Feature

Gaming’s Best And Worst Star Wars Characters

by Joe Juba on Dec 22, 2011 at 11:00 AM

The cast of the Star Wars universe isn’t perfect. For every cool character like Darth Vader, fans have to endure a lame one like Jar Jar Binks, and that rule holds true for Star Wars games as well as the movies. Fortunately, games have given rise to some of the most memorable characters in the galaxy far, far away…even though it means putting up with some stinkers, too. In this feature, we examine gaming’s five most significant and five most shameful additions to the Star Wars fiction.

–By Joe Juba, Adam Biessener, Kyle Hilliard, Matt Miller, Ben Reeves, and Tim Turi

AWESOME: HK-47 (Knights of the Old Republic)

As an assassin droid, HK (which stands for “Hunter-Killer,” by the way) isn’t just another robot built to make humans’ lives easier. He has a hostile attitude toward all organic life, and gleefully describes the various killing methods he has employed (or would like to employ). HK takes great pride in his assassination skills, regularly refers to humans as “meatbags,” and is generally just hilarious to interact with. A psychopathic robot may not seem like great company, but HK-47 is easily the best companion the KOTOR series has to offer.

LAME: Dash Rendar (Shadows of the Empire)

If you thought Link or Gordon Freeman epitomized the silent video game protagonist, then you haven’t met Dash Rendar. In fact, nobody has met Dash Rendar. He is an empty shell of a character with weird shoulder pads who wants so badly to be Han Solo that he even has a ship that looks like a miniature Millennium Falcon. It’s a wonder Lucas didn’t just call him San Holo. Here’s the good news: He dies in the end of Shadows of The Empire, and Luke and Leia barely feel the need to mourn. Spoiler alert, by the way, even though no one really cares.

AWESOME: Kyle Katarn (Dark Forces)

This Imperial defector’s colorful history makes him an ideal Star Wars hero. Originally a Stormtroomer, Katarn shed his white armor in favor of becoming a mercenary employed by the Rebellion. While in the Rebels’ service, he not only single-handedly blasted his way through an Imperial base to secure Death Star plans, he also destroyed every trace of the empire’s diabolical Dark Trooper super-soldier program. As if these feats didn’t make him heroic enough, he also picked up a lightsaber, traveled to the Valley of the Jedi, and trained himself to become one of the best force-wielders in Star Wars history.

LAME: Juno Eclipse (The Force Unleashed)

A love story is a key part of both Star Wars film trilogies. In an effort to make The Force Unleashed feel like a real part of the mythology, the team at LucasArts threw together Juno Eclipse as romantic interest for Starkiller. However, her only defining characteristic is the fact that she speaks with a British accent – players are given no clue as to why she is likable or how she and Starkiller develop a rapport. The relationship between Juno and Starkiller is even more poorly developed than the one between Anakin and Padme in Episode II, which we wouldn’t have thought was possible.

AWESOME: Delta Squad (Republic Commando)

In one of the more unexpected twists in Star Wars canon, Republic Commando gave us one of the freshest and most exciting visions of the Star Wars universe thanks to the coolness factor presented by the four elite soldiers of Delta Squad. Boss, Scorch, Fixer, and Sev are more than ordinary clones – these highly trained spec ops fighters are deployed on the most secret and dangerous missions, and their furious and brutal combat scenarios are a far cry from the sanitized fantasy styling most players expected out of Star Wars. Bound by a brotherhood of war, Delta Squad takes down the most dangerous of enemies, from droids to Trandoshan slavers. In a strange twist, their bravery and tenacious grit makes these clones some of the most human characters to appear in the expanded universe.

LAME: Carth Onasi (Knights of the Old Republic)

All of today’s biggest video game dorks owe a debt to Carth. After all, he may be gaming’s greatest pioneer in the field of being a total wiener. He is an innovator in so many areas: wet blanket, whiner, killjoy, and wuss to name a few. Carth has trust issues, which may make him seem vulnerable and attractive if your character is looking for a love interest, but just imagine the life that leads to. “Where should we go for dinner tonight, Carth?” “Well, sweetheart, I don’t want to go anywhere too hot, or too bright, or where the food is too spicy, or where the waiters dress in fancy clothes. Also, even though we’re married, I don’t think I trust you enough to go out to eat with you.” Go back to sitting alone on the Ebon Hawk where you belong, Carth.

AWESOME: Darths of the Old Republic

Is it a cop-out to include all of these characters in one entry? Absolutely. Even so, BioWare and Obsidian have crafted some truly compelling villains in their RPGs. In fact, most of them are cooler and better developed than the Sith lords of the Star Wars films. Darths Revan, Malak, Nihilus, Scion, and Traya are each awesome in unique ways, while the recently released MMO has given us new names to fear like Darth Baras and Darth Malgus. The evil Force-users have awesome abilities, sinister personalities, and fleshed-out backstories, all of which make them more terrifying foes than some scowling spikey-headed Sith whose big moment was getting chopped in half.

LAME: Arden Lyn (Masters of Teras Kasi)

LucasArts could have used this fighting game as an opportunity to let gamers experience the fighting prowess of a tough-as-nails bounty hunter, a heartless hunter killer robot, or a sure-footed Sith warrior. Instead we get a mentally unstable sourpuss whose biggest selling point is her robotic arm. LucasArts, here’s a tip: Robotic arms don’t immediately make someone cool. A third of everyone in the Star Wars Universe has metal arms. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader both have them. General Grievous is made out of robot arms. Rosie from The Jetsons has two robotic arms. Does that mean George Jetson’s maid could defeat Arden Lyn in a fight? Actually, she probably could.

AWESOME: TIE Defender (TIE Fighter)

You know what helps in space dogfights? Shields. Also helpful: more than half the number of lasers that most of your opponents are packing. After somehow surviving through piloting the iconic but underpowered basic Imperial starfighter for most of your career, this powerful ship becomes your best friend the moment you unlock it. Together, you gaily skip through the endless void of space, disintegrating Rebel scum without a care in the galaxy until the credits roll. It may not strictly be a person, but the TIE Defender is like a best friend with a tractor beam whose power can be shunted to double up its shield, laser, or engine power.

LAME: The Carbon Freezing Chamber Generator (Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back)

The SNES classic Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back might be the only game that required players to fight what was essentially an industrial-sized gas freezer. When making a licensed game in the ‘80s and ‘90s, many game developers felt constrained to follow every beat of a film, so when Sculptured Software saw the sequence in which Han Solo was captured by Vader and frozen in Carbonite, it had to put that sequence in the game. But getting frozen into wall art doesn’t make for good gameplay, so the developer decided to turned that moment into a double-jumping platform sequence that ends with Solo battling what looks like a floating warp core equipped with flamethrowers and icicle cannons. Apparently artistic license doesn’t have to be artful.