Yes, she was Luke’s sister, but that gold bikini…

Super_Return_of_the_Jedi_(USA,Europe)

Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1995)

I’d always felt that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi got a bit of a raw deal. There was no Internet or any other poison like that in 1983, but I still can’t imagine what kind of hype must have been bubbling for this film, a film tasked with bringing the Star Wars series to a boil, after A New Hope stuck the kettle on and The Empire Strikes Back turned up the heat.

You’re trying to wrap up two films that floored viewers when they came out, and you’re tasked with bringing everything to a close. The audience will naturally be disappointed by the film’s presence itself, in that it’s the last one and there’s not gonna be any more Star Wars. So much for all that, eh?

Its true that this film started to get some of the old George Lucas nonsense attached to it, but even that was minor. Well, alright, it was minor until the Special Editions came out. Then, you suddenly had this insane dance number straight out of The Muppet Show called Jedi Rocks, playing out of nowhere at a dramatic part of the film.

And then of course there’s the Ewoks. OK, these things were definitely for children and therefore definitely for merchandise. And a load of teddy bears played by dwark actors taking out Imperial Walkers by themselves definitely does raise an eyebrow or two. But we already had a desert, we had snow in ESB, and we’ve had space all throughout, so we had to have jungle and forest at some point, right?

Actually I would say that this film doesn’t have an iconic battle, in space or elsewhere – there’s the flying log and bow-and-arrow stuff on the Forest Moon of Endor, but the space battle at the end isn’t one to live long in the memory. All of this criticism is invalidated, of course, by the presence of Carrie Fisher in that gold metal bikini.

I won’t give you full details, but let’s just say that I genuinely think I wore that part of the tape out. It’d be plenty suspicious if someone in the house suddenly got the urge to bring about a home VHS revival and also found themselves in the mood for Star Wars at the same time. But if that ungodly event never occurs, then I’ve committed the perfect crime, dozens of times over.

You could play as the lovely Leia instead in Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi for the SNES if you wanted to, although why they had to give her a sexual moan on getting hit I’m not sure. Not even I was asking for that to be added. I’m just glad that Sculptured Software managed to stay in business long enough to bring the SNES trilogy of Star Wars games to its conclusion with Super ROTJ.

You may be even gladder to note that this is the easiest of the three Super Star Wars games by far, and if you’ve got a bit about you then you’ll actually manage to put a few lives away by the end. As ever, this game follows the scenes of the film quite well, and even invents a few new scenes to play through – for example, perhaps strangely, the very first level sees you in a strange speeder of some sort racing towards Jabba’s Palace. You don’t see anything like it in the film, but who cares? Bond never went to a silo in Goldeneye, but it was a great mission in the N64 game.

You’ve got a proper character select function this time as well, with as many as three selectable characters depending on the stage. Obviously when you rescue Han from Jabba, you’ll be using him at every opportunity – that goes without saying. But when you aren’t afforded that privilege, you’ll be using Luke with all his Force powers; Chewie with a big healthbar and a spin attack; three different styles of Leia (yes, including the metal bikini, and a whip for good measure) and Wicket, representative of the teddy bears.

One thing I sometimes found disappointing is that, if you don’t hold on to Blaster upgrades between levels in ROTJ, shooter style. I used to enjoy getting really good at the first two games and keeping the maximum level Blaster as long as I possibly could. But it’s no big deal – you usually get given enough Blaster powerups during just one level to tech right back up anyway.

This is the longest of the SNES trilogy, and some of the levels are huge, which isn’t always a good thing- you’ll particularly get lost in the first sidescrolling level, before things get a bit more manageable. You’ll finish up the game with a scrap against Vader and then another one against the Emperor, which wasn’t really how it went in the movie.

But even then, you’ve still not finished: I said that this was the easiest of the three games, but right when you’re about to cap off the trilogy, you play two final levels in a first-person view of the Millennium Falcon, to make your way into the core of the new Death Star, blow it up and get the hell out while the flames lick your ass. Getting in is no problem, but the escape, when it isn’t cutting your eyes to shreds with its funky background scrolling, is pretty damn hard and I’ve only done it a handful of times.

If you mess up maybe two or three times, I’d say that’s it for you. You really will feel like the Falcon is the heap of junk it was always sold as by the end of it, but if you can get to the blessed end of the level, then you’ve done it, you can consider yourself a hero and may the Force be with you (and also with you).

Then it’s the victory celebration, but this time with the old Yub Nub song playing – well, say what you want about the Special Edition’s changes, but updating that song was definitely a change made for the better. The ghost of Anakin Skywalker in the game was that statesman of Shakespearean acting, Sebastian Shaw, who had no idea what a Darth Vader was. Of course, they eventually gutted him from the film in favour of Hayden Christensen. Well, at least they didn’t bin him off for Jake Lloyd, eh?

Verdicts and reviews of Return of the Jedi as a movie, both now and back then, seemed to consider it quite a step down from the previous two films, and they criticised the inconsistency of the trilogy. Well, that’s not something I ever agreed with, but one thing is certain – the entire trilogy of SNES Star Wars games is as consistent, faithful and as fun a trilogy of license-based games as you can get.

Super ROTJ kept up the excellent imitation graphics, sound and gameplay from its two predecssors, and if you can get past the insanely hard final level, then the Force is truly with you. If you can’t get past it, after all that hard work to get there…. then don’t worry, you’ll be just like that Boba Fett – plenty of promise and popularity, but ultimately destined to suffer a lame and embarrassing demise.

11 December 2020

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