Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Review

Super Empire

Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (more commonly referred to as Super Empire Strikes Back) is the second entry in the SNES’ Super Star Wars trilogy. Being the video game adaptation of the most critically-praised Star Wars film, Super Empire probably comes with the most expectations of the lot. And while it does bring a few cool additions to the table, it still suffers from some of its predecessor’s shortcomings.

Gameplay-wise, Super Empire follows the same basic formula as the first Super Star Wars. It’s still a tough-as-nails action-platformer that sees Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca fighting hordes of enemies and giant bosses in levels that faithfully recreate events from the movie. But Super Empire Strikes Back does add a bit more variety to the gameplay.

While the 2D platforming stages make up the brunt of the levels, others work as horizontal shooters, and some even take on a quasi-3D perspective (the efforts being admirable for 16-bit hardware, though age has only made the graphical limitations more unpleasant to the eyes in these 3D stages). Even the traditional platforming stages have more variety, with even the first level seeing Luke mounting a Tauntaun for greater speed and jump distance.

Simply put, Super Empire Strikes Back finds ways to keep the action fresh as the game progresses, with players also able to find hidden Force spells for Luke and weapon upgrades for Han and Chewy.

The action is as fun as ever, with the Han and Chewbacca stages being satisfying for simply being able to blast everything non-stop, while Luke’s stages featuring trickier platforming and combat (though the fact that Luke starts the game out with his Lightsaber this time means he can use his ever-useful double jump attack from the get-go).

On the downside, Super Empire Strikes Back, like its predecessor, is not a game for everyone for the simple reason that it is insanely difficult. Once again, there’s no learning curve to speak of, with the earliest levels immediately throwing swarms of enemies at the player (including dreadful Wumpa Ice Beasts, which can freeze Luke with their ice breath, leaving him vulnerable to an onslaught of attacks for an overly-long period of time). You can still pick up hearts from enemies, but like the last game, the enemies are so frequent and respawn so suddenly that it hardly makes a difference.

The thermal detonator is just as disappointing of an item as it was in the last game. It has the ability to wipe out every on-screen enemy once it’s picked up, but it still has a small window of time to be used, not to mention most of the enemies it destroys will respawn seconds later, making it almost pointless.

Super EmpireThe boss fights can also be a pain. Many of the bosses provide a good, fun challenge, with a notable improvement in consistency with the first few boss fights in this game as opposed to the first few bosses in Super Star Wars. Others, however, are just ridiculously difficult. One stage sees Luke ascending an AT-AT, with the AT-AT’s head being the boss fight of the stage, complete with three canons that fire ion lasers relentlessly. Supposedly, you’re supposed to deflect the ion lasers back at the canons, but that’s incredibly hard to do when jetpacking Stormtroopers are constantly raining fire down on you as well. The only way I managed to defeat this boss was because I happened to get lucky and one Stormtrooper dropped a Thermal Detonator, making this just about the only time said item really came in handy.

What’s most aggravating about the difficulty, however, are the more unfair aspects of the levels. One blind jump in a platformer is one too many, but Super Empire Strikes Back houses a good few of them on the first stage alone. There are just too many instances where it’s unclear what you can jump on and what you can’t, and too many areas where you can’t see where you’re leaping to. It makes an already difficult game downright frustrating.

To make matters worse, you only have so many lives to start with, and only three continues. If you run out of these, you have to go back to the beginning of the game! Thankfully, Super Empire features a password system, which makes progression more bearable.

Still, there is fun to be had with Super Empire Strikes Back. The action is fun a lot of the time, the graphics are very detailed and quite impressive for the time. The synthesized version of Empire’s iconic score is another highlight, with the title screen’s version of the Imperial March giving you a sense of the game’s faithfulness to its source material right out the gate.

It’s just that, for everything Super Empire Strikes Back gets right, it still suffers from the alienating difficulty of the first title. Star Wars diehards who are up for a heavy challenge may feel welcome to Super Empire, but everyone else might get fed up with it quickly.




Super Star Wars Review

Super Star Wars

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.

Super Star WarsMost 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.