A SHORT LIST OF ORAL HISTORIES I WOULD LIKE TO READ WITHOUT ANY REAL CONTEXT

  1. Pollo Campero Chicken Restaraunts
  2. Law and Order’s first few “Ripped from the Headlines” episodes
  3. Irving Klaw Trio (band)
  4. Beto Carrero World
  5. The “For Dummies” books
  6. Word Up! Magazine
  7. Hollywood Fashion Center (Hollywood, FL)
  8. The 1992 Little League World Series Debacle
  9. An entire oral history of the year 1978
A SHORT LIST OF ORAL HISTORIES I WOULD LIKE TO READ WITHOUT ANY REAL CONTEXT

THE SUPER NINTENDO STAR WARS GAMES REWROTE MOVIE HISTORY AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY, PART ONE

Video games based off movies must be a hard thing to do, especially in the 8-bit and 16-bit era. Music and voice samples were limited, if non-existent. Even actor likenesses were constrained or altered in many cases. But the biggest casualty at this time was obviously the storyline, if one existed.

Super Star Wars was a big draw (as anything with Star Wars gaming was in the early 90’s), but it left out so much of the context of the film, and added such over-the-top needless violence.


This JVC/LucasArts joint opens with logos, menu screen, and the classic fanfare. No “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..” text until you select “New Game” and hear Chewbacca’s roar. You then watch the worst Mode 7 interpretation of the opening crawl ever seen.

A brief “space battle” is seen from above, before you’re thrust into the shoes of Luke Skywalker. He’s on Tatooine just… well, not moisture farming, but killing scorpions and gremlin-looking animals. You will do a lot of shooting wildlife over this trilogy of games, so it’s good to get used to that first. The first boss of the game is a Sarlacc Pit Monster, which hurts rocks. Luke deals with it the only way he knows how to: jumping and shooting. 

The next scene plays out as Luke finds C-3PO at the escape pod crash site, and the golden droid explains that R2-D2 was captured by Jawas. What are we to do but hunt down and destroy those creatures? I mean, that’s not how the movie went, at all, but my 8-year-old self wouldn’t have as fun if the player was Uncle Owen in a mini-game, haggling over the price of droids, I guess.

Instead, what we get is a Mode 7 landspeeder scene. Players have to balance jet fuel, firing weapons, and avoid obstacles, while heading toward the Sandcrawler. None of this happened in the movie, but Mode 7 “3D Levels” was de rigueur in those early days of the Super Nintendo. I guess we can blame Pilotwings and F-Zero for that. Moving on.

The next level is painful. Luke Skywalker has to ascend to the top of the Sandcrawler via platforms (with a few “leap of faith” off-screen jumps involved), all while blasting away Jawas, turrets, and panels that shoot flames. It’s a huge departure from the film, which has a few scenes and no violence toward the Jawas of short-stature. Luke Skywalker just run and gunning isn’t what I play Star Wars games for (hint: it’s lightsabers).

The next level is set inside the Sandcrawler. Keep in mind, the Sandcrawler is seen in the film for mere seconds. Why the designers thought it nessicary to drag out this section of the game, besides adding to “play time” and imaginary “Nintendo hard” metrics, boggles the mind. Shoot at more Jawas, jump on more platforms, and avoid turrets and flames, repeat. You even blow away a Gonk droid, which saddened me as a child. 

The boss here is “Lava Beast Jawenko,” whatever that is. Looks like someone’s fan art envelope of Kraid from Metroid sent in to Nintendo Power. Then you find R2! The story advances somewhat faithfully here (though we are warped back to the Lars Homestead garage).

“Land of the Sandpeople” is the name of the next stage. Wait, are we killing Sand People now? In the film, they do attack Luke Skywalker. This is understandable. Still have to kill some more Jawas (how many are left?). Once we get to Sandpeople, they just run at Luke and are one-hit enemies… not as intense as the film makes them out to be. Occasionally, we get into a “fixed scrolling” portion (not our last), before Ben Kenobi shows up. By the way, somehow is is the graphics from the last cut scene with Ben added in.

BUT THE TIME HAS ARRIVED! Luke has a lightsaber! The game is 1/3rd over, but this is what you came for! Slay some more creatures of the Dune Sea, and the boss of the level appears. A “Mutant Womprat” is what the game calls this boss, but it looks like a Gremlin with big ears, to me. Slay the beast, as usual (Luke is a mass murderer, after all… just watch him blow up the Death Star).

And now that you have the lightsaber, what’s the next exciting level going to be? Another Landspeeder driving level. This time, you’re headed to Mos Eisley on now-flat terrain (a hardware limitation of the time). Drive/hover/fly in the same direction until you reach the goal or loose enough fuel. Simple.

The next level has Luke killing Stormtroopers… and more Jawas. Not quite Contra, but I will allow it. This level adds “sleeping” Dewbacks and crates that can be destroyed for no reason (really… all the pickups are just strewn about). Find Chewbacca at the end of the level and he becomes a playable character. Cool.

With a name like, “Cantina Fight,” you expect to be playing as Ben Kenobi or Han Solo. But nope, Luke or Chewie just shoot the place up (both didn’t participate in any of the violence in the film). Blast away Greedo clones, and other alien clones, until arrows pop-up on the screen, Double Dragon-style, to advance to the next area. There is some nice variety here, and even the Cantina Band show up in the background to cheer you on.

Best part? No Jawas (sorry, fans of the “Utinni” voice clip). There is a boss at the end of this stage as well, the imaginatively-named “Kalhar Boss Monster,” which looks like something rejected from Contra III. It’s out of place, to say the least. The game is half over, and it’s time to meet Han Solo!

Han Solo is now playable in the next stage, which feels like a retread of the first Mos Eisley stage… but now there is a droid factory. And what facility would be complete without Maintenance Droids and Hover Combat Carriers! And these guys are not messing around, with their own life meters and requiring multiple hits. 

Now, we get to the Death Star, the Emprie’s ultimate weapon. In the film, Chewie growled at a Mouse droid, providing a bit of comic relief. But here, it’s a deadly antagonist you must not touch. Also, players have to make their way down a hangar with multiple TIE Fighters flying past them. Fight a boss droid at the end.

The next stage is a romp through the detention level of the Death Star. According to Wikipedia, the Trash Compactor level was cut from the game for memory reasons. Instead, we have doors/gates that fall and mimic the close-quarters peril. At the end of the level, we face the Detention Guard Boss. If you’re picturing a mechanical version of female anatomy, you’d be close.

“Use the Force” (voice clip included) as you try to disable the Tractor Beam Core. By the way, Ben did this on his own in the film, and our other heroes were in the (sadly deleted from the game) trash compactor scene. Also, strangely, you can play as Han and Chewie but hear the same voice clip, so…

This is a vertical-scrolling level, which is not fun. Taking out the level’s boss, the Tractor Beam itself,  is actually simple, in that you can just mindlessly blast away if you have the right angle. This leads us to our first appearance of Darth Vader! And instead of a “Escape the Stormtrooper army” or “Fight Darth Vader as Obi-Wan,” we just leave the Death Star.

This abrupt transition doesn’t really resolve the lightsaber duel. It skates right past Darth Vader destroying his former BFF, shooting more Stormtroopers, and fighting TIE Fighters en route to the Rebel base. Instead, the game fast-forwards to the end climax, the epic space battle between X-Wings and poorly-constructed HVAC systems.

The Mode 7 level returns with a new coat of paint, playing almost exactly like the Landspeeder levels. After a few critical hits, the game switches to an in-cockpit mode where you have to deal the final blow with your torpedoes. Vader’ TIE will pop up, and you can strike it with laser weapons. It’s all over quickly.

Players are rewarded with the medal ceremony at the end of the game, along with a firm “Congratulations.” The text ends with, “But be careful for the Empire might strike back!” (Lack of commas, too). We get a credits rolling over a Starfield that dissolves into Vader’s helmet.

Next Time: We tackle The Empire Strikes Back (and continues kills more Jawas?)

THE SUPER NINTENDO STAR WARS GAMES REWROTE MOVIE HISTORY AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY, PART ONE

THIS POST IS A SECRET SANTA SURVIVAL GUIDE

Secret Santa is a dreaded workplace institution. At the year-end non-denominational Tree and Egg Nog Fest, you and your co-workers exchange some kind of $20 throwaway gift based on their poorly-chosen interests or degenerate hobbies. Of course, the name of your recipient is picked at random, either drawn from a hat, or bestowed by an organizer who treats this ritual like a Fantasy Football league.

It’s degrading, but hey: you might get a new golf tie or Outback Steak House gift card out of the deal. And much like Outback Steak House, there no rules to this game, so choosing the “just right” gift is nearly impossible. What follows is an assembled a list of what usually works for me in those tense gift-giving situations.

Decorative Ice Cube Trays – Everyone loves a cold drink. Maybe not in the dead of Winter, but the other times of year: yes. Unique and unusual ice cube trays help facilitate the coldness of a beverage, and are much cheaper than buying a refrigerator.
Good choice for: Drinkers/alcoholics

Taxonomy Charts – Are you tired of your office mates calling them “bears,” when talking about Ursus thibetanus? Take this as a golden opportunity to educate and expand their knowledge of the Animal Kingdom past their cursory knowledge of Phylum with a cool taxonomy chart. My personal go-to is the type with the chart on one size, and a reflective car visor on the other (gifts with dual-uses are always welcome).
Perfect for: The guy you work with who brags about only having a GED

A Library Book – A great low-cost option! Go to any library and pick out a book or two – they just give ’em away! If you are hit with any fees months later, just let the librarians know to whom you gifted said books. Easy.
Requirements: Must read/be literate

A Bag of Old Batteries – Just go around your home collecting old batteries from remotes, wall clocks, and so on. Gift them in a nice fabric sack, and just watch the fun begin! It’s like a game all on it’s own: try to figure out which batteries are dead, and how long batteries with juice left will last! We all know, batteries are big sellers during this time of year, so this will help alleviate some holiday frustration.
Excellent for:

Bed Pillows – If you’re really stumped, how about enhancing something we all need: a good night’s rest? Make that co-worker a little more relaxed and stress-free in the morning by replacing their pillow. Of course, people have different preferences for the pillows they like, from firm to soft, or even feathery down. Be sure to invite yourself over to their house (or break in when you know they are at work!), and check the size and style for yourself. Of course, we all sleep differently, so install a camera while you’re there, or creep into the room when they’re sleeping, just to be sure. They’ll really appreciate you going the extra mile for this one.
Great choice if: you already have sexy feelings for the recipient

Perfume or Body Spray – There’s more than one way to tell someone, “This is how I want you to smell,” but this is generally accepted as the best way to do it. Most diplomatic.
Ideal target: Stinky people

Gift Cards – No matter if it’s a single $20 gift card, or four $5 gift cards, or even twenty $1 gift cards, this will always be a solid, last-minute life-saver. Choose from gas cards, McDonald’s Arch Cards, Starbucks Cardichinos, KFC’s Kentucky Friend Cards, Victoria Secret’s Barely-There Card, Babies R US’s Not A Toy Card, Dick’s Sporting Good’s DickCertificates, Bed Bath & Beyond Bux, Apple/iTunes’ iPlastic, Cracker Barrel’s Old-Fashioned Supper Coupons, Whole Foods 90% Soy Card, Urban Outfitters’ Fake Vintage Vouchers, Microsoft Points, and many other varieties.
Practical choice for: Anyone who understands the microeconomics of interest rate decay and the perils of unsecured corporate debt structuring

THIS POST IS A SECRET SANTA SURVIVAL GUIDE