Modern cinema… you will never find a more wretched hive of superhero films and unnecessary remakes

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Super Star Wars (1993)

It’s strange for me to admit, as a man who loves films, but I don’t bother with the cinema anymore. I’ve only been to the cinema three times in the last four years, and that was to see three Star Wars films, Episodes 7, 8 and 9. That’s the God’s honest. It’s not even the cost associated with going either – yes, I’m a tight sod and I’d even pick up copper coins if I dropped them on the ground, but a tenner or fifteen quid for a cinema ticket is fine. I don’t tend to go in for the truck container of popcorn or the vat of Coca-Cola either, which cuts costs bigly.

No, the thing that stops me from going to the cinema is that sitting in a darkened room watching a screen for a couple of hours will just send me to sleep. Also, the last time I burst open a tinny during the film some of the parents looked at me funny. That happened to me while going to see Toy Story 3, so I wasn’t going to repeat that for Toy Story 4. 

But here’s the thing: the spectacle of the cinema is mostly gone. There’s nothing that grabs your face and blows your face’s socks off anymore, because everything can be faked via computer trickery, or perhaps we’ve seen it all before by now. Who remembers anything about Avatar? Apart from it heralding the start of yet another gimmicky 3D fad, there was nothing to savour after those lengthy three hours, and I doubt that its four upcoming sequels will do a better job there either. Before that, what were the last films to stun us with their visual effects? Jurassic Park and Terminator 2, I suppose, and definitely not Flash Gordon. No, the great debt here belongs to Star Wars.

But sorry, must give it the proper title these days. Episode IV, New Hope, Threepio’s Revenge, all that cobblers. And can’t forget the numerous Special Editions and Neckbeard Editions. It’s not even who shot first anymore, it’s how many stupid bells and whistles they can cram into the Han and Greedo scene, before one of them finally gets written out of the scene altogether and the whole thing becomes a visual metaphor for the impotent frustration of bounty hunter life.

Back to my laboured point – getting wowed by the cinema. If there’s one thing to get envious of the baby boomers about, apart from their ability to buy and maintain a single-income house, it’s that they were the very first to witness that overhead Star Destroyer scene from the intro to Star Wars, a sequence so mesmerising that you could have mistaken it for real life.

The scene just keeps going and going, like your jaw’s journey to the floor, and if that doesn’t grab your attention then I don’t know what will. Sometimes people ask the question of TV series, books or games, “how long does it take to get into it?” And in some cases the answer is ridiculous, “it gets good in season 3” or some rubbish like that, as if you could actually spare 40 hours to get that far.

But I can confidently say that if the now infinitely parodied title crawl with its blaring fanfare, followed by that Star Destroyer shot filling the room, if that doesn’t get you enthused about Star Wars and what the series might hold then you may as well call it a night there and then. You’ll save yourself nine films and a whole lot more comic books, cartoons, games, novelisations and fanfics besides.

Star Wars IV as a cinematic experience… it really does seem a long, long time ago and all that, from a former life even. A life before you could tippex out some of the rougher parts of your 3D modelwork with CGI, and a point in the series way before dramatic lightsaber clashes were interspersed with dreadful effects and high grounds. 

Maybe The Empire Strikes Back is an objectively better film, but A New Hope has always been my favourite of the saga. It’s the one that walks the line most finely between campiness and drama, between cringey and funny dialogue. It introduces the major characters, including Darth Vader and Peter Cushing as the delectable Tarkin, and it’s got some proper 70s hair.

Of course, being that it’s among the most iconic sci-fi films of all times, it was almost obliged to lend itself to video games. And for my money the best of those is Super Star Wars, a game released – wait for it – on Super Nintendo. Even a juggernaut franchise like Star Wars wasn’t immune to the SNES’s ‘Super’ naming conventions, you know. And I’ll tell you this, you’d probably have a better chance at manning an X-Wing yourself and making that Death Star photon torpedo shot for real than you’d have at beating this game.

It wouldn’t be so bad if you had a save file, or even passwords, but I’m afraid there’s none of those in this star system, sunshine. Suffer too many deaths to blind jumps, insta-kill lava, or tough as nails bosses and the Cantina Band shall be playing your funeral march. That’s what makes this game a bloody tough cookie, even though it seems to be Super Empire Strikes Back that’s generally considered the toughest of the trilogy. You needn’t go all incredulous like Luke always does and whine “what a piece of junk” at your SNES controller either, because bizarrely the game was adapted for PS4, with leaderboards don’t you know, so you can have a shot at it with some hi-tech machinery.

Some of the levels give you a character select option, which is nifty, and since Luke quickly acquires the lightsaber you’d think he’d be the man to go for. And indeed, as you jump and spin your lightsaber in a fashion all too reminiscent of Yoda’s ridiculous acrobatics in the prequels, you’ll think you’ve backed the right man. But really, the lightsaber has deceptively small range, probably because Luke’s sprite just swings it wildly inches away from his face, so you’ll probably just end up getting a barracking off the enemies. A lack of Jedi training, I suppose. That’s what I’d be like as well, if all my birthday wishes came true and I was gifted a lightsaber – it’d be great fun for 20 seconds, before I’d slice my arm clean off. HERE

No, this is a game where the blaster reigns supreme, and you can upgrade it to the fifth tier of laser destruction, but if you die once you lose all your powerups. This can absolutely happen at a part or a boss where you really need that extra firepower, and if the lightsaber doesn’t cut it from there, you could well be gooshed. You can pick Luke, for an alternate weapon, Han for his coolness, and Chewie who has higher health although he presents a bigger target and you’ve also got to endure his annoying growl sound effect over and over.

But oh, the sound effects and music are on point here as well. Sometimes you play a licensed game and the composers and sound designers just do what they want. The producers might not have even paid full whack to use the movie scores. But it all sounds great here, particularly the blasters and the TIE fighters. There aren’t a massive amount of music scores in the game, but hearing John Williams in 16-bit is the business, believe me. Play it loud in stereo if you can.

And actually, if you’ve got the means and you don’t mind things becoming pixellated beyond all recognition, why not try playing the game on a cinema screen? This game may take a few libbos, and it’s balls hard, but it’d be a far better watch than whatever nonsense the Disney+ version has added.

14 April 2020

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