Page 28, press hold, and reveal. Digitiser's founder speaks out

Edge Magazine #135 April 2004

There's far enough, and then there's too far

Edge #135, April 2004

As game fans, it goes without saying that the majority of us are also fans of the 'Star Wars' movies. We all have our favourite moments, be it Vader telling Luke that he's really his daddy, or that time when Princess Leia called Chewbacca a 'stupid fat muff'..

You know what I really like? That bit in 'The Empire Strikes Back' where Darth Vader suddenly jumps to his death, for no apparent reason. Man, I never saw that coming! And there's that hilarious moment of slapstick in 'A New Hope', or whatever it's called these days, where Luke can't get through a door because Princess Leia and Hans Solero are in his way. He just keeps running on the spot, and Hans and Leia are walking on the spot, then Hans turns 90 degrees, and starts walking up against a wall — for the rest of the film! Classic stuff!

Though generally considered to be the work of a great auteur-turned-swollen-capitalist-dog, even the 'Star Wars' prequels have their great scenes. Let's not forget the exchange between Yoda and Count Fooku during 'Attack Of The Clones':

Yoda: The Force flows through me!
Fooku: Where are you going, Jedi?
Yoda: The Force flows through me!
Fooku: You cannot resist the power of the Dark Side. Where are you going, Jedi? Where are you going, Jedi?
Yoda: The Force flows through me!

At which point Yoda runs headfirst into a large lake of lava, and dies. The crazy little troll!

Friends, I'm just joshing. You can stop scratching your brains. Of course none of those things really happened in the 'Star Wars' films, all of which contained clever dialogue, intricate plotting and spectacular action sequences (well, a few of them, anyway). Had these things happened in the films, you'd likely wonder whether George Lucas had succumbed to brain-scrambling money poisoning, or you were watching an unexpected sci-fi spin-off of Monty Python: "He's not a Sith Lord, he's a very naughty boy! This Jedi has ceased to be, it is an ex Obi-Wan!" etc.

If this prospect gets you excited, and you would be keen to see such absurdity occurring within the 'Star Wars' universe, you could do worse than pick up a copy of Jedi Academy, the latest first-person travesty to be given Mr Lucas's beard of approval (as an aside, have you noticed Lucas no longer has a discernible jaw-line? My theory is that there's a neck there somewhere, but it's obscured by a foot of wiry, grey hair. Perhaps he hides cakes in it, or action figure royalties).

Apologies if I'm slightly behind the times on this — I appreciate that Jedi Academy is by no means a new title. The PC version of the game has been on sale for some months, and yet LucasArts has neglected to use the opportunity to fix fundamental flaws with the Al. Oh, sure, there's probably some patch online that stops your enemies committing suicide, but the average Jedi Academy owner — more likely to be a 'Star Wars' fan than a hardcore gamer — is unlikely to be aware of it. If Lucas can release special editions of his films, which, ahem, fix fundamental flaws in the original product, then why not special editions of the games which also bear his name? You know — editions which are complete, rather than hastily assembled piss-takes. Probably because us lot would all whinge that, "Ohhh, they should've taken longer and not released something in such an unfinished state." Ungrateful sods that we are.

The release of bug-free editions aside, it raises an issue about whether there is a market for special editions, or director's cuts, of games. Admittedly, a few hardy souls have tried it — Capcom with its GameCube remake of Resident Evil for one. Thing is, where do you draw the line?

With the original 'Star Wars' trilogy due for release on DVD in September, hardcore fanboys are up in arms that Lucas won't be including the original versions of his films. Instead, the set will feature the 1997 special editions with their much-maligned enhancements. There's a reworking of the Cantina scene so Greedo fires first, an extended sequence where Luke Skywalker takes a slash up against a droid, and the inexplicable digital removal of Carrie Fisher's limbs, so she resembles a sort of floating torso thing. Lucas's defence was that the original films were merely works-in-progress, and the special editions are how he'd have made them if he'd had the time, money and technology. Well, fair enough. GameCube Resident Evil is, presumably, the version Capcom would have preferred to have released on the PlayStation, way back when (although I must admit I missed all that chat about 'The Master of Unlocking').

Arguably, Sonic Heroes is a special edition of sorts. It pretty much reprises the locations from the original Sonic The Hedgehog, albeit with a 3D twist. And lord knows how many 'special editions' we've had of Space Invaders, or Pac-Man, or Tetris. Thing is, in all the above examples those responsible have come at the special editions from the same point of view as Herr Lucas — that more is more. Compare the critical reaction to the special editions of 'Star Wars' to, say, Ridley Scott's director's cuts of 'Blade Runner' or 'Alien'. Both films included additional footage, and yet were shorter than the original releases. Will Space Invaders: Invasion Day be as massive as the original? No. Were Wordtris and Bombtris and Arsetris bigger hits than Tetris? No, because all deviated too far from a winning formula.

Personally, I'd kill to play Sonic The Hedgehog with a subtle 3D twist. I don't want to be tethered to his chums, I want to play a Sonic game that feels like Sonic and returns to the fundamentals of the series. Developers need to stop trying to show off, stop trying to reinvent the wheel, and give us what we expect when we fork out for a familiar brand. Look what happened when Coca-Cola changed its recipe. Let's see some more faithful franchise extensions. Let's see some special editions that don't wipe the slate clean and start again. And let's not have any more of Mario in a bloody aqua jetpack. I want to see the little Italian twat jumping on turtles' backs, and quaffing hallucinogenic fungi. Okay?

Mr Biffo is a semi-retired videogame journalist. His views do not necessarily coincide with Edge's

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