Five Things We Learned From Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

By Aaron Matteson in Five Things, Humor, Lists!
Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. Not pictured -- DASH RENDAR
The Star Wars universe, since the 1970's, has been teaching kids all sorts of life lessons through its appealing brand of spiritual spacefaring. The original films taught all viewers a litany of useful things. Here's just a few:

-- If you are playing a game with an unskilled but highly aggressive bear-man, the wisest course of action is to take an intentional loss

-- Reclusive, mysterious hermits are usually not only safe to approach and ask about your appliances, but are actually often just plain old magical

-- You can, if your mind is properly aligned, make somebody your puppet by waving your hand in front of their face and speaking in a calm, assured voice

And so many more!

It seems that each generation is treated to a host of new opportunities to experience the Star Wars magic. If you grew up in the 1970's or 80's, you had the films (not to mention the Life Day propaganda holiday special), but if you grew up in the 90's you had Star Wars collectible cards, Star Wars re-releases, and most vitally, a host of memorable Star Wars video games.

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire was an early example of the N64's console gaming capabilities. It also expanded this beloved franchise, and in so doing, allowed even more room for eager young minds to be influenced by the wisdom of the Jedis / the coolness of bounty hunters.

1.) Archetypes are archetypes.



Without Han Solo, Star Wars is just a bunch of sanctimonious dudes in robes with swoop cuts running around the universe saying Zen shit to each other before doing battle with fat worm guys or armor-suited lords of death. It's kind of cool, and yeah we'll still buy cheap replicas of those laser swords they have, but it lacks that zing that makes something go from neat to iconic.

Han Solo is a straight-up wild card. He makes the galaxy a little more interesting. He forces the other characters to laugh, to cry, to scream at God in Wookiee-speak. So the fact that Shadows of the Empire is set mainly during the period where Han Solo is encased in carbonite poses kind of a problem, I mean, who wants to play a Star Wars game without some kind of cocky, off-beat human element to give the thing some range-

Enter Dash Rendar, your player character! He's a rugged, sassy rogue with a blaster and a cool ship! And don't worry, he'll get out of your hair once Han is back!


2.) Unleash the beast.


Too awesome not to watch.

Early in the game, Dash Rendar is trapped in the rebel base on Hoth and has to fight waves of encroaching snowtroopers while attempting to re-activate the power. It's a dire situation, and Dash has to act extremely fast to save his own skin.

However the player can choose to suspend his or her suspension of disbelief for long enough to realize that while Dash is probably in a hurry to escape, he probably has a little time, at least, to do some social experiments on wampas.

The rebels have imprisoned several wampas, probably to test wookiee shampoo on or something. In any case, Dash can take a minute (or several minutes) out of his desperate rush for freedom to let the wampas out of their cages and watch them battle imperial forces, fight each other, just walk around, whatever. A possibility that entertaining, it doesn't matter what you're in the middle of -- you have to see where it leads.


3.) Even dead ends can be worthwhile.

Dash chases Boba Fett to the mountainous planet Gall and battles him man to man, jetpack to jetpack, eventually duking it out with his ship, Slave I.

Rendar fails to recapture Han Solo's frozen body. He is almost killed. He decides to pursue an entirely different avenue of investigation involving a big green crimelord guy. So was this whole part of the game kind of just a waste of time?




4.) A good story can be embellished...


If you play some John Williams over this we just might cry.

The foundation of Star Wars has so much of that universal flavor of fantasy and heroism to it that it's no wonder new generations flock to it just as their parents did. It's difficult to imagine a time when kids don't think of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker as some of their elementary symbols for evil and good, and it seems LucasArts has no intention of slowing down -- at least not on the video game end. Shadows of the Empire takes the franchise and extends its lore -- and why not? When a saga emerges that taps the imaginations of so many with such potency, that impact is worth tending to, worth sharing, worth preserving. And as long as we have space to imagine, we have space to add new battles, new adventures, new stories to this galaxy far, far away that we've come to love so dearly.


5.) ... to a point.


This might make us cry for different reasons.

Look, I mean, I know I literally just said that we should add new material, and that Star Wars can be a living, growing thing, but this is Obi-Wan riding a fucking giant lizard.  Okay, Star Wars can be a living, growing thing, but we can't make any more movies, alright?

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