is polished and playable. As expected from the 8-bit era, precision jumping is high on the agenda and this is the only frustrating aspect of the game. Towards the end there is an unhealthy reliance on pixel perfect jumps in order to proceed. The three characters offer enough variety amongst them to make it each worthwhile. Luke is a good all-round character who has a decent gun and can call upon the light sabre to dish out large amounts of damage. Han carries a very powerful blaster and the lovely Princess can for some reason jump great distances.

Each character is well suited to exclusive sections of the game and if you do not utilise all three (on an ongoing basis) then you will not be able to progress through certain areas. Meanwhile the game itself plays exceptionally well, with characters able to turn in mid air and being highly responsive - allowing you to run, jump and twist in the air before landing in a ducking position to fire at the guy you just leaped over.

Star Wars is still an enjoyable game and in its time it was one of the best video games based on a films in an era of mindless platform licensed rubbish. Decent graphics, excellent controls and a well-judged learning curve delivered a fun adventure with only the occasional hint of frustration. Even then, the difficult sections made you all the more determined to succeed. So in conclusion a rewarding title (for those who could afford it at the time) and a worthwhile addition to any retro collection, but a must have purchase for all Star Wars fans.

Overall 8/10

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