The whole galaxy is buzzing about the trailer for Star Wars Squadrons, a flight simulator coming from EA and Motive later this year. It’s a first in the latest era in the nearly four decades of Star Wars gaming, and it promises to be epic, but we don’t yet know how strange it will be. See, Star Wars may be at its best when it gets weird. From trash monsters to casino planets, redefining the boundaries of what Star Wars can be is paradoxically as much a part of Star Wars as lightsabers. Nothing has pushed this envelope harder than the video games, and no one did weirdness better than Lucasarts, the now-defunct gaming division of Lucasfilm. Buckle up for a dive into the four most notable times that Star Wars games got strange.
Holiday Special Connections in Galactic Battlegrounds
The 2001 real-time strategy game Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds is a favorite of mine, but even I have to admit it’s really just an Age of Empires clone set in the Star Wars universe. As if ship-to-ship battles (but not that kind, the water kind) and micromanaging a mysterious slave-caste of Gungans weren’t strange enough, the tutorial campaign of Galactic Battlegrounds inexplicably has Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi teaming up with Chewbacca before the events of The Phantom Menace, but he and his pal Shoran (of Timothy Zahn’s original Thrawn trilogy of Star Wars novels) aren’t their only Wookiee allies.
No, to free the moon of Alaris Prime from the Trade Federation, the Jedi heroes team up with none other than a (relatively) young Attitchitcuk. This is, of course, the unpronounceable real name of “Itchy,” Chewbacca’s crotchety father from the much-maligned Star Wars Holiday Special, where he most notably, um, thoroughly enjoyed a virtual reality, uh, “fantasy” portrayed by Diahann Carroll. I have long speculated that Itchy’s catastrophic underbite in the television disaster is a result of injuries sustained here, but no one answers my telephone calls to confirm.
In a universe of giant space worms, two-headed racing commentators, and giant slug crime lords, these guys might take the cake (provided we cut it in half first) for the strangest creatures in the galaxy, with their sole appearance in Knights of the Old Republic, the smash-hit 2003 roleplaying adventure. Two virtually identical specimens appear in the game, serve no role in the story, and are really, really weird.
A large, silent, hunched creature appears to be fused with a baby Xenomorph along its spine. The little body speaks (to humans) for both, telling irrelevant tales of their homeworld with a name unpronounceable by those of us with just one mouth. There is a lot of weirdness in the game’s epic storyline, but these seem by far the most irrelevant. A corpse described in the Star Wars zombie novel Death Troopers has long been speculated to be a Paaerduag, but I feel these abominations are a horror story unto themselves.
Super Jedi Legal Simulator
Knights of the Old Republic has claimed hundreds of hours of my life and half of this listicle. Sue me. No, really, sue me. On the planet Manaan. Because that’s a thing.
In the midst of chasing down the mythical Star Maps, the player is sidetracked by an ex-Jedi companion’s old friend. He has been accused of murdering a Sith with whom he was having an affair, and he has to stand trial in the Ahto City High Court. At this point, first-time players probably expect that the trial will devolve into violence and you will be forced to protect the defendant with your lightsaber. That is not the case. No, you are his “arbiter,” basically his super-powered criminal defense attorney, and you will depose witnesses and make arguments to either convict or exonerate this guy for potentially hours of precious Sith-slaying time.
It’s high-stakes jury duty in space. Deal with it.
Gungan Frontier’s Very Existence
There have been plenty of Star Wars games centered around being a Jedi, commanding an army, or flying a starfighter. There have even been a few based around the LEGO toys. There’s a Star Wars game about trading the cards. But there has only been one about managing a Gungan ecosystem, and that’s Gungan Frontier. When I’ve brought this up with friends who don’t remember it, they tend to assume I am joking or lying.
The little-known Lucas Learning children’s PC title released in 1999, just days after The Phantom Menace hit cinemas, casts the player as either Queen Amidala or Obi-Wan Kenobi as they work with Boss Nass and Jar Jar to populate a moon of Naboo with plants, animals, and Gungans. In this forerunner of games like Spore (with a rudimentary creature creator and all) with some SimCity mechanics, players must adequately plan every level of a food chain to ensure a thriving ecological balance with adequate resources for the Gungan city taking root. Really. This was done under the guidance of the Kresch, a disgusting but sacred crab thing that somehow contained the sum of all Gungan ecological knowledge.
The moon was not without its perils, ranging from probe droid malfunctions to moonquakes to sadistic children like me experimenting with how many blasts of the stun laser (ostensibly in the game to help prevent predators from rampaging in areas they were not meant to go) it takes to down a kaadu. If memory serves, it was, like, six, not that we endorse that behavior. I’m just noting for science. And the Kresch.