7 Star Warsesque Essays
II. Video Games and Star Wars Continuity
This is the second informal essay of a series on a variety of topics concerning the Star Wars universe. Here we discuss an eccentric part of the Star Wars canon, the videogames produced by LucasArts. Though frequently overlooked in the past, videogames have been borrowing elements from and contributing characters to the Star Wars Expanded Universe mythology overwhelmingly shaped by novels and comics with greater and greater consistency. For fans, and writers, this has proved to have its advantages, and its disadvantages.
Fans of the games, usually younger, rejoice in seeing the events of Republic Commando or Star Wars Galaxies being referred to. Other fans, however, complain that sweeping galactic events such as those in the Knights of the Old Republic games should not be relegated to as inaccessible and unconventional a “literary” source as a videogame. In either case, the writer, who is confined to write within Lucasfilm’s inclusive canon parameters usually takes the brunt of a large responsibility, for most do not have the time to immerse themselves for hours on end playing videogames. But as is discussed below, perhaps, they only have themselves to blame…
In a sense, we have only ourselves to blame. With fans insisting, at first, that The Farlander Papers (the novella companion to the X-Wing PC game) and The Stele Chronicles (the counterpart companion to the TIE Fighter PC game) be meaningfully incorporated into the Star Wars canon, and writers trying to appease those wishes, the LucasArts folks have begun to dip into the Expanded Universe more and more aggressively. Daniel Wallace and I have done our fair share of incorporating game info, and books like the Dark Forces novellas did a fine job of adapting the games they were based on into readable form.
But somewhere around Jedi Outcast or Jedi Academy, signs of potential problems started showing up…and in fact, they didn't seem like problems at first, but might have seemed an encouraging sign of Star Wars continuity truly becoming all-encompassing. This encouraging sign was the fact that Kyle Katarn, the LucasArts flagship character, was now training as a Jedi in Luke’s academy on Yavin IV, as originally established by the Essential Chronology. Granted, LucasArts had dipped into the EU before, with a previous Kyle Katarn vehicle Mysteries of the Sith, by featuring the Thrawn Trilogy character Mara Jade. The Sony Playstation game Masters of Teräs Käsi also included Mara as a playable character, as well as Jodo Kast, but these were "hidden" characters or had to be earned by beating the game in some particular fashion, and thus weren't very integrated into the story (not that Masters had much of a linear story anyway). But in Jedi Outcast, the Yavin IV praxeum becomes a fairly important setting, actually shaping the story in significant ways: Kyle is now one of Luke's Jedi students, and has to hunt down another of Luke's students who’s gone bad. On the surface, this doesn't seem very intrusive, but it is demonstrating on the part of LucasArts a willingness to and comfort with integrating its stories into the larger context of the EU. Notice that while Mara Jade is included in Mysteries, there is no attempt on LucasArts’ part to actively integrate that story with Dark Empire, which takes place concurrently. Same goes for Masters and its placement in the timeline during the Rebellion era.
In Jedi Academy (informally Dark Forces IV), we're again at the Yavin IV academy, but again, new ground is broken: enter the spirit of Sith Lord Marka Ragnos from the Tales of the Jedi comics as the string-pulling villain. Again, this may not seem like a big deal but what we have here now is the integration of information from the greater EU not directly associated with the time period in which the game is taking place. In fact, Marka Ragnos is not even remotely associated with that time period, being a character from a story which takes place 5,000+ years before the events of Jedi Academy. This is, unfortunately, a somewhat redundant plot point, since Kevin J. Anderson and Exar Kun pulled the same trick just a few years before, but that's not really the point. The point is, LucasArts has clearly become bolder still when tapping into the EU, using continuity elements that one would not necessarily stumble upon just by researching the related era.
Enter the game Bounty Hunter. And the comic Jango Fett: Open Seasons, for that matter. The two really can't be disentwined. Haden Blackman wrote the story for both of these, if I'm not mistaken, and it's the most ambitious weaving of game and literature I've ever seen. This trend actually has its roots in the days of following the release of The Phantom Menace, and the related game Starfighter. In that game is where we are first introduced to the character Nym. Nym was soon after featured in his own Star Wars Tales comic story, which serves as a prologue to the game. Another prologue, in the first issue of Star Wars Gamer and not by Blackman, focuses on a different character in the game.
The game Bounty Hunter essentially picks up where the flashback portions of the Open Seasons comic left off and, in a very real sense, is essentially the comic's sequel. Unresolved conflicts, such as Jango's beef with his rival for leadership of the Mandalorians, Montross, is resolved here. The trial Jango agrees to undergo for Dooku to become the genetic donor of the clone army is the subject of the game. And, last but not least, how Jango acquires the Slave I is also revealed in Bounty Hunter.
That last one, admittedly, saddened me.
Of course, this has all come back to haunt us writers, or at least me, since once upon a time I strongly advocated that video games be taken into account continuity wise. Of course, back then, there was only X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and Dark Forces I and II, and those all came with book adaptations. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine something as cool, and intricate, as the storyline concocted for the Knights of the Old Republic games or, in my worst nightmares, as awe-inspiring a monstrosity as the massive-multiplayer game Star Wars Galaxies. I won't go into these except to say that they both caused me some consternation in my last article for Lucasfilm, and, honestly, that I wish I had more time to play them, because they look so cool.
More to the point, if not several Star Wars writers, at least I myself am guilty of throwing a monkey wrench or two into Star Wars continuity. Details on the First Great Schism, the original galaxy-shattering spilt in the Jedi ranks? That can be found in an article I wrote on the Emperor's Hands in a Star Wars magazine that's now defunct and all but forgotten (Star Wars Gamer #5, “The Emperor’s Pawns”). Or how about Dooku's dark side doppleganger, which Anakin slays thinking it's the real Dooku? You can find that little tidbit of Clone Wars information in an article I did for the Star Wars Fact Files magazine series, AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE UK. (Though, in my defense, I used that fix to resolve a silly occurrence in the Gameboy Advance game New Droid Army where you/Anakin beat the game by killing Count Dooku. In this case, two wrongs maybe make a right). Thankfully, Dan usually manages to get hold of these obscure references somehow (ahem), and tends to redeem my arrogance in his Star Wars Essential Guides.
Abel G. Peña is a fanboy who “made it.”
He has written
articles for numerous Star Wars publications, including Star Wars
Star Wars Insider, Star Wars Fact Files, Dungeon/Polyhedron, and the
Official Star Wars Website. Most recently starwars.com’s
published his essay on “Droids and the Force,” and he has written an
exposé on the
“History of the Mandalorians” for issue #80 of Star Wars Insider,
where indeed, he named Boba Fett’s daughter, Ailyn Vel. Contact
him at email@example.com
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