Monday, November 26, 2012

32 BBY: Starfighter

The story of my experience with Star Wars: Starfighter began with a trip to my basement.  It took me nearly an hour, but I managed to find my old joystick – a Logitech Extreme 3D Pro I purchased back in 2004.  The reason I bought it was so that I could play Jump to Light Speed, the latest expansion of Star Wars Galaxies.  I had delusions of grandeur.  I was going to be the best star pilot in the galaxy, and hunt-down and destroy the Jedi Knights in my VT-49 Decimator (which I still think is one of the coolest ships in the Star Wars universe).  In those days I played Iscariot Salsarian – an evil bounty hunter and killer of the Jedi. 
After digging up my joystick I sat down at my computer and headed to, where I purchased the game.  5 bucks through PayPal later, I was running missions with Essara on Naboo.

15 minutes later I was lying on my couch with a gravol in my stomach.  I felt sick.  The motion of the flight simulator threw off my equilibrium.  Motion sickness has always been a weakness of mine.
What was worse, I felt old.

I didn’t return to the game for another two days.  I didn’t want to repeat my initial experience.  I eventually sucked it up and tried again, this time with more success.  I got through the first mission without getting motion sickness and called it an evening there.  From there on I was ok.
As I played through the game what surprised me the most was the amount of story present; though, with that being said, at the start I found the shift in story sometimes confusing.  Moving from a starfighter pilot, to Vana Sage, to Nym discombobulated me, and I found myself asking the question ‘Why am I now Nym fighting the Trade Federation?’  I eventually clued in as to why: The Trade Federation was producing droids on Lok, Nym’s planet hideout (at least that’s what I think was going on), and the pirate was none-to-happy.

There was a lot of good voice acting in this game.  The most enjoyable work was done by Charles Rocket who played Nym.  There was also a great sub-plot between Vana Sage and Nym – a sub-plot that is mentioned in Single Cell from Star Wars Tales volume 2. On that note, it was nice to come across Nym again.  As I said in my write-up on Single Cell, Nym has always been a character I’ve been interested in ever since coming across him in my old Star Wars Galaxies days. 
Digressing for just a second so I can harp on an idea I’ve already talked a lot about in this blog, here is yet another example if intertexuality, in this case Single Cell, a comic short written in March of 2001 making reference to the Starfighter video game which was released in February of 2001.  Recalling the Star Wars EU of the early 2000’s Nym was a character that was more active and present on the periphery of Star Wars mythology than he is now circa 2012.  He was a character who frequently appeared across mediums.  He seems to have been forgotten by most enthusiasts.  I guess Hondo Ohnaka is our pirate of choice these days.     

Moving on, the game itself was fun to play, and I always get a greater sense of accomplishment when I finish a video game than when I finish a book.  I guess because I finish video games so rarely I still find it a novelty.  As it is, I’m not really a big fan of flight simulators in that I won’t go out of my way to play one, but this is the second flight simulator I’ve played.  This game took me some time to get used to.  The controls were hyper sensitive and the game I downloaded from steam didn’t allow me to adjust the flight controls. There was no ability to adjust the game, so I just had to make-do.
As for the game itself, there were 15 levels of fun, my favorite mission being level 11, where Rhys, Nym, Vana, and Reti enter Naboo space to drop off supplies and begin to take on the Trade Federation.  It reminded me of Hylo Viz and the coming together of hired mercenaries to destroy the Mandalorian blockade circa 3600 BBY.

But what I enjoyed most about this game was not the game itself; rather, the feeling of depth I felt when playing it.  As is a hallmark of the Star Wars mythos, in any given story there are always many other tales occurring “off-stage” from the main action.  The main action in this case was the events of The Phantom Menace, and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s rescue of the Queen and their return to fight the Trade Federation.  What I love about the Star Wars EU is knowing that when this was occurring, there was also a space battle raging up overhead lead by a motley crew of ace pilots, along with another group of heroes fighting the Trade Federation on the ground outside the city limits of Theed.  Here I’m referring to the RPG sources Battle for Theed and Signal Interruption.   In The Battle of Theed Deel, Arani, Sia-Lan, and Rorworr fight some battle droids in the city’s limits while in Signal Interruption some other un-named heroes were battling the Trade Federation on the grassy plains.
Notably, we’ve come full circle to one of the most boring sources I’ve read so far in the Star Wars Chronology Project: The Starfighter Trap.  It seems that Steve Miller’s story was the precursor to the events found in this game, and brought back in to the Star Wars EU the character of Essara Till – a truly forgettable protagonist. 

I hope to post at least once a week until the end of the year.  I’ve been up to my eyeballs in marking since mid-September, and there does not to be any cessation of work on the horizon.  I keep assigning things and the students keep handing them in.  I’m in the middle of The Merchant of Venice right now, and there is plenty of work attached to it.  To keep me honest I’ve posted the following on my desk, where it’ll stare at me every morning:
“No matter how busy you are, one day a week you must work on the SWCP.  Remember your goal!”

Let’s see if it works.
For my next post I’ll be offering up my reactions to The Battle for Naboo video game.  Let me tell you, it was a pain-in-the-ass to get up and running on my laptop.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

32 BBY: Galactic Battlegrounds Mission #2 & #3.4-3.7

Galactic Battlegrounds Mission 2 and Missions 3.4-3.7 I now affectionately call “The Epic Adventures of OOM-9” and “The Revenge of Boss Nass”.

Galactic Battlegrounds is a game I’ve enjoyed going back to.  Although I’m not very good at RTS games, it is still a game that is fun to play.  One my favorite posts in the Star Wars Chronology Project was my first write-up on this game, where I argued that what was actually occurring fit the definition of an Epic.  You can read what I mean by this here.  This is the third time I’ve engaged with this game and I have yet to get tired of it.
However, I have to admit, this time around I found the game more challenging.  I’m not sure why, but mission 2.6 (I think) where I had to take Theed and build the monument I failed twice.  It also took a lot longer for me to get through these missions.  Again, I’m not sure why; but it took me three weeks to play through them.

As it is, in mission 2, “The Epic Adventures of OOM-9”, continuity was twisted in mission 5 with Maul being present at the invasion of Theed.  Still, it was neat controlling Maul and watching his double-bladed lightsaber cut down some Gungans.
The most interesting aspect of Mission 2 was mission 2.7 – a simulation of what might have happened if Anakin had not destroyed the droid control ship.  Interestingly, in this scenario, Maul has killed Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and has been sent by Sidious into the field of battle to assist the droids.

Most of mission 3, “The Revenge of Boss Nass” works as an undoing of what you completed in mission 2 as the Trade Federation.
Mission 3.4 takes place after Theed has been subdued by the Trade Federation and the Gungans have been run out of their homes.  I liked the way Boss Nass opened the narration of this vignette: “Three thousand rolls of the globe” he says, picking up his narrative after the War of the Gungan Tribes. 

In this scenario the Gungans are fighting their way to the “sacred place”, as it’s mostly a story about the Gungans offering resistance to the Trade Federation’s occupation.  It’s the start of their preparations for the large counter attack heralded by the Queen’s arrival. The voice acting of the Queen, Qui-Gon, and Anakin was neat as well.
Mission 3.5 is neat in that as the Gungans you work to take down the monument you spent so much time building as the Trade Federation.

Finally, mission 3.7 contained a great echoing of the earlier battle droid mission.  In mission 2 when the droid army  enters Theed there is a voice-over saying something like “The Trade Federation has entered Theed!”.  In mission 3.7, when the Gungans enter Theed there is a battle droid voice-over exclaiming “The Gungan army has entered Theed”.  It reminded me of when something similar is echoed in the original trilogy.  In The Empire Strikes Back, when the Imperials enter Echo Station there is a voice exclaiming over the PA “Imperial troops have entered the base”. This refrain is later repeated in Return of the Jedi when the Imperials on Endor declare “Rebel troops have entered the base!”.
Amusing stuff indeed.

The big news of course is Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise.  I think ultimately this is a good thing – I hope.  It’s hard not to fear for the continuity of this universe however.  The Star Wars universe is a different creature than the Marvel universe, or the Bond universe, or the Conan the Barbarian universe, or the Indiana Jones universe where continuity can be pushed aside to make a good comic cross-over series, or make a good movie.  In the Marvel universe I get the sense (and I could very well be wrong) that making sure there is an overarching mythology that makes sense and follows a unified chronological procession is secondary to whatever story is being told at the moment.  With the Bond universe and the Conan universe and the Indiana Jones universe we have less of a mythology, and something more akin to Legend.  When we watch Bond, or Conan, or Indy, their movie adventures can take place almost  whenever because their adventures are so self-contained – the idea of a larger fictional narrative existing outside of what we’re watching is almost non-existent.   Admittedly, when it comes to Star Wars there is NIMBYism a-plenty.  But I fear that approaching the Star Wars universe with the same brush of these other universes may undermine what fans have come to love, and alienate not just the older 40 plus crowd of the original trilogies (again), but the 20 under crowd who have grown reading all the books and comics.
Everything remains to be seen.  But I believe that Disney can not only make a better Star Wars film than George Lucas himself, but can and will be sensitive to the continuity of the Star Wars mythology that has been woven over these last 3 decades.

For my next post I’m going to offer my reactions to the video game Starfighter.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.