I scorned the CGI Clone Wars cartoon when it first came out for several reasons — the biggest one being Anakin Skywalker's apprentice, Ahsoka Tano.
I mean come on, an apprentice? He's not even a Jedi Master, plus she's never mentioned anywhere in the movies. That means that either Skywalker's hallucinating for the entire cartoon, or she has to die horribly at the end of it. Either way, I didn't want to get attached, and I didn't want anything to do with Clone Wars because to put it in my fellow Star Wars friends' words, "It's just some dumb spin-off show for kids."
Then this press junket happened and I completely changed my mind about the series and altered my expectations of its upcoming game, Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes.
I went to the junket because they were demoing the Wii version of the game, which doesn't have a demo out like the Xbox 360 version, Also, I've got a thing for Wiimotes making lightsaber noises. However, as part of the junket, I had to watch three episodes of Clone Wars Season 2.
All I can say without spoilers is wow, this series is heavy. There's torture, actual dead people on screen and zombies. Freaking zombies! No wonder Clone Wars is doing so well on Cartoon Network with the 6-12 year olds – it's not talking down to them. And there's a lot of battle scenes and lightstaber fights.
I take back that "dumb spin-off show for kids" on behalf of my friend and any other Star Wars fan who thinks it of Clone Wars. Also, I'm now interested in what happens to Ahsoka because she's no longer quite as annoyingly naïve and she might die soon. So every episode where something bad happens to her causes the audience to sit up and ask, "Wow. Is this it?"
With this altered perspective on the series, I turned to the video game, expecting similar themes and badassedness. Sadly, that was a mistake. The game's story (which takes place between the first and second seasons) stays away from most of the heavy stuff and focuses on wrecking droids instead of on tough ethical questions. There are no dead bodies, no real debates about war and there isn't a mini-game where Anakin Skywalker Force-chokes a prisoner of war for information (oops, cartoon spoiler).
I spoke with Vince Kudirka, Associate Producer on Republic Heroes, about the sharp difference between cartoon and video game. He explained that because video games are so fundamentally different from cartoons (and dominated by a different ratings board), the developers weren't able to push the envelope with tough stuff the way the cartoon. For example, if they have dead clones lying around in the game, it might bump the Teen rating up to an M and cut out more than half of the cartoon's audience. "I think it's because it's interactive," Kudirka said.
So, sadly, I had to get rid of my new expectations for the video game almost as soon as I formed them. I might adjust my expectations for the series airing on Cartoon Network. But as far as video games and mature themes go, Clones Wars isn't quite ready to go to that galaxy far, far away.
Stay tuned for an actual preview of Republic Heroes.