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The Long Good-Bye to Lucas Arts

 


Old friends come and they go, and the same can be said of the developers of the gaming industry. Rarely, though, are there such memorable and valued memories behind a company like Lucas Arts for both the gamer and George Lucas fanboy in me. It’s honestly a sad blog post that I write, one that I hoped I never would as a defender of all things Star Wars, but sometimes the headlines prove that even your childhood memories fade away with the corporate engine that engineered them. It’s always going to be disheartening to see the Lucas Arts label forever disappear from game titles, but even with Lucas Arts apparent death as a game developer, I believe that there’s an equal chance at rebirth. Take a moment if you will, as I give my own eulogy for one of gaming’s most timeless developers and a look at what I think the future might hold for what was, to me, a good gaming friend.

Remembering My Time With Lucas Arts:

With any death comes mourning and remembrance, and what a remembrance Lucas Arts deserves. Other gaming companies have made far more money and games than Lucas Arts’s long small size, however, few could capture my childhood love than George Lucas’s once grand contribution to the gaming industry. Though many will tell you of their favorite memories of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, I never tuned into them because, like many of you, I was and still am a Star Wars-holic. Being one even before I was a serious gamer, I fell in love with just about everything Star Wars that Lucas Arts came out with and still hold almost every one with high regard. Lucas Arts no doubt still has many great titles that I’ve still never played, but if one thing’s for certain, it was one heck of a ride while it lasted. 

Star Wars: X-Wing

Though I hardly ever play PC games nowadays, from the days that I used to play them as a little kid, Star Wars: X-Wing stands tall as one of my most nostalgic gaming memories. For someone that was obsessed with making the perfect Lego Death Star in a galaxy far, far away, space ships  were an integral part of my Star Wars fandom (the Death Star was technically a ship, right?), and X-Wing hit that sweet spot with some of the most enjoyable space fights that a mouse-click could offer. I can fondly remember the joy of shooting down Tie Fighters and saving the Rebel Alliance from my dad’s laptop from work (I always got his permission) and clocking in endless afternoon hours probably staring at a fake cockpit screen longer than was good for me, and I loved what felt like a true Rebel pilot experience. Looking back at it now, it’s almost shocking how primitive it really looked, but to my memory, X-Wing will be the Star Wars’ Top Gun that was second to none.

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron Series

As much fun as I had with X-wing, it was but a mere preview of what the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series would soon deliver. I can’t even choose one thanks to them all running together in my mind as what can be described as the very best space-dogfighting games that’ve ever been made. From the still gorgeous graphics, to its great gameplay, to its then fantastic ability for movie flair, Rogue Squadron put me in the most realistic and entertaining Star Wars cockpit that I’ve ever been in and might ever be. I remember being particularly excited for the 2nd one of Rogue Squadron after playing the demo to death at Toys R Us and being overjoyed to get it not only at launch, but with a brand new Gamecube for my birthday to boot. Imagine my delight at being able to finally look around you cockpit and seeing Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter behind you in the Death Star’s Trench and even flying over Mos Eisley shooting womp rats. Me and my brother played it to our hearts content and to this day, I’m proud to say that I ranked at at least a captain’s rank by the time I finished the campaign. The third game or Rebel Strike got a lot of more disappointing reviews from some, but despite it’s more linear ground-based missions, piloting an AT-AT walker and finally being able to play stormtrooper Han Solo on the Death Star were further memories that 7 yr. old me can’t soon forget.

Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

Right on the heels of Star Wars’s rapidly emerging Expanded Universe of franchise fiction in the early 2000s, and Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast was unarguably that era’s best gaming contribution as one of Star Wars’s best Jedi centric titles. Right alongside the growing collection of novels by such outstanding Star Wars scribes like James Luceno and Timothy Zahn, Jedi Outcast not only looked, but felt like a Star Wars story in every way in its fantastic locations to its intriguing new characters. The game was especially bold to develop a brand new character like its protagonist of Kyle Katarn, but along with an interesting set of new villains and fun Force powers, Jedi Outcast was no outcast when it came to my PS2 game collection. While the Force Unleashed attempted to capitalize on many things Jedi Outcast already did, I can safely say that Jedi Outcast has still done them better to this day. Running around an impressively laid out Yavin Jedi Academy and tossing a guy into a carbon freezing chamber made it never felt so good to be a Jedi.

Star Wars Battlefront Series:

While the Internet may be tired of hearing anything more about the troubled and equally ambiguous history of Battlefront III, Battlefront I and II were the initial reasons why I got the PS2 and stay with me as enjoyable titles to remember. I can remember splitting the console’s cost with my younger brother the instant I found out that this wasn’t going to be on Gamecube and getting the new Original Trilogy collection on DVD the month I got Battlefront was a good day to be had. Sure, there are of course game much better than either of these on the system that I’ve played (Snake Eater and Up Your Arsenal are among them) but the Battlefronts were a particularly precious fanboy joy that gave way to a look at the Star Wars universe that I haven’t seen since. As many ships as Star Wars may boast, nothing else felt the same as being a soldier on its front lines, getting to tread the worlds themselves in such still impressive detail. I was never a Call of Duty fan, so Battlefront gave me what I craved in the third-person shooter genre at an early age. Battlefront II’s deeper story narrative, more interesting worlds, and it’s soldier classes improved the first in every way and running alongside your troops with the game’s movie characters were a true pleasure to play. 

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 

In some ways, my anticipation for the Force Unleashed was monumentally bigger than the actual game that it turned out to be. Mashing up God of War-style gameplay with a cinematic story-telling between the two film trilogies seemed like a golden opportunity for Star Wars to take to the PS3 and 360’s new tech capabilities and I was pumped for it all year long. I followed every bit of footage and news bite available for it and thought of it as the game to put Lucas Arts on the map once again. Alas, maybe I set my sights far too high or Lucas Arts was already feeling the lethargy of a dying amount of talent among its shrinking staff, for what I played was ultimately just another okay game. The Force combat was nice, but not nearly as wild as God of War’s and pretty much what saw in the Jedi Knight games. The Secret Apprentice was further a decidedly stale hero to follow, but if anything, the intriguing and ground-breaking story was something to treasure. Sure, things totally crashed by its sequel, but whether for my excitement for The Force Unleashed or its satisfying envisioning of the prequel Star Wars era, it’s still Lucas Arts’ last decent gaming memory for me and I wish that the series had gone to higher places.

Classics I never played:

Perhaps unlike many of you reading this, I never had an X-Box or a high-end PC, so playing classics like Knights of the Old Republic or Republic Commando was never an option for me. From what I’ve read and seen of the games, they’ll forever be amazing titles that I wish I had. Maybe someday HD re-releases will be in both of their futures, but until then, I don’t have any good memories on them as much as I might wish.

The Studio Closure: What It Should Mean to Fans

The Bad News

The most obvious part of Lucas Arts’ closing is simply that it just won’t be there anymore. By no longer existing as a game developer, there won’t be any Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Monkey Island, or Maniac Mansion sequels from them. . . ever again. It’s a terrible thing for both the fans and employees behind such a previously might juggernaut and it’s not something to take lightly when considering the future of any of the games for the afore mentioned franchises. As they proved in the past, Lucas Arts was the only company that made any of these brand name titles, and there just may never be anyone that understands their franchises’s lore or fanbase to make them the same. In addition, Lucas Arts had plenty of projects already in the works like 1313 (and *cough* Battlefront 3) that may never see the light of day again because of the company’s closure. Thus, there’s the prospect that Lucas Arts may go under and take all of its goodies with it. There’s also the equally discomforting fact that Disney will now be calling the shots on whatever Star Wars or Indy games it wants to make and, well, Disney’s never been known to have a glorious history of making video-games, errmm, ever. There are only 4 words I can say to summarize that prospect: Star Wars Infinity anyone?

The [Potentially] Good News

At the same time, there’s almost as much good news that can be thought of with Lucas Arts’s departure from game-making. While, seeing it go can be hard to many, it’s worth noting that Lucas Arts, in many ways, had been dead in many ways for a long time. Fans will no doubt remember the lack-luster story-telling of the Force Unleashed II as well as the terrible reception of a certain awful Kinect game of Lucas Arts, all of which signaled the company’s downward spiral for the last several years. While there have been things like the Old Republic and Lego Star Wars games, none of them were soley produced by Lucas Arts and have generally been indicators of Lucas Arts’s gradual decrease of involvement in their games. Frankly, with all of their employee departures over the last 5-6 yrs., the talent has long moved on from Lucas Arts and the company might as well follow it out the door. New blood could be just the thing for Lucas Arts’s game franchises, as they might craft the things that the company would’ve never gotten around to doing anyway.

In short, the future is more than uncertain for Lucas Arts’s gaming legacy, rather, it’s quite daunting. With as many hopes and fears as I have about one of my favorite game developers, there’s every chance that, like life, things may just work out for good. The future is just pretty darn scary, but there’s no reason not to grasp it by the horns, and I'd like to think that a legacy as great as Lucas Arts can't afford not to be respected in some way.

If Disney does open the floodgates to the 3rd party game developers of the world, the potential is truly astonishing. An Indiana Jones game with Assassin’s Creed’s openworld and platforming, a Naughty Dog game with Boba Fett, an “Imperial Asylum” Rocksteady Sith/Jedi game, the possibilities are exciting to be sure. As well as Lucas Arts has treated (and yes, mistreated too) its franchises, sharing its treasure trove with the rest of the industry’s talent is the best option it can have, and the only one if its classic games are to last. 

Well, thanks for reading and please, feel free to tell me any of your favorite memories of Lucas Arts’s game collection. May the Gaming be with you!

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