Every Star Wars fan (okay, maybe not the ones who love the “original” trilogy better) already know about the expanded universe in books, comics, TV series, and all sorts of other forms of media. The list of these books has grown tremendously over the years with their popularity, and it’s up to fans to pick and choose which part of the Star Wars saga they want to read about. Most fans like to read about events that happen in between or just before the movies. Others like to hear about what happens after the cute and cuddly Ewoks (with their barbaric weapons) take down the most technologically advanced group in Star Wars history: the Empire. Maybe next time the Empire shouldn’t have based their entire storm trooper technology on cheap white plastic.
One book in particular stands out in the massive library of Star Wars fiction as being one of the best: Shadows of the Empire. “Shadows” tells the story of all of your favorite Star Wars characters (minus Han who is trapped in carbonite already) in between the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi movies. The gang hatches a plan to save Han, but of course nothing is easy, and gets tied up in one of the galaxies most feared criminal organizations: Black Sun.
You’ll be introduced to other side characters that aren’t ever in the movies, like the droid bodyguard assassin Guri, the head of Black Sun Prince Xizor, and one of my favorite characters Dash Rendar, to play the gritty smuggler. He’s almost a carbon copy of Han Solo (so I can see why they didn’t want to include him in the movies), but Dash is even more of an asshole. I always loved that side of Han Solo, because he’s just a complete dick and he wins over the princess who is light years out of his league.
Shadows of the Empire features just enough of the main saga of Star Wars to care, but enough new fresh content thrown in to play around with the characters and see them in new ways. If you haven’t read the book, you might have already gotten everything by playing the N64 classic of the same name. In the game, you took control of Dash with his trusty sidekick droid Leebo, and saw a companion piece to what happens in the book.
The book mostly follows the other main characters Chewie, Lando, Leia, Luke and the droids. In the game, you follow Dash and will constantly go off on your own, but occasionally intersect with the main characters as you come back to help out. I just finished reading Shadows of the Empire, and now that I look back on that game, I realize just how great it actually was. Now I want a high definition remake.
The story of the book makes for a lot of flying and dog fights in space. It’s a little tough to read because you’re constantly trying to picture in your mind what’s going on in a large galactic battle or dogfight, but the book fits perfectly into what a game should be: action sequences. There were a few third-person platforming and exploration levels thrown into the N64 classic for a junkyard sequence and hunting down Boba Fett (before he gets killed in the sarlacc pit in Jedi) but this would also be perfect as well.
The story for Shadows of the Empire was the shining point; every now and then in the book you’ll see a small connection to the main Star Wars movies (which is what most fans want). Want to know how many Bothans died to bring Mon Mothma the second Death Star plan information? That’s in the book. Its small trinkets like this that tie back into the main story and you get one of those, “Oh yeah!” moments.
Sadly, the story and the ending is also its downfall. With all of this dog-fighting, chasing and battles, the end of the book doesn’t really wrap up. It just can’t. It’s got to make room for the Return of the Jedi movie. This could piss some gamers off. They just sat there and battled for 8 hours and they get to the end only to see that pretty much everything is exactly the same as in the beginning; Han is still in carbonite, people died, there were a few space battles, and Chewbacca growled a few times. Maybe they should just have the plans fall into the Alliance’s hands and show the first couple of clips from Return of the Jedi, then cut it off, I think that would make a great ending.
With the first Star Wars: Force Unleashed having a mediocre story at best and rinse and repeat gameplay (and also a Star Destroyer glitch to hamper the game), Shadows of the Empire could be a breath of fresh air that Star Wars gamers want and need. Sure, playing as Luke Starkiller in the Force Unleashed series is nice and all, being able to feel like a Jedi, but being able to tie into the main movies is something every Star Wars fan wants to do. That’s the reason the Rogue Squadron flight series did so well, and Dark Forces, and Dark Knight. See where I’m going with this? Who didn’t want to take down Imperial AT-AT walkers on Hoth in Roque Squadron? Anybody? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Everyone does.
So with those reasons right there: renewed faith in the Star Wars franchise, fun engaging gameplay, action packed sequences, and little tie-backs and hints to the original trilogy, gamers (me included) would line up in droves to play a high-def remake of the Shadows of the Empire game. I just hope Mr. Lucas signs off on it instead of trying to slap on “Special Edition” to another turd nugget of his most famous movies. Believe me; he’s signed off on worse: Jar Jar Binks for starters as well as the explanation of the Force down to the scientific molecular level instead of being the unexplained, ominous force that we can’t see or touch. Nice job Lucas. Let’s make up for that.