Star Wars, Jedi Kinght: Jedi Academy
Every generation of video games has its go-to titles, (see Mario, Sonic, Halo, Call of Duty, Pac-Man, Tetris) and we keep seeing reboot after reboot of the same games. As with movies now, it’s just easier and lower risk to put out a sequel, the marketing works already done for you and you know you have a dedicated audience ready to consume. The games that get made are the ones that’ll probably sell, and the games that get remade are reboots of the ones that sold, but what about the ones that didn’t sell? If we treat video games with the same sensibilities as we treat the rest of our popular culture…
Pictured Above: our generation’s legacy… look at it!
So let’s take some time to remember gaming history’s forgotten soldiers; the games that you may have heard of, but never played. In this, the first installment of “Why They Were Great,” we begin to examine those games that, although you won’t see a multi-million dollar reboot anytime soon, made their generation of gaming worth playing. We will begin with Star Wars, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy.
Full Disclosure: the only “clan” I was ever in was the Orange Tuscan Clan on Academy, I was in junior high. It was a different time and I was young.
Why It was Great
It was an awesome game, that came at the merger of a few gaming innovations.
1. A useful controller
For gamers of the giant handed variety.
2. ONLINE GAMING FOR THE MASSES
3. Graphics that were actually presentable
Before this generation, if you wanted to play good games, you played a Nintendo 64 (I refuse to acknowledge that Playstation existed at the time) and that meant that you had to either wear thumb protection, or develop blisters on your thumb trying to operate the one joystick, and if the game allowed it, use the c buttons to control the camera.
Made before the discovery that humans have two hands instead of three.
The Xbox/Gamecube generation of consoles found a way to fix this problem, and that’s why I can’t play Goldeneye for 64 anymore, because moving with one stick and looking with another just makes too much sense.
So in Jedi Academy, you could switch between 3rd and 1st person perspective (sort of). And it worked! In multiplayer! You could look behind you without wasting 15 seconds travelling in the opposite direction That level of control allowed for a fast paced and truly fun game. Couple that with a sizable online presence of gamers not yet experienced, and you have one of the first easily accessible MMOs.
It had a terrific good storyline: You were a new Padawan in Luke Skywalker’s New Jedi Order, and your fighting the remnant of the old Empire, and stuff happens and you fight people and you see a neat statue of Darth Vader and do all the typical star warsy space travel. But what makes the storymode worth playing is that you could customize the main characters force abilities; choose to use light or dark powers; choose between three different endings (granted they were all pretty much the same, but they were your decisions, and you made them, it wasn’t like most games today where they put little to no effort into the storyline, treat it like a crappy interactive movie, and expect the entire game to be about online play). This game was made before playing online was the norm, and that being the case, it helped set the bar for online console games to come.
Entire books could, and should, be written about the development of online gaming as it’s known today, but the abbreviated version reads like this: Before Xbox live, online gaming on your television from your console was unheard of by the overwhelming majority of gamers, but in the winter of 2002 Microsoft launched Xbox live to some deal of success. However, as the Wii taught us, a platform is only as good as the games made for it and Jedi Academy delivered. It was a good game with user-friendly/intuitive controls, quality maps, graphics, and game modes, not to mention it was a Star Wars game, so you were able to collectively experience being transported to the Star Wars universe. This was before in-game communication had been reduced to racism and “trolling” and everything was still new, so people enjoyed talking to other players about the game and strategizing, exchanging tips and actually interacting, which made for one of the best online gaming experience I’ve ever had.
Maybe I’m just finally getting old, I’m at that point where “back in my day” things were just better, but a lot of what made Jedi Academy great was the online community, and the quality of play online, and I’m all but certain that we’ll never see a mostly-courteous and engaging attitude toward online gaming, but if you don’t mind parting with 10 bucks, go to eBay or your local usedgamesseller (I’m making that a thing, like “bookseller”) and pick up a copy. It’ll remind you of the way things were before video game developers gave up.