After over thirty years of publishing and developing videogames, including the majority of ‘Star Wars’ games, LucasArts is in a holding pattern under Disney and may ultimately never release another big game. Let’s look back at some of the developer’s highlights.
First, the negative. It’s hard to discuss LucasArts without mentioning the company’s propensity for failing to deliver on its promises. I’ve written previously about the challenges of making licensed-based game titles, and LucasArts is a prime example. Sadly, one of few companies to fail in that regard even worse than LucasArts is Disney. For years, LucasArts made great games that had little to do with Lucasfilm properties, but that hasn’t been the case for some time. Even if Disney plans to hold up all ‘Star Wars’ related production until the next film gets underway, the company’s strategy at present is to abandon the AAA game market in favor of the toy-like ‘Disney Infinity’. It therefore seems likely that ‘Star Wars’ games, when they do return, will be strictly for the younglings.
Nevertheless, now it’s time to take fond look back at the good games that passed from LucasArts to players. This first part roughly covers the company’s history through the early 2000s.
The Adventure Games
I love adventure games, and LucasArts was responsible for a half dozen of the best, a legacy that currently lives on at Telltale. My pick here has to be ‘The Dig’ from 1995. It was an ambitious title that was difficult and annoying, both common pitfalls of the genre, but the game aspired to lofty heights and has therefore always been an odd little gem.
Star Wars on the SNES
While not my personal favorites, ‘Super Star Wars’ and its two Super Nintendo sequels are beloved for bringing ‘Star Wars’ to the SNES with a quality beyond pretty much all other side-scrolling movie adaptations of the era. Admittedly, that quality dropped with the third game.
X-Wing/Tie Fighter Series
Here again we have LucasArts acting as a steward for the ‘Star Wars’ franchise with great results. Unfortunately, the will to continue making new games within the X-Wing and Tie Fighter framework was short-lived. After the first two games, the urge to pump out a multiplayer-only sequel was too strong, and the series has never been reborn on new hardware. Still, from the Tie Fighter side, those games were the best.
Jedi Knight Series
Much like the ‘X-Wing’ games, the ‘Jedi Knight’ series reached a pinnacle with the second game, ‘Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II’. Unfortunately, despite having an excellent third game developed by Raven, LucasArts failed to maintain the strong story in ‘Jedi Academy’, and the series has been dormant ever since.
Shadows of the Empire
‘Shadows of the Empire’ is a tough game to cherish, since it tries to do so much gameplay-wise that stems from the early era of 3D console titles. Yet in many ways, the N64 tie-in is the prototype for many ‘Star Wars’ games to follow, because it was the console analog to what was happening on the PC side of ‘Star Wars in the late ’90s.
Rogue Squadron Series
Once again, an excellent ‘Star Wars’ game series struggled between trying to tell a new story and trying to get players into famous scenes from the movies. ‘Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader’ really scored on the GameCube with its ‘Star Fox’-like controls and top-notch production values. Nintendo and LucasArts had guided Factor 5 for two great titles, but the third game was just a rehash of the second, and Factor 5 never recovered.
While I had intended to tackle a LucasArts retrospective in one post, I found myself having to leave off too many important titles. A follow-up post will cover the last ten years of the company.