What games Lucasarts should be making

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posted 8/26/2008 by Sean Colleli
other articles by Sean Colleli
One Page Platforms:
Wii Lightsaber game
Developer: Lucasarts, in-house
Platform: Wii
The next big media project from Lucasfilm is The Force Unleashed. This thing is a marketing phalanx, ranging from action figures to comics, with the focal point being a new platform-spanning game. Lucasfilm does this sort of thing every few years; it started with Shadows of the Empire in the late 90s (remember that N64 classic, kids?) and more recently the Clone Wars.

However, the game hasn’t been the focal point of these marketing pushes until now. With Force Unleashed, it’s like George Lucas finally realized that video games make him money, so he’s putting all of Lucasfilm behind the game and shoehorning its story into the Star Wars canon. Even ILM and Skywalker Sound are working on it. Lucasarts is taking a page out of Microsoft’s book, and plugging Force Unleashed the Halo 3 way.

And you know what? I’m still not sold. Sure it’s coming to all consoles, but the Wii port was announced (and most likely started development) much later than the other ports. I’m guessing Lucasarts came to the panicked realization that the Wii was profitable, and they had better put a Star Wars game on it NOW. Krome Studios got the job of porting down the cumbersome project to the Wii and PS2. The Wii build is probably a fiddled-with port of the PS2 version, with some motion controls thrown in. I know Krome is doing their best to make the Wii port worthwhile, by adding in multiplayer and a handful of extra levels, but it still won’t be using the high-powered physics engines of the 360 and PS3 builds, and the whole thing looks understandably rushed.
Besides that, I don’t like the general theme of the game: “kicking a guy’s ass with the Force.” The main character is a shadowy apprentice of Darth Vader, who just isn’t that interesting to me. The whole thing smacks of macho overindulgence, and the kind of sensory overload media blitz that made me sick of Halo 3 before it was even released. I wouldn’t be surprised if they market Midichlorian-infused Mountain Dew with the game.

Krome is also hard at work on Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels, a Wii and DS exclusive based on the new movie. Superficially this game seems to be exactly what I want, but from gameplay descriptions, it sounds a like a fighting game and that’s about it. I’m excited to see what they do with the art style and I’m glad it’s being developed exclusively for Wii, but it’s probably running on the Force Unleashed engine. I’m also tired of the prequels and the Clone Wars—they’ve done that to death, let’s get back to Luke Skywalker’s time period.


Lucasarts can do better than Lightsaber waggle and rehashed prequel stories. They could give us something completely out of left field, designed to take advantage of the Wii hardware the way Medal of Honor Heroes 2 did.

A real Jedi game, one that takes the Force at least a little bit seriously, would do the old Dark Forces series justice. The Force, light or dark, has never been about simply kicking ass. It’s a commitment, and I want a game that makes it feel that way. KOTOR had a great Star Wars morality play, but it was an RPG. Can Lucasarts do the same thing in an action game? The Wii, despite its puny graphical capacity, has the perfect interface for such a game.
A keystroke, button press or mouse click can not convey the visceral, personal nature of the Force. With the Wii remote, I could convince stormtroopers they weren’t looking for my droids with a wave of my fingers. I could send enemies flying by casting my left hand forward, or tear weapons from their grip with a reverse motion. I could throw skittering electricity from my fingertips by stabbing my hand forward. And I could bend the environment to my whim with a gesture.

Imagine grabbing a stormtrooper with the Wii remote, force-choking him by squeezing the A and B buttons, then bashing him around with simple hand movements. Even better, you could humiliate a Jedi opponent with flying debris, in the tradition of Darth Vader. But that power shouldn’t be taken lightly--snapping necks with a gesture shouldn’t be done with the same reckless abandon as energy-swording a Brute in Halo 3. Succumbing to the Dark Side should be a difficult choice, the kind of hard decision we’ve seen in KOTOR. If you don’t cater to the 13 year old lowest common denominator, you can make a Jedi game where the awesome power of the Force is at the player’s fingertips, but inextricably linked to character depth and development; that’s what made KOTOR so beloved.

And what about the lightsaber? Just about every Star Wars nerd thought “lightsaber” when they saw the Wii remote. The little speaker on the thing could even emit a humming sound. The saber control in Force Unleashed is supposedly very precise, but it’s still pure waggle. Up until a month ago, I thought a real Lightsaber game would be impossible on the Wii because of the motion control limitations, but Nintendo’s new Wii MotionPlus accessory could do away with waggle. Lucasarts should be leading the charge, using that new gadget to recreate the Force. We’ve already seen the latent potential in Nintendo’s Wii Sports Resort, which has a sword fighting minigame.

The jury is still out on The Force Unleashed, and I should reserve judgment until I can play it. Maybe it’ll be incredible across all platforms, even on the Wii. We’ll find out in a month, and I admit it’s growing on me, but the prequels have taught me to never get my hopes up when it comes to Star Wars. Even if the Wii port shocks and amazes me, I’ll still want an original Jedi game for the Wii. Despite being a dumping ground for minigames and kiddie titles, Wii deserves its own Star Wars game, built from the ground up, just because of the Jedi potential in that weird little controller.


Conclusion
I like Star Wars. I like Star Wars games. There are literally millions of other people who feel the same way. But these people, these diehard fans, like a variety of games. Lucasarts is taking a big risk, sacking dozens of their employees and pouring all of their resources into a single project. Force Unleashed will make them a lot of money, no doubt, but what do they do after that? Sequel the life out of their new franchise?
I miss the old Lucasarts, the company that explored numerous facets of the Star Wars universe with a wide spectrum of unique Star Wars games. This multi-front approach did give us bad games like Force Commander and Super Bombad Racing, but we also got Rogue Squadron and Battlefront out of it.

There is a sprawling, rich continuity to explore in the Expanded Universe, hundreds of novels and comics and short stories to choose from. That’s basically where KOTOR came from, but what about a Thrawn Trilogy game? Or one that follows the storied career of Corran Horn? Can we at least have another Kyle Katarn game? This source material has been around for years, and I’m amazed nobody’s made a game out of it yet.

These ideas are just my opinions, and for the most part I want Lucasarts to make sequels to games that deserve them. But what do you think? I’m sure we have some Star Wars fans reading Gaming Nexus, so post your ideas for games in the comments section.




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