The Coolest and Uncoolest Moments in Star Wars Game Canon
LucasFilm announced last month not only that the continuity of the Star Wars Expanded Universe is now at the mercy of the films and TV shows its producing, but that wide swaths of the Star Wars canon as we know it is already being disgarded.
So far, LucasFilm has only specified that Expanded Universe tales taking place after Return of the Jedi are out, but there’s really no way of knowing right now what else will get dumped.
Though the Jedi Knight series is the only group of games that take place after the original film trilogy, there nonetheless is much gnashing of teeth by fans over what the New Star Wars Canon means for the games, collectively. I don’t have any answers about whether Knights of the Old Republic’s Revan or Dark Forces’ Kyle Katarn still exist in Star Wars, and that’s okay for now. But in the meantime, let’s take a look back at some of the coolest, and most uncool, moments we’ve experienced in the Star Wars video game canon as it existed before all this drama.
Cool: Fixing the Ebon Hawk in Knights of the Old Republic 2
Next to the openings of most Star Wars games, the tutorial prologue for KOTOR 2 is rather mundane, and that’s specifically why I like it. You begin on the Ebon Hawk, which was your ship on the first KOTOR, and you control T3, an astromech droid companion from that game, but the circumstances are strange. The only people aboard the Hawk are an old, dead womanm and an unconscious Jedi Exile. The Hawk itself is all messed up, with a busted engine and a gaping hole in the cargo bay. And T3 has to fix it up enough to make it to a nearby asteroid mining outpost, or everybody dies.
And that’s all there is. You roll around the ship grabbing scrap that you can repurpose for repairs. It’s not a grand, exciting quest, and you don’t even really know what’s going on. And yet this is Star Wars at its finest. Being such a thoroughly established universe, you can tell whatever kind of story you want in Star Wars because we pretty much already get it. The meat, as it were, is already there, and so not every tale has to be a world-saving one. Though KOTOR 2 does eventually become that, its street-level beginnings create a sort of awesome blue collar feel that we rarely get in popular science fiction.
Uncool: Gamma Base in Rebel Assault
It’s inexplicable to me that the Rebel Assault games were ever considered canon, since all they ever really were intended to be was an excuse to replicate set pieces from the original trilogy in game form. It’s a series about a kid from Tatooine named RookieOne, who flies a skyhopper through Beggar’s Canyon and then joins the Rebellion as a fighter pilot, for Christ’s sake.
Even so, apparently all but Rebel Assault’s version of the Battle of Yavin from Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope were considered part of the continuity, and that being the case, it means the Rebels had a base on Hoth before they had a base on Hoth. In Rebel Assault, RookieOne takes part in the defense of Gamma Base on ice planet Hoth by flying a snowspeeder and taking down AT-AT walkers with a tow cable, all before the Battle of Yavin — the assault on the original Death Star. Meaning three years before Darth Vader and the Empire had no idea the main Rebel base (Echo Base) was on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader and the Empire attacked a Rebel base (Gamma Base) on Hoth.
Cool: Joining the Secret Order of the Emperor in TIE Fighter
TIE Fighter had its own cool blue collar thing going, putting you in the role of an Imperial pilot of a flimsy TIE Fighter on what amounts to peacekeeping missions. You are, more or less, the Space Police.
As you go about your business, though, you can discover secret objectives during missions that, should you complete them, will draw the attention of the Emperor himself.
Over the course of the game you’ll see that completing these secret objectives, often given to you by a shadowy figure after the regular mission briefings, will allow you to work your way up through the Secret Order, with each rank granting you a new, cool purple forearm tattoo. What this all meant, essentially, is that in addition to being regular Space Police you were also Space Secret Police, adding a really interesting level of cool to what already was a totally cool story.
Uncool: Mara Jade training under Kyle Katarn
As Jimmy Valmer of “South Park” would say, “I mean, come on.” I know everybody loves protagonist Kyle Katarn and the Jedi Knight games he inhabits, but those games basically acted as if they existed in their own universe most of the time. Kyle flippin’ Katarn taking Mara Jade — the most well known character from the Expanded Universe, and eventual wife of Luke Skywalker — as his Jedi apprentice in the Mysteries of the Sith expansion is one of the more egregious examples. Mara Jade is a beloved Expanded Universe character who gets dumped into a situation that makes little contextual sense, and is never, ever referenced elsewhere. Because Jedi Knight.
In the Jedi Knight sub-universe, Katarn is basically the King Jedi, taking down a cabal of weird Sith that roll around in a Super Star Destroyer, and then apparently having the sort of clout that would lead Mara Jade to be his underling. Mysteries of the Sith, by the way, takes place between the two key Expanded Universe book arc in the post-Return of the Jedi story: the Thrawn Trilogy and the Jedi Academy Trilogy. That makes Katarn Mara’s first in-earnest Jedi instructor, which is never mentioned again when she starts training with Luke. I mean come on.
For a comparable analogy, imagine there was a video game between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones that has Anakin Skywalker learning a bunch of key, influential stuff from a random Jedi like Kit Fisto. And then it never ever comes up again — but it’s still considered part of the canon.
Mysteries of the Sith doesn’t even tell a bad story, but the Mara Jade moment is a big bit of dumb fan service.