“There’s always a bigger fish…”

In high school, there was no bigger event than the release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.  It was a *brand new* Star Wars film, the first since 1983, and was using state-of-the-art sound and visual effects.  It was hyped more than any other film in history at that point, and no matter where you turned, it was in your face.

My favourite NASCAR driver, running a paint scheme promoting my favourite movie at the time??? SCORE.

Sitting in the theatre for my first viewing (of five), waiting for the curtains to go up was one of the most exciting “OH MY GOD I’M GONNA PEE” moments in my entire life.

For the record, I didn’t pee.  If so, I managed to do it in the correct spot.

Inevitably, several games based on the movie were released.  It seemed like every few months, there was a new one popping up.  Not counting educational titles (which there were plenty of), ten console or hand held Episode I games hit the market between 1999 and 2002, as did two fairly hard-to-find arcade games.

Even though I knew it was the worst of the Star Wars movies thus far, I was sucked in.  Yes, Jar-Jar was groan-inducing.  Yes, some of the dialogue was a bit clunky, a trait carried over from the original trilogy.  I was only 15 when it was released, so I didn’t bother looking at anything negative about the movie, even though I knew it was there.  I just sat back, turned my brain off, enjoyed the ride and everything that came along with it.

I recently saw the movie’s 3D release in theatres, and it brought me right back to 1999…

1999 - PC\Playstation (LucasArts)

This game fell under the Action\Adventure umbrella with a few RPG elements threw in for good measure, and was released for Windows a few days after the movie was released.  The version I wanted – for PlayStation – was delayed until September, for some unknown reason.  My PC was undoubtedly able to run the game, but I’ve always believed controls with a keyboard to be a bit awkward.  Patiently, I waited.

Using a 56k modem, I was able to download the demo once everything lined up just right, and no incoming phone calls could interrupt it.  I had a program called “Download Accelerator”, which helped me manage my downloads a little better, but there was no actual acceleration of any kind.  In retrospect, I’m not sure how we weren’t driven crazy by how slow everything was…

In any case, I played that introductory Trade Federation Ship level over and over again.  Not only that, but I was mesmerized even by the title screen!

I would literally just watch all of the clips on the menu until I got bored!  That’s the kind of thing you do when you’re bored and you live in “the sticks”!

1999 - PC\DreamCast\Nintendo 64 (LucasArts)

This one *did* manage to make it out on time for the movie’s release, and basically expanded on one of the best parts of the movie – the Boonta Eve Pod Race on Tatooine.  After being introduced to the game by running a smaller version of the track shown in the movie, you’re brought to several tracks across eight planets, culminating in one final showdown on the desert planet.

You could race as either Anakin Skywalker himself, or 26 other racers!  That’s quite a hefty selection of characters for a futuristic racing game, when putting it up against either F-Zero or Wipeout.

My one specific memory about this game is going to the medical clinic here in Fredericton (on Regent Street) the day I purchased it.  I absolutely despise going to the clinic, even when I’m quite ill.  I’ll put off going until the very last minute, because I always hold out hope that my sickness will just go away on its own.  Otherwise, sitting and waiting for my name to be called is way too boring for me.  It’s not worth it, and when you have a fresh new video game just begging to be played, it’s even more painful.

Many say Racer is actually the best thing to come out of The Phantom Menace, and though I agree it’s a fantastic game, it’s not the best one.

2000 - DreamCast\PlayStation\Game Boy Advance

Don’t worry, this isn’t the one I thought was best.  It did have a lot going for it, however.

For one, you could choose to play as one of five Jedi – Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn were there, as were female Jedi Adi Gallia and Plo Koon, both of whom were easily identifiable in the Jedi Temple scenes in the movie.  Undoubtedly, everyone’s favourite choice (if only to yell MF-ing obscenities after every MF-ing enemy killed, or every MF-ing time you died) was Mace Windu.

Jedi Power Battles was an arcade-style beat ’em up that rewarded you for combos and points earned through each level.  Doing well earned you more effective combos, different powerups, as well as cheats.  It was loosely based on the movie, but I honestly don’t recall seeing any of these guys on the silver screen…

I'm pretty sure a lightsaber could cut a... larva-thing... like butter.

If you use your imagination, I guess it's a Krayt Dragon. I always saw it as a giant armadillo.

It was released at the end of my Grade 11 year (in 2000), so I always associate this game with a stressful period in my life.  Back then, stress was a teacher leaning on you hard, or friends causing drama at times when you really didn’t need it.  Man, we had it good!

That’s the only thing about growing up, and growing wiser than I’m not that fond of.  Yeah, if you go through these experiences, you usually learn and move on.  If we had known back then, what we know now, it would have been such a breeze.  It would have been to me, at least.  You don’t have to worry about any of the day-to-day stuff that goes on in your adult life – you just have to learn.  That’s it.

Those were the days, man.  I wish I could have learned sooner to appreciate it.  Kids now don’t realize how good they have it – though the alarming number of bullying cases making headlines is pretty distressing.  That’s a whole other subject, though.

Another post about Episode I games soon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *