Wednesday, February 27, 2013

32 BBY: The Phantom Menace video game (PS1)

The Phantom Menace video game left me in a moral dilemma.  I didn’t complete the game on my own merits, and I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to playing the video games for the project; rather, I’m simply going watching other people’s walkthroughs on YouTube.  The benefits of watching walkthroughs are obvious (here comes my rationalization):  it’ll save me much time, money, and frustration.  For example, the time and trouble it took for me to get my hands on an N64 for The Battle for Naboo game was a little too much.  Moreover, for this game I had to dish out 50 bucks for a PS2 (plus 10 bucks to get the PS1 disc on EBay) which was ultimately neither fun nor enjoyable to play.
The Phantom Menace video game was mostly terrible, and in response to its terribleness I doubly cheated my way through it, and my “completion” of this game feels empty.  Yes, I’ve “walked through it”, but I don’t feel victorious.  Ultimately, I don’t like that I cheated my way through it.  After cheating I wish I hadn’t.  I wish I had finished the game on my own merits in order to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a video game.  I’m at the same time glad that I “finished” the game so I can move on to the next source (yet another video game), but sad that the game beat me.

Like I said, my cheating was two-fold.  Firstly, I cheated by using an actual cheat code.  The Escape from Theed level was so terribly difficult I broke down and looked for a way out.  I kept dying at the end of the level, where the tank guards the gates.  I came across IGN’s list of cheats and promptly entered in the invincibility code by highlighting the Options at the main menu, then pressing: Triangle, Circle, Left, L1, R2, Square, Circle, Left. When the tone confirmed correct entry, I held L1 + Select + Triangle.  Voila!  I was invincible, and oddly, felt like an actual Jedi when facing off against the battle droids in the subsequent levels.
Secondly, my other method of cheating was watching some Australian fellas play through the game (the PC version) on YouTube.  I became so confused with who I had to trade what with in the Mos Espa level, I broke down and watched a Phantom Menace walkthrough.  After watching the Mos Espa level I didn’t stop, and continued viewing right to end.  Needless to say, I don’t feel the need to complete the game now.

The reason I’m bothered by this can be summed up in one word – authenticity. 
The purpose of this project is to ‘authentically’ engage with all Star Wars material pertaining to the historical events of its universe, and in my opinion, a YouTube walkthrough is not an “authentic” engagement with the source.  It’s like reading the Coles notes of a book – it’s just not the same. 

So here I am, decidedly sure that I’m just going to watch walkthroughs of the video games for the SWCP on YouTube from here on in, yet unable to fully accept that I’ve sundered the original intent of this project (because I have). 
Ultimately, I think it’s a feeling I’ll get over.  Basically there is not enough incentive for me to make the claim “I’ve played all the Star Wars video games” considering all the time, money, and frustration it will take for me to actually play my way through them.  The books, RPG sources, short stories, audio dramas, movies, shows, and any other bits of media I’ve forgot to mention are all sources I can handle.  This experience has taught me that I am unable to properly engage with the video games.  Also, with the new baby my wife and I now outnumbered, and what little personal time I did have to devote to this project needs to be allocated to my home life.  I know there will be a bitter-sweet moment in my future when my children will start to ignore me.  On the one hand, this will allow me to pursue my hobbies once again, but on the other hand, in the eyes of my children I’ll  be transformed  from that super-fun guy who chases, tickles and plays action-figures into that uncool guy with all the rules who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

As it is, when I complete the Star Wars Chronology Project, I think I might start an offshoot blog and do my own video game walk throughs on YouTube.  That’ll be in about ten years (at the pace I’m going), so my children should be sufficiently independent enough to pick up and focus on their own hobbies allowing me to focus on mine.
Like I said above, the game was mostly terrible to play.  I had fun at the start playing Obi-Wan and fighting my way off the Trade Federation ship.  There was a neat cut-scene at the end of this level where Obi-Wan emergences from the water on the surface of Naboo.  It’s a scene not found in the film, and I thought there would be more of these throughout the game, but there wasn’t.  The only other original cut scene in the game was towards the end, where Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Amidala, and Anakin are about to infiltrate the Royal palace.

My most enjoyable moment in the game occurred while I was paying the Mos Espa level (ironically).  As Qui-Gon, if you bump in to one of the ruffians, he shouts at you “Hey!  Watch yourself!  I have the death sentence on 5 systems!” or something like that.  As I was playing, my wife asked how Yosemite Sam got on Tatooine.  I was like, ‘what?’, and she said ‘bump into that guy again’, and we both laughed.    
So, I’m a little sad to say that I’ll no longer be playing my way through the games.  They’re just too much.

For my next post I’ll be watching a walkthrough of the Obi-Wan video game (any recommendations of a particular walkthrough that I should watch?).  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Monday, February 4, 2013

32 BBY: Reputation

I’m a Cad Bane fanboy.  Ever since he first appeared in Hostage Crisis from the first season of The Clone Wars I’ve been totally taken with his awesomeness.  He is, by far, the coolest bounty hunter in all of Star Wars.  
Like all well drawn villains, we miss his presence when he is not on screen.  Cad Bane’s hat, pistols, and Peter Lorre inspired Hungarian-tinged Old West infused accent (as voiced by Cory Burton) all add to the "quintessentially cold, cruel and calculating" aspects of his character.  The Angel-Eyes of the Star Wars universe, Cad Bane is not a Duros to be trifled with. 

Before I give my thoughts on Reputation, a short story written by Ari Marmell, I want to share with you one of my favorite Cad Bane moments. In Hunt for Ziro, from season 3 of The Clone Wars, when Obi-Wan declares that Bane is under arrest, the hunter counters the Jedi’s intentions with his own:

“Well now that you mention it, the Separatists are paying a million credits a head for a Jedi”.
It’s a line filled with such bravado I can’t help but root for the lone gun-slinger facing off against the two Jedi Masters.  Though he ultimately falls short of collecting his bounty, he gives the two Jedi all they can handle.

In Reputation we meet Cad Bane many years before his emergence as the pre-eminent bounty hunter of his day, which brings me to my first point regarding this piece. I think there is a little confusion on the dating of this story, as Wookieepedia has it listed at circa 24 BBY, which I think is mistaken.  I’m listing it at 32 BBY because of the following:

“War’s coming.  Most people don’t like to think about it, didn’t want to admit it.  They pretended the Trade Federation’s recent embargoes were flukes; ignored the growing whispers of separation and secession from the Outer Rim systems; placed and almost religious faith in the new chancellor’s ability to reunite a fractious senate” (69).
I think a dating of 32 BBY is fairly obvious – we’re dealing with Bane’s past as the events of The Phantom Menace are unfolding.  What is more, in this story no one has heard of Cad Bane.  24 BBY doesn’t fit if we’re dealing with “recent embargoes” by the Trade Federation, and calling Palpatine a “new chancellor” 8 years after his election seems nonsensical as well.

As it is, as the name of this short story indicates, Bane is a new hunter trying to establish his reputation.  In this particular story he does so by taking a job  protecting a Bothan crime boss from a Jedi gone rouge, but as the hunter quickly learns, his target is no Jedi at all.
Hired by Akris Ur’etu, the crime boss in question, Bane was tasked with protecting the syndicate leader from a “Jedi” that picked a fight with his operation.  As it turns out, the nameless “Jedi” is simply another mercenary hired by the Hutts to shut down Ur’etu’s dealings.  While watching the mercenary take down Ur’etu and his men, Bane was able to see through the man’s disguise, and realized that the “Jedi” was just another dog of war in in disguise touting a bag of neat tricks.  The story ends with Bane decimating the imposter Jedi, and allowing him to live so that he may give Bane the secrets of his equipment.

What Reputation is, really, is the origin story of how Cad Bane came about his own bag of neat tricks.  Watching and learning from the Jedi imposter, Bane exchanged the man’s life for information on how to obtain his equipment.  It is from this interaction that Bane, presumably, gets his rocket boots, his wrist cable, and possibly the gas emitter the Jedi used to “force choke” people.
In regards to the writer of this piece; I’ve never heard of Ari Marmell before, but his prose was enjoyable and he did well sketching out the character of Cad Bane.  He seemed to have Bane’s speech patterns down pat.  At least, when I read Bane’s words I could hear his voice in my head. In short, I liked Marmell’s work.  A quick look at Wikipedia tells us he’s been writing in the RPG field for a while, even contributing to some Wizards of the Coast material.  I look forward to coming across Marmell’s work again.

Thomas Hodges’ art was fantastic.  I’m not really much of an art critic so sometimes I’m really not sure what to say when I appreciate an artist’s work.  I really liked Hodge’s stuff here.  It reminded me of John Bryne’s art from The Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine from the 90s- those thick dark lines.  The best piece was Bane standing in front of the blown-open door with his hat tipped and hand on his blaster. 
Marmell and Hodges is a good combo here.

For my next post I’m going to give my reactions to The Phantom Menace PS1 video game.  I’m currently playing my way the Mos Espa level so I still have some content to go.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.