The Bizarre Storytelling of the Super Star Wars Trilogy
The SNES adaptations of the original Star Wars trilogy made for some fun games, but it's a bonkers retelling of the movies' events.
Star Wars and video games can sometimes be a volatile mix. We see versions of the space epic that we might not be fully comfortable with. The Famicom version of Star Wars is about Luke repeatedly fighting fake Darth Vaders who constantly turn out to be alien monsters in disguise. Darth Vader and Yoda once visited Earth during the 17th century to fight over the Soul Edge. Jabba the Hut held his own Twisted Metal tournament. There’s even that time Han Solo and Lando Calrissian had a dance-off in a Cloud City night club.
LucasArts’ Super Star Wars games are notable for retelling the entire original movie trilogy in the form of a SNES adventure. Super Star Wars was released in 1992 with Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi coming out the following years. At the time, it had been nine years since the last Star Wars movie entry and we were still years away from the Special Editions or Prequel Trilogy. Fans were still hungry for more Star Wars, and they got it in the comparatively bonkers narrative of Star Wars: The Super Edition.
Super Star Wars
The Super Star Wars Trilogy hinges mainly on one major difference from the films: Luke Skywalker is the biggest asskicker in the galaxy. I know there are some people who already think he was and are still really mad about him throwing his lightsaber at the beginning of The Last Jedi, but not really. Luke’s win-loss record through the Original Trilogy isn’t all that inspiring. Even in A New Hope, he doesn’t come into his own until the last 45 minutes with snappy decisions, successful swashbuckling, and damn good piloting/shooting. Before that, Luke is pushed around by his adoptive parents, Tusken Raiders, Stormtroopers, barkeeps, and cantina randos with Obi-Wan there to hold his hand.
This is not the case in the SNES reality. The game starts off with the same title crawl and an abridged look at C3PO and R2-D2’s escape from capture as they land on Tatooine. The game begins and we see what Luke apparently does on his average day: tear ass through the perilous desert and kill everything in sight. Instead of worrying about farming moisture and getting the side-eye from his doomed uncle, Luke is just shooting giant scorpions until they explode into tinier scorpions, capping off his downtime by singlehandedly killing a Sarlacc Pit.
The plot hasn’t even really started yet and we already know that Super Luke is more competent than Boba Fett.
Rather than get to know the two droids via haggling Jawas with the family, Luke simply finds C3PO in the middle of the desert, begging for help because those Jawas have kidnapped R2. Luke proceeds to hunt down and kill as many Jawas as possible. It’s here that I wonder who gave him his blaster to begin with. In the movie, he mainly just uses one that he stole from a Stormtrooper, but I guess when there’s death lurking every five feet, you better be as well-armed as possible.
“Who would slaughter Jawas?” – Luke Skywalker, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Luke rescues R2-D2 by slaying a lava beast known as Jawenko. Because of Star Wars’ tendency to give every damn character an extensive backstory, they did eventually expand on this SNES boss by claiming that the Jawenko was a creature native to Mustafar that somehow ended up on Tatooine, where both the Jawas and Tusken Raiders worshipped it as a god. They even tie Anakin Skywalker’s massacre on via the idea that it was a hex brought upon by the Jawenko.
Even getting past the idea that Luke just slayed their god, Luke has also succeeded in wiping out a Sandcrawler full of Jawas. That’s the second Mandalorian bounty hunter that Luke’s proven himself superior to and we’re just getting started.
Having seen R2’s message from Leia, Luke searches for Ben Kenobi. Like-father-like-son, he proceeds to kill a whole lot of Tusken Raiders. Obi-Wan doesn’t even need to save his bacon or anything. He’s just standing on a cliff, minding his own business, when a presumably blood-soaked Luke shows up. After watching the Leia message, Obi-Wan asks Luke to follow him on his adventure. Luke has no qualms doing so.
Yes, there’s no moment of running home to find Owen and Beru burned to a crisp. Were they spared in this reality? Were they dead to begin with? Did the hellscape of this version of Tatooine do them in? Were they slaughtered by their mass-murderer nephew? Perhaps in this reality, Luke was actually raised by Kratos and Samus?
Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber, which he can now use to mow down more Tusken Raiders. Yeah, that checks out. Obi-Wan also tells him, “Use the Force,” which is rather premature here, but whatever. It says something that in the movie, Luke’s only use of the lightsaber is to fiddle with it for a few seconds and later do some mild laser droid training yet here Obi-Wan just has him run headfirst into danger with hopes that he’ll figure it out himself.
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After running down some more Jawas, our heroes enter Mos Eisley, where Stormtroopers literally fall from the skies like Thwomps. Feeling that watching an old man wave his hands around to hypnotize his would-be attackers is a waste of time, Luke fights through an army of Stormtroopers until seeing Chewbacca hanging out on a rooftop. From there, we’re able to select Chewbacca.
Luke and Chewie fight off dozens of cantina patrons, which I can only assume is to cut down on how long they have to wait for a table. The final boss in this section is the Kalhar Boss Monster, recognizable as one of the creatures in that claymation chess game they play on the Millennium Falcon. As the game’s story has done away with Luke’s family trauma, we instead see the harshness of Chewbacca getting to meet one of his heroes and discovering he’s a total asshole.
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Han Solo is introduced, but there’s nothing much to it as Luke or Chewbacca have already killed like ten Greedos in the last few minutes. They fight through some more Stormtroopers, get on the Millennium Falcon, and off they go to space, where they’re immediately caught by the Death Star’s tractor beam. Instead of disguising themselves as Stormtroopers and trying for stealth, our heroes go through three levels with guns blazing.
Leia’s entire role in this is to lay down while being told that she’s being rescued.
Now, in the movie, Obi-Wan is able to Solid Snake his way to the tractor beam controls and casually turn it off before making his way back to the ship. Too boring! What if Luke, Han, or Chewie FOUGHT the tractor beam controls? That’s more like it!
Obi-Wan does get into a lightsaber fight with Darth Vader during a cutscene with no follow-up. Eh. All Obi-Wan did is give Luke his lightsaber. He’s just dead weight now…well, except for the weight.
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Interesting enough, two major action sequences from the movie are missing here. One is the garbage compactor, which was initially created as a level, but had to be dropped due to memory limitations. The other is the escape from the Death Star where Luke had to fire on attacking Tie Fighters. It sort of makes sense since, up next is the X-Wing vs. Death Star finale and that makes things a bit redundant.
I should point out that since the final stage is a flight-based one, that means the final boss of the regular part of the game is the tractor beam controls. Weird.
The finale is what you’d expect for the most part. Flying over the surface of the Death Star and through its trenches while taking on Tie Fighters. The big difference is that we don’t get any cool Han Solo redemption moment in our time of need. When Darth Vader’s ship confronts Luke, it gets blown right out of the sky by Luke himself. Considering the ship straight up explodes and Vader survives to live another day, I think you all owe that Last Jedi scene with Leia flying through space a big apology.
Luke blows up the Death Star, Han gives him props for a great shot, and Leia hands out the medals. The good guys win and the game’s ending warns us about the Empire striking back. As the credits roll, we see the visage of Darth Vader, who has previously only appeared in one cutscene and was unseen while piloting a ship.
Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
A year later, we’d get Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. This time they added special abilities to Han and Chewie because it’s kind of unfair that Luke gets an ultimate death sword and they don’t. As with the movie, things start off with the Rebel Alliance holed up on Hoth with the Empire sending a probe droid to check things out.
Hope you like Hoth because while it’s just the first act in the movie, it takes up over half of the game here.
Seeing as how a mere Wampa is no problem for Luke, he instead mows through several until taking on a giant Wampa; not unlike Ripley taking on the Alien Queen for the sake of escalation.
A pack of AT-STs and AT-ATs are on the way to crush the base and destroy the generators, which seems to be a moot point since the base is already overwhelmed with Empire goons. Luke has to fight through a bunch of Stormtroopers and spider droids just to get to his snowspeeder so he can fight the AT-ATs. But let’s take a step back because not only does Luke have to contend with probe droids, AT-STs, AT-ATs, and Stormtroopers on speeders…but also these guys.
Finn? Poe? I hate to break it to you, but they’ve always flown.
Luke foregoes his snowspeeder to fight the last AT-AT with nothing but a lightsaber and a blaster, presumably because his bloodlust is kicking in and he wants the challenge. Similarly, Han escapes Hoth by gunning down an AT-ST head-on, once again showing that these guys make the Mandalorian look like Jar Jar.
Luke flies off to Dagobah to meet Yoda to resume his Jedi training. Then again, he figures out a bunch of new force abilities two levels before even meeting Yoda, so this may have been a waste of time. Now, that I think about it, I don’t think they ever explain WHY Luke goes there. There’s no Obi-Wan cutscene or anything. He just knows to do it. Probably why Yoda doesn’t screw around and do his crazy bumpkin fakeout routine.
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Yoda has Luke train by fighting and killing a giant swamp monster called Habogad, which I have to imagine is a con Yoda pulled to get Luke to exterminate one of Yoda’s bigger headaches.
After leaving Hoth, Han and the rest end up on Cloud City, run by Han’s frenemy Lando. In the movie, Han doesn’t know what side Lando’s on and initially, Lando pretends he’s going to fight him before embracing his friend…despite still planning to betray him. In the SNES story, Han leaves the Falcon, fights a whole lot of attack droids, bounty hunters, and even Stormtroopers, and THEN meets Lando, who welcomes him with open arms.
So, in this world, Han’s just a dumbass, I guess.
After Chewbacca takes care of those pesky Ugnaughts for capturing C3PO (including how they have their own Dr. Robotnik boss mech setup), Han Solo picks a fight with none other than the Carbon Freezer Chamber Generator! Even though he blows the thing up, Han becomes frozen for…some reason…and it’s up to Chewbacca to chase down Boba Fett, stomp a mudhole in him, then smash up his spaceship while Fett makes the escape with Han’s frozen carcass.
As for Luke, he takes a couple breaks from going full-on John Wick against Stormtroopers to face Darth Vader several times over. Luke vs. Vader is the final boss battle, which is bizarre when you look at it. In the movie, it’s Luke’s biggest loss. Not only is he pretty much humiliated in combat, but he’s mutilated and learns a major truth that turns his entire life upside-down.
In the SNES reality, Luke doesn’t seem to learn anything of importance as he wipes the floor with Vader and sends him packing. Luke reunites with his friends (sans Han) and they plan to pay Jabba the Hutt a little visit.
Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Finally, we reach Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The very first level shows that the simple task of going to Jabba’s palace is a dangerous pain in the ass. Just jumping your speeder over death pits and swerving around rocks like you’re a goddamn Battletoad. Then, after a stretch of going on foot with everything trying to kill them, our heroes had to fight that rude metal dong with the funny voice that guards the door to Jabba’s place.
The team of Luke, Chewie, and Leia (as the bounty hunter Boushh) barge into Jabba’s home, kill a whole lot of people, and then take on Bib Fortuna. You would know him as that guy with the head tentacle and pointy teeth who looks like he should be a Sith Lord, but just acts as a flunky for Jabba. As it turns out, he’s capable of teleportation and exploding!
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Again, the fact that you choose between the three characters for this level makes it appear that the three showed up at the same time to raise Hell and it wasn’t Boushh turning in Chewbacca with Luke stopping by hours later. So when Leia/Boushh removes her helmet to comfort freshly-unfrozen Han Solo, I guess Luke and Chewie are just hanging a few feet off-screen, enjoying a couple of milkshakes. Also, it’s not like Leia was in Jabba’s good graces. She straight up murdered his personal assistant in front of him.
Then Bib Fortuna shows up ten seconds later in this cutscene! What is this, Space Mutiny?
While Leia is off being forced into the most infamous of costume changes, Luke and Chewie are thrown into Jabba’s prison. It’s a total Rorschach situation where they aren’t locked in there with the pig guards. The pig guards are locked up with THEM! After killing a giant frog-dog creature, Luke is granted an audience with Jabba, who decides to send Luke, Han, and Chewie to the Rancor. Though he’s a really great sport about this and lets them keep their weapons. Let me tell you, fighting a Rancor with a handheld plasma cannon from a distance is a way easier time than having to shove a bone in its mouth for the sake of buying you a moment.
In the movie, the three dudes are all prisoners set to be thrown into the Sarlacc Pit until Luke has R2-D2 sneak him his lightsaber and all things turn to chaos. Well, for one, there’s no mention of the Sarlacc Pit in this game, possibly because Luke killed it on a whim years earlier. Two, Luke already has his lightsaber. Three, Boba Fett isn’t even around for any of this, meaning he gets to sneak off with his dignity intact for once.
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On a side note, it’s weird that Boba Fett isn’t a boss here, considering they already have his assets from the last game.
Leia, decked out in her slave outfit, inexplicably goes from being at Jabba’s side to being like half a mile away from him and needing to re-find him in order to kill him. Maybe she needed to use a bathroom and they’re that sparse. Either way, Slave Leia’s abilities include cracking a whip, rubbing her butt on the floor, and spinning around so you can see what’s behind the loin cloth, and we can see where the LucasArts dev team’s minds were at.
Jabba dies an easy death because being immobile and spitting frogs is a terrible battle strategy. The game doesn’t even waste time because as Jabba’s barge explodes, it talks up how everyone’s going to Endor to stop the new Death Star. Luke isn’t even going back to Dagobah. Just rolling his eyes and shaking his fist sideways.
Luke and Leia go full-on Road Rash with the Stormtroopers on Endor and Leia immediately meets Wicket the Ewok and simply says, “The Empire is approaching. We need your help to stop them.” And that’s enough! Then again, we don’t know for sure if it’s Leia or Wicket talking. You never know, he might be able to speak English in this canon! That’s how it was in the cartoon!
Wicket farts around the Ewok habitat, shooting arrows at Stormtroopers and some random nightmares of nature. It’s neat.
Luke flat out tells Leia that Vader is their father (how he got his knowledge of this is left to the imagination, since it was never dealt with in the previous game) and that he needs to go confront him and show that he’s a good person underneath all the black armor. Instead of giving himself up, Luke does what Super Star Wars Luke does best and carves a path of dead bodies in his wake in order to make his way to the Death Star.
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As for Han, Chewie, and Leia (in her third in-game costume!), they turn off the Death Star’s Deflector Shield Generator by – you guessed it – having an epic boss fight with it. Eh, let them have this one. It’s their last hurrah.
Luke paints the walls of the Death Star red by wiping out endless Stormtroopers and even one of those Imperial Guards in the snazzy red cloaks. He fights his father again and this time defeats him hard enough that Darth Vader combusts into flames. The Emperor’s all, “Good! Now kill him some more!” Luke, having seemingly hit his death quota, refuses, because killing is not the way of the Jedi.
To back this up, he proceeds to run his lightsaber through Palpatine a whole lot of times until Palpatine falls to his death. Sure, why not. Vader’s big moment of redemption never happens, but he still dies (Luke sliced him up a LOT, after all) while admitting that Luke was right about him being a good person. There’s nothing to back that up, but a happy ending is a happy ending.
Finally, to send us home, our final playable character is Lando, who pilots the Millennium Falcon into the Second Death Star in a level that takes so long, I think my 13-year-old self is still playing it somehow. Lando does the deed, the big ball explodes, and our heroes enjoy an Ewok party while listening to “Yub Nub.”
The ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker appear before them despite the fact that none of them did a damn thing worthwhile. Luke did all the heavy lifting and still has a pulse to show for it.
Sadly, there would never be a true follow-up to Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. I mean, why would there be? They did rerelease it onto the PlayStation Store just in time for The Force Awakens, but it’s not like we’d ever see them pull a Mega Man 9 and make the further adventures of these bloodthirsty 16-bit sprites.
So what became of this reality? My guess is that Luke decapitated Ben Solo in his sleep at the first sign of trouble, spent a weekend hunting down and disemboweling every single First Order member, then spent the rest of his days on an island on Anch-To, where he took great joy in committing Porg genocide. He still drank that milk, though.
Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and is a novice of Teras Kasi. Read more of his articles here and follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L
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