Over the past 30 years there have been plenty of memorable Star Wars games, from the Super Star Wars series to X-Wing to Jedi Knight to Battlefront. They’re all classics, not just awesome adaptations of a movie franchise but awesome games in their own right.
Star Wars: Yoda Stories is not one of those games.
Released on the PC in 1997, Star Wars: Yoda Stories was one of many games to come out of Lucasarts during its weird phase, between its hits of the 1990s and its hits of the early 2000s, when it rolled the dice on games like Outlaws, Afterlife and this.
It’s the second, and final game in the “Desktop Adventure” series the publisher had hoped to kickstart (the first being an Indiana Jones title), forgoing the usual PC gaming route of BIGGER FASTER MORE POWERFUL in favour of something small and light that could be run on your mum’s computer while you had Word and Solitaire open at the same time.
As such, it wasn’t a cutting-edge first-person shooter, or real-time strategy game, of intense space combat simulation. It was a top-down RPG. Like something you’d play on the SNES. Only with adorable little Star Wars characters.
While it looked like Earthbound or Pokemon or Chrono Trigger, it lacked the depth and quality of those classics. Star Wars: Yoda Stories was built more like the original Legend of Zelda if it was a party game, consisting of a number of “screens” that had you, playing as Luke Skywalker, performing a variety of mundane tasks like fetching stuff and killing things.
There was no story tying the thing together; you just started playing and were given unrelated quests to complete. To give you an idea of the kind of tone these quests would take, each game starts with Luke landing on Dagobah, circa Empire Strikes Back. Note that he doesn’t crash in a swamp. He just lands, jumps out and says:
Dagobah! Yoda must be around here somewhere. I better find him and see what’s on his mind…
Yeah. When you do find him, instead of teaching you in the ways of the force, Yoda sends you out on quests across the galaxy, doing things like rescuing Rebel officers from Imperial detention centres. Which may be more interesting than floating rocks, but it’s not as canonical.
As you can see in the footage, the game was dreadful. Combat was torture, the dialogue was awful and the repetitive nature of the missions began to grate after around 10 minutes. If you ever see a novelty list of the “WORST STAR WARS GAMES EVER”, this game is normally right up there near the top.
And yet! I have a soft spot for the game (and the Indiana Jones title which preceded it). Why? Because I think they were ahead of their time. The name of the game in the desktop adventure series as accessibility and presentation, stripping back Lucasarts’ two most popular properties into something that could be played by anyone on just about any PC that could run Windows.
The games had the right idea, then. They just came out too early. There wasn’t really a market for this kind of stuff in the late 1990s, but now, if these games came out on something like Facebook (and were improved just a little) they’d be massive hits. After all, who wouldn’t want to play a Star Wars game that looked like Pokemon? It’s too damn adorable to resist.
Two years after the PC version was released (and was met with catastrophic reviews), a Game Boy colour port of the game was published. It was even worse than it was on PC, and would be the last time Lucasarts tried this “cute” approach to Star Wars until the iPhone hit it big 10 years later.
FUN FACT: Listen to the audio in the gameplay clip above. You’ll hear sound effects from Day of the Tentacle.
Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.