One thing that Nintendo and Star Wars share as a brand is devoted loyalty from their fans, and this can partially be attributed to the immense nostalgia that gamers and film buffs feel from experiencing true excellence. On the 21st November 2015 the Japanese Super Famicom celebrated its 25th birthday, and the SNES earned its name from a plethora of 'Super' titles, with examples including: Super Bomberman, Super Castlevania IV, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario World, and Super Metroid.
The 1992 Sculptured Software and LucasArts developed side-scrolling run-and-gun game, Super Star Wars, deserves its place amongst the SNES' 'Super' games, to the extent that it's a big deal for Disney to publish this fondly remembered console exclusive on Sony's PlayStation 4. It's not as dramatic a turn of events as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror – nor does it have the historical significance of Nintendo's prototype PlayStation CD-ROM drive for the SNES, or Final Fantasy VII arriving on the PSone instead of a Nintendo system – but the release of Super Star Wars to the wider availability of PlayStation gamers is welcome news nonetheless.
Just as the success of Nintendo's Wii console earned it a remake of the cherished PSone exclusive Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, hopefully the prosperity of the PS4 will entice third-party publishers to share their retro console exclusive love. We have our fingers crossed that Disney will also be encouraged to release the SNES sequels, Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, on the PS4 and Vita in the future.
Of all the UK retro gaming publications, the fantastic SNES magazine Super Play presented itself with a focal point on its art style, and Matt Bielby praised the graphics in Super Play's February 1993 89% scoring review of Super Star Wars. Bielby described it as one of the early nineties' best film based games, with LucasArts' direct access to the license benefiting its art supervision. LucasArts enabled Sculptured Software's graphics and animation team to achieve pixelated success in depicting its bright 16-bit interpretation of the appearance of key characters and locations, with Issue 4 of Super Play stating that "The other great thing about it all is that it looks exactly as a Star Wars game should look". He added that this was a result of "the joy of Super Star Wars being put together by the software division of the film's producers, Lucasfilm".
Unlike in the film The Phantom Menace, the time spent on Tatooine in Super Star Wars doesn't feel drawn-out, even though the majority of the total of 14 levels are set beneath the blaze of the twin suns on the desert planet. In any case, it's an especially vivid and colourful depiction of this iconic, desolate location. It has visual variety in illustrating levels set in the Dune Sea to clambering up the outside and exploring the internal labyrinth of a Sandcrawler, as well as a challenging stage called Escape from Mos Eisley.
Once you unlock the three selectable characters of Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, or Han Solo to reach the Death Star, the cobalt blue detention block area and the Tractor Beam Core with a splash of royal purple ensure that Super Star Wars maintains a flash of colour even for the metallic space station. It's a visual pleasure to travel though the plot of A New Hope as depicted through the SNES' 16-bit eyes, and it's fitting that one of the main story points is conveyed in the later level called Rescue of the Princess. If you enjoyed watching TIE fighters whizz about in the factory during Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, you'll also appreciate the 2D presentation of leaping over charging Imperial short range fighters in the Death Star Hangar Bay level of Super Star Wars. The porting team at Code Mystics have ensured that Super Star Wars shines brightest on the PS4, with a choice of graphic filters including smooth, a scanline effect, or the clarity of perking up the pixels via a crisp viewing option.
First released in North America during November 1992, SNES Super Star Wars has a reputation for being a tough title to complete, but the PS4 port by Code Mystics is the most accessible version of this game. Originally on the SNES you'd choose from either the easy, brave, or the hardest Jedi difficulties, so with three lives per continue and five continues before the permanent Darth Vader game over screen you'd feel a small sense of achievement by escaping from Mos Eisley and reaching the Death Star. With Code Mystics adding the option to constantly save your game at any time – including cross-save between the PS4 and Vita – the modern PlayStation version opens up a new opportunity to achieve success.
By repeatedly saving your progress it's now conceivable to complete Super Star Wars on Jedi difficulty without losing a single life, which earns a gold Master Jedi Trophy and a fresh sense of accomplishment. This new way to play resolves around holding onto the most powerful Plasma blaster, and even choosing it over Luke's lightsaber – the blaster weapon power-ups increase progressively from Flame to Seeker and Rapid Ion gun before reaching the Plasma power – plus you learn that regenerating enemies like Stormtroopers are a gameplay bonus, because you can harvest health hearts from defeated Imperials. Luke Skywalker was a Tatooine farm boy, after all, so travelling through Super Star Wars is just like dusting crops, boy.
On your first play the single player only game can mistakenly suggest that the arcade action is disorganised chaos, especially when compared to the co-op structure of classic side-scrolling run-and-gun games like SNES Contra III: The Alien Wars or PS4 Metal Slug 3. However, the option to constantly save your position provides a training ground to master each level and boss battle, so you'll discover sliding in a Strider-esque fashion to avoid the attack patterns of bosses such as the oversized Holochess monster called Kalhar and an initially frustrating Hover Combat Carrier.
From practice you learn to manage the mayhem, and you may even enjoy the hectic moments, though probably not how the PS4 port recreates the notorious slowdown of the leisurely SNES CPU when the game is busy during the Lava Beast Jawenko boss fight and the crushing metal machines in the Rescue of the Princess level. It's also helpful to apply the save game option to become adept at using R1 and L1 to look up and down during the Outside Sandcrawler and Tractor Beam Core platforming stages. The only confusing Trophy before achieving 100 per cent completion is triggered by a character select cheat code, and it's a bronze memento brilliantly called Han Shot First. As your skill improves, it's feasible to complete easy mode in a one hour sitting, although the challenge of the Jedi difficulty will take longer to beat.
The main Jedi difficulty spike is during the Death Star Attack level, which is a third-person X-Wing fighter battle across the surface of the space station that takes advantage of the SNES' Mode 7 scaling effect. This is aimlessly enjoyable on lower difficulties, but becomes too random and haphazard on the Jedi challenge option. There are also two Mode 7 Landspeeder chases, and a far more satisfying final first-person Trench Battle that pays homage to Atari's 1983 Star Wars coin-op as the game's grand finale. It's a clever throwback to both A New Hope and the classic arcade title, where you blast TIE fighters and their fireballs inside the Death Star trench, which builds to the final iconic moment of pressing R1 to destroy the space station with Luke's proton torpedoes.
Kalani Streicher, who worked on Super Star Wars' direction and design for LucasArts, discussed the vehicle sections in Issue 97 of Retro Gamer magazine when he explained that "You might say we were the first to combine genres of side-scroller and third/first-person vehicle combat for the SNES". The Mode 7 shoot-'em-up moments add to the pacing of the gameplay in Super Star Wars, and Streicher elaborated on his personal objective that "I wanted the player to feel like they were racing across the desert or through the galaxy".
At £7.99/$9.99 the pricing of Super Star Wars initially seems slightly expensive in comparison to Wii U Virtual Console SNES titles that cost on average of £5.49. However, when you factor in the value of cross-buy between the PS4 and Vita, with the ability to cross-save, and online rankings, as well as selectable screen filters, the PlayStation Store package represents decent value for a retro gamer.
Some early Star Wars games have a reputation for being a loose interpretation of incidents from the movie; for example. Namco's 1987 Star Wars title for the Japanese Famicom is infamous for wildly expanding upon the film with ridiculous additions. Super Star Wars also has its own graphical quirks, especially for its bosses from a Lava Beast Jawenko monster inside the Sandcrawler to a huge Mutant Womprat in the Land of the Banthas. Yet, its visuals still manage to capture the way events from A New Hope unfold, and it feels like Star Wars despite the bizarre inclusions to keep the gameplay exciting, possibly because its superb soundtrack matches events and locations from the film to create an authentic tone.
At the time, and over subsequent years, Sculptured Software's Paul Webb has rightly been commended for his stellar work in arranging the music and sound effects in Super Star Wars. For a 1992 SNES cartridge game it's a superb rendition of John Williams' compositions, and everything impresses, from the theme tune, to when you first arrive at the Jawa Sandcrawler, or when the charismatic band perform for the Cantina Fight. All of the tracks in this 16-bit interpretation sound perfect for fans of Star Wars and chiptunes alike.
Julian 'Jaz' Rignall described it more succinctly when Super Star Wars scored 93/100 in the February 1993 issue of Nintendo Magazine System, when he stated clearly that it has "The best soundtracks and spot effects ever heard on Super NES". Considering that Ken Kutaragi worked as part of Sony on the Nintendo S-SMP audio processor for the SNES, the circle is now complete to hear Super Star Wars' tunes on a PlayStation system. Impressive. Most Impressive.
Visually vibrant, with magnificent SNES S-SMP chiptune renditions of John Williams' classic soundtrack, and challenging side-scrolling run-and-gun gameplay, Super Star Wars represents the brightness of the 1992 16-bit era, before the dark times – before the prequel trilogy made Star Wars fans justifiably cynical. If third-party console exclusivity is the looming Death Star that loses relevance as time passes, and archiving games to become accessible for retro enthusiasts takes precedence, then it's a rebellious first step for Disney to bring SNES Super Star Wars to the PS4. This gives us a new hope for the PS4 that Disney fly more of its Star Wars fleet into the trench to proton torpedo historical exclusivity, because Factor 5's Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader on the GameCube is a title of nostalgic significance for retro gamers. You're all clear, kid, now let's blow this thing and go home.