Star Wars has probably fared better than any other movie franchise when it comes to making the transition into video games. Some of the more famous examples of Star Wars games were the Super Star Wars titles on the Super Nintendo, which encompassed the original film trilogy through a trilogy of games. Though the Super Star Wars series is beloved by many for its relative faithfulness to the films, the titles are also notorious for their insanely high difficulty level.
For the most part, Super Star Wars (based on the original 1977 film, now dubbed A New Hope) is a sidescroller, though some levels take on different gameplay styles (such as when you’re driving your speeder). Depending on the stage, players take control of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo or Chewbacca, each one boasting their distinct weapons.
Luke starts the game with a blaster, and eventually gains his lightsaber, while Han and Chewy get their own firearms to take out enemies. You can pick up power-ups to strengthen the blasters, but the effects go away if you die or when you move on to the next stage. Additionally, you can pick up Thermal Detonators to destroy every on-screen enemy, but it has to be used within a short time of picking it up, which takes away much of its usefulness.
Control-wise, the game works well enough. You just run and jump around the place, blasting hordes of enemies or slashing them with a lightsaber. There aren’t any complaints to be had with the setup or how the actions are executed, but the game becomes severely difficult due to the level design and enemies, which aren’t always on the fair side.
One of the main issues with Super Star Wars is that there’s no curve in the difficulty. From the very get-go, Luke is bombarded on Tatooine by Mynocks, Womp Rats and scorpians with little breathing room. You’ll constantly be firing your blaster in every direction, and even still you’ll be hit several times by enemies that just pop up in front of or behind you, which move faster than you can avoid them. Every defeated enemy drops a heart to refill a little bit of your health, but it doesn’t help too much when you’re very likely to get hit by more enemies seconds afterwards.
Most levels are capped off with a boss fight. The bosses are fun and appropriately epic, though they can seem a tad unfair at times. Even the first boss – the Sarlaac Pit monster (sans the unnecessary beak from the special editions) – seems to have a random and unpredictable pattern. A few times I was able to beat it relatively easily, as it popped out of the sand at a regular pace, giving it a pattern that I could figure out. But then other times it just seemed to pop out at random, sometimes right on top of me. This meant I would constantly take damage as long as it was close to me, and sometimes it just stayed on top of me, leaving me helpless to do anything about it depleting all of my health. Despite such complaints, the boss fights are ultimately fun, and ever-so satisfying when you finally manage to take them down.
The levels themselves are where the game gets unforgivingly difficult. There’s nothing wrong with difficult games, but sometimes, Super Star Wars can go a little overboard. Once again, the game immediately starts out quite difficult, but by the time you reach the third level (which is the Jawas’ Sandcrawler of all things), it gets absolutely insane. You’re constantly trying to get higher up on the Sandcrawler by running against the movements of conveyor belts, all while turrets shoot lasers at you and you’re being bombarded by more enemies. If anything knocks you down, you have to fight your way back up, and all the enemies respawn!
From there, the game only gets harder, with some elements – such as blind jumps and moments that force you to take damage to move forward – just feel unfair. Things get a little more tolerable once you get the lightsaber (at least as far as enemies are concerned), since Luke gains a jump attack that sees him swing the lightsaber 360 degrees, easily taking out enemies as a result. But the level design itself remains just as difficult. Sometimes it’s fun, other times it isn’t for the better.
In terms of aesthetics, the game looks great for its time. The characters and creatures of the Star Wars universe were faithfully recreated, and the sprites and environments are pretty detailed. Better still is the music, which recreates the iconic score of the film in 16-bit glory.
Super Star Wars remains a fun game for fans of the series who can tolerate its unforgiving nature. But its difficulty may drive some players – even diehard Star Wars fans – away. Super Star Wars was definitely one of the better Star Wars games of its day, but it isn’t for everyone. Those who can push through it may find it rewarding, though others may feel the frustration just isn’t worth it.