Star​ ​Wars.​ ​One​ ​of​ ​the​ ​biggest​ ​franchises​ ​to​ ​exist​ ​in​ ​our​ ​life-time.​ ​Spanning​ ​from​ ​1977​ ​to​ ​this day,​ ​you’d​ ​be​ ​hard​ ​done​ ​by​ ​to​ ​find​ ​someone​ ​whom​ ​which​ ​doesn’t​ ​have​ ​some​ ​sort​ ​of​ ​memory playing/watching/reading​ ​the​ ​tales​ ​from​ ​a​ ​long​ ​time​ ​ago,​ ​in​ ​a​ ​galaxy​ ​far,​ ​far​ ​away.​ ​Our​ ​game​ ​of the​ ​month​ ​for​ ​December​ ​2017​ ​focusses​ ​on​ ​Star​ ​Wars:​ ​Shadows​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Empire,​ ​an​ ​N64​ ​release (with​ ​a​ ​later​ ​PC​ ​port)​ ​that​ ​formed​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​mutually​ ​titled,​ ​multimedia​ ​project​ ​created​ ​by Lucasfilm​ ​ltd.​ ​Designed​ ​to​ ​expand​ ​on​ ​events​ ​between​ ​The​ ​Empire​ ​Strikes​ ​Back​ ​and​ ​Return​ ​of the​ ​Jedi,​ ​the​ ​project​ ​consists​ ​of​ ​novels;​ ​a​ ​short​ ​comic​ ​book​ ​series;​ ​trading​ ​cards;​ ​action​ ​figures; and​ ​the​ ​December​ ​3rd​ ​1996​ ​NTSC​ ​release​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Nintendo​ ​64​ ​third​ ​person​ ​shooter.​ ​On​ ​March 1st​ ​1997​ ​the​ ​game​ ​received​ ​it’s​ ​PAL​ ​release,​ ​making​ ​it​ ​a​ ​launch​ ​title​ ​for​ ​the​ ​region.​ ​Good​ ​Old Games​ ​(GOG.com)​ ​produced​ ​a​ ​re-release​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Windows​ ​port​ ​in​ ​2016,​ ​as​ ​the​ ​game​ ​struggled to​ ​run​ ​on​ ​the​ ​now​ ​more​ ​widely​ ​used​ ​64​ ​bit​ ​operating​ ​systems. 


Onto​ ​the​ ​flesh​ ​of​ ​our​ ​tale,​ ​bear​ ​with​ ​me​ ​on​ ​this​ ​one.​ ​The​ ​protagonist​ ​of​ ​the​ ​story​ ​is​ ​as​ ​yet unknown​ ​mercenary​ ​Dash​ ​Rendar.​ ​A​ ​freelance​ ​smuggler​ ​similar​ ​to​ ​Han​ ​Solo,​ ​he​ ​has​ ​the monumental​ ​task​ ​of​ ​trying​ ​to​ ​recover​ ​Han​ ​Solo’s​ ​carbonite​ ​frozen​ ​body​ ​from​ ​Boba​ ​Fett;​ ​keeping Luke​ ​Skywalker​ ​alive;​ ​and​ ​saving​ ​Princess​ ​Leia​ ​from​ ​Prince​ ​Xizor.​ ​Rather​ ​him​ ​than​ ​me!​ ​A​ ​little background​ ​information​ ​for​ ​those​ ​of​ ​you​ ​who​ ​aren’t​ ​as​ ​involved​ ​with​ ​the​ ​expanded​ ​Star​ ​Wars universe​ ​-​ ​Xizor​ ​was​ ​a​ ​Falleen​ ​Prince​ ​and​ ​leader​ ​of​ ​the​ ​criminal​ ​organisation​ ​the​ ​Black​ ​Sun. During​ ​the​ ​Galactic​ ​Empire's​ ​reign,​ ​Darth​ ​Vader​ ​had​ ​Xizor’s​ ​family​ ​executed,​ ​prompting​ ​the Prince’s​ ​goals​ ​to​ ​both​ ​destroy​ ​the​ ​Skywalker​ ​family,​ ​and​ ​replace​ ​Vader​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Emperor's​ ​side​ ​- all​ ​whilst​ ​maintaining​ ​a​ ​harmonious​ ​veil​ ​so​ ​as​ ​not​ ​to​ ​upset​ ​the​ ​Emperor.​ ​Rendar​ ​on​ ​the​ ​other hand,​ ​is​ ​a​ ​relatively​ ​minor​ ​character​ ​from​ ​the​ ​Shadows​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Empire​ ​books,​ ​allowing​ ​the​ ​game developers​ ​to​ ​have​ ​a​ ​little​ ​more​ ​scope​ ​to​ ​expand​ ​his​ ​story. 


Shadows​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Empire​ ​is​ ​split​ ​into​ ​4​ ​chapters,​ ​combining​ ​a​ ​multitude​ ​of​ ​gameplay​ ​styles. Primarily​ ​a​ ​third​ ​(or​ ​first)​ ​person​ ​shooter,​ ​a​ ​number​ ​of​ ​levels​ ​see​ ​you​ ​partake​ ​in​ ​dogfights,​ ​fly jetpacks,​ ​and​ ​race​ ​swoop​ ​riders.​ ​I​ ​won’t​ ​delve​ ​deep​ ​into​ ​the​ ​individual​ ​levels,​ ​it’s​ ​much​ ​more​ ​fun for​ ​you​ ​to​ ​experience​ ​those​ ​first​ ​hand​ ​yourself,​ ​but​ ​each​ ​chapter​ ​is​ ​set​ ​a​ ​little​ ​further​ ​along​ ​in​ ​the timeline​ ​of​ ​events.​ ​Where​ ​chapter​ ​one​ ​kicks​ ​off​ ​during​ ​the​ ​Battle​ ​for​ ​Hoth,​ ​the​ ​second​ ​chapter follows​ ​the​ ​events​ ​of​ ​The​ ​Empire​ ​Strikes​ ​Back​ ​and​ ​sees​ ​you​ ​tackling​ ​the​ ​renowned​ ​bounty hunter​ ​Boba​ ​Fett.​ ​Then​ ​during​ ​chapter​ ​three​ ​Rendar​ ​is​ ​defended​ ​Luke​ ​from​ ​Jabba’s​ ​minions​ ​on Tatooine;​ ​and​ ​we​ ​finish​ ​up​ ​with​ ​a​ ​battle​ ​in​ ​Xizor’s​ ​palace​ ​on​ ​Coruscant.​ ​There​ ​is​ ​a​ ​plethora​ ​of environments​ ​on​ ​display​ ​in​ ​the​ ​game,​ ​and.I​ ​think​ ​that’s​ ​what​ ​makes​ ​the​ ​game​ ​shine​ ​amongst others.​ ​The​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​it​ ​coincides​ ​with​ ​all​ ​the​ ​other​ ​media​ ​available​ ​from​ ​the​ ​project,​ ​it​ ​does​ ​a great​ ​job​ ​to​ ​immerse​ ​you​ ​deeper​ ​into​ ​the​ ​Star​ ​Wars​ ​Universe.  


The​ ​game​ ​does​ ​differ​ ​from​ ​events​ ​in​ ​the​ ​books.​ ​Again,​ ​due​ ​to​ ​Dash​ ​having​ ​a​ ​relatively​ ​minor role,​ ​we​ ​see​ ​him​ ​take​ ​part​ ​in​ ​the​ ​timeline​ ​of​ ​events​ ​much​ ​more​ ​than​ ​what​ ​is​ ​included​ ​in​ ​the book.​ ​For​ ​instance,​ ​during​ ​the​ ​last​ ​siege​ ​of​ ​Xizor’s​ ​space​ ​station,​ ​Rendar​ ​plays​ ​a​ ​huge​ ​part​ ​of it’s​ ​destruction.​ ​In​ ​the​ ​novel​ ​however,​ ​our​ ​protagonist​ ​plays​ ​no​ ​part​ ​at​ ​all,​ ​remaining​ ​behind​ ​with the​ ​fleet.​ ​We’re​ ​also​ ​treated​ ​to​ ​two​ ​separate​ ​endings​ ​for​ ​the​ ​game,​ ​one​ ​standard​ ​and​ ​one​ ​secret ending​ ​made​ ​available​ ​when​ ​you​ ​beat​ ​the​ ​game​ ​on​ ​a​ ​higher​ ​difficulty.  


Due​ ​to​ ​the​ ​nature​ ​of​ ​the​ ​hardware​ ​available,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​differences​ ​between​ ​the​ ​PC​ ​and​ ​N64 versions​ ​of​ ​the​ ​game.​ ​The​ ​most​ ​notable​ ​change​ ​introduced​ ​to​ ​the​ ​PC​ ​version​ ​are​ ​the​ ​cutscenes. Where​ ​the​ ​N64​ ​version​ ​used​ ​basic​ ​comic​ ​book​ ​style​ ​slides​ ​with​ ​text​ ​on​ ​to​ ​explain​ ​the​ ​next​ ​part of​ ​the​ ​story;​ ​the​ ​PC​ ​release​ ​utilises​ ​full​ ​motion​ ​cinematic​ ​scenes​ ​complete​ ​with​ ​voice​ ​acting.​ ​In addition​ ​to​ ​this​ ​the​ ​PC​ ​release​ ​runs​ ​much​ ​more​ ​smoothly​ ​and​ ​crisply​ ​-​ ​though​ ​given​ ​the cartridge​ ​limit​ ​the​ ​N64​ ​had,​ ​this​ ​isn’t​ ​very​ ​surprising! 


Credit​ ​is​ ​definitely​ ​due​ ​to​ ​the​ ​team​ ​involved​ ​with​ ​developing​ ​Shadows,​ ​having​ ​set​ ​up​ ​to​ ​produce the​ ​game​ ​without​ ​a​ ​prototype​ ​N64​ ​even​ ​available.​ ​When​ ​you’re​ ​given​ ​what​ ​is​ ​essentially​ ​a modded​ ​SNES​ ​controller​ ​with​ ​a​ ​few​ ​more​ ​buttons​ ​whacked​ ​on,​ ​hidden​ ​in​ ​a​ ​cardboard​ ​box​ ​so you​ ​can’t​ ​see​ ​it,​ ​it’s​ ​safe​ ​to​ ​say​ ​you​ ​are​ ​in​ ​for​ ​an​ ​uphill​ ​struggle!​ ​

 

Punishingly​ ​long​ ​weeks​ ​were spent​ ​programming,​ ​and​ ​even​ ​then​ ​the​ ​size​ ​of​ ​the​ ​game​ ​had​ ​to​ ​be​ ​cut​ ​from​ ​a​ ​predicted​ ​19 levels,​ ​to​ ​the​ ​10​ ​we​ ​can​ ​play​ ​today.​ ​The​ ​decision​ ​to​ ​delay​ ​the​ ​NTSC​ ​launch​ ​release​ ​until​ ​the December​ ​that​ ​year​ ​gave​ ​the​ ​team​ ​an​ ​extra​ ​few​ ​months​ ​to​ ​polish​ ​off​ ​visuals​ ​and​ ​the​ ​like.​ ​The opening​ ​level​ ​on​ ​Hoth​ ​was​ ​arguably​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​most​ ​stunning​ ​3D​ ​experiences​ ​any​ ​console​ ​had put​ ​out​ ​by​ ​then,​ ​and​ ​to​ ​a​ ​point​ ​almost​ ​shadows​ ​(pun​ ​fully​ ​intended)​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​game. 


As​ ​much​ ​as​ ​I​ ​love​ ​them​ ​(Mollett​ ​here​ ​by​ ​the​ ​way,​ ​hey!),​ ​Star​ ​Wars​ ​games​ ​can​ ​be​ ​horrifically​ ​hit and​ ​miss.​ ​We​ ​won’t​ ​delve​ ​into​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​shockers​ ​LucasArts​ ​have​ ​put​ ​out…​ ​Shadows​ ​on​ ​the other​ ​hand​ ​definitely​ ​leans​ ​towards​ ​the​ ​hit​ ​side​ ​of​ ​the​ ​scale.​ ​It’s​ ​not​ ​the​ ​best​ ​game​ ​on​ ​the​ ​N64 by​ ​any​ ​means​ ​but​ ​it​ ​gives​ ​the​ ​player​ ​variety,​ ​an​ ​interesting​ ​storyline​ ​and​ ​fantastic​ ​soundtrack. As​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​LucasFilm​ ​multimedia​ ​project,​ ​Shadows​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Empire​ ​(franchise)​ ​had​ ​its​ ​own musical​ ​score​ ​created.​ ​Several​ ​pieces​ ​from​ ​Joel​ ​McNeely’s​ ​work​ ​were​ ​used​ ​in​ ​the​ ​game, alongside​ ​a​ ​variety​ ​of​ ​John​ ​Williams’​ ​compositions​ ​from​ ​A​ ​New​ ​Hope,​ ​The​ ​Empire​ ​Strikes​ ​Back and​ ​Return​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Jedi.​ ​In​ ​fact​ ​it​ ​is​ ​exclusive​ ​amongst​ ​N64​ ​titles​ ​in​ ​having​ ​a​ ​fully​ ​digitised​ ​score rather​ ​than​ ​standard​ ​synthesised​ ​music,​ ​made​ ​possible​ ​using​ ​an​ ​additional​ ​4MB​ ​of​ ​space granted​ ​by​ ​Nintendo​ ​on​ ​the​ ​cartridge.​ ​

 

That​ ​alone​ ​makes​ ​this​ ​game​ ​well​ ​worth​ ​checking​ ​out, nicely​ ​done​ ​guys! 

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Game of the Month: December 2017

Shadows Of The Empire - N64/PC