What is it with the majority of SNES software? Everywhere you look there seems to be a variant on the platform theme. With the exception of Ocean’s Jurassic Park, most film licences also tend to follow that well-worn path of the platform genre. Super Star Wars was a little different – all right, it did have many platform sections, but the addition of some nifty Mode 7 sections and a wonderfully orchestrated soundtrack helped to lift it above the crowd.
Sculptured Software is hoping to follow up on last’s year’s success with its sequel, Super Empire Strikes Back. So what has it got in store for us this time? Well it obviously believe in that old saying ’if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ because it all plays and feels very similar to the original version. In fact, it’s too damn similar. You start the game playing Luke on the ice planet Hoth. You first have to blast your way across the icy dunes to confront the boss at the end. This level also includes a ride on the back of a Taun-Taun – Luke uses the creature to aid his trek across the planet.
Chewbacca and Han Solo are once again brought into the game as the story unfolds, but the action can get a little repetitive. This time round the Mode 7 sections include flying a Snow Speeder towards a marching army of imperial AT-ATs, and towards Bespin, the cloud city. Sadly, Han Solo’s Millenium Falcon section is nothing to write home about and looks every bit an afterthought. Graphically, Super Empire Strikes Back is better than Star Wars. The bosses are bigger, the levels are more varied, and that rendition of the Star Wars theme tune accompanies a host of new soundtracks which add much to the overall feel of the game.
But it’s all so similar. It follows the same level-boss format and in so doing it quickly loses its appeal. But then again, the original was criticised for being way too easy, and Sculpted Software has listened to the critics. This version’s rock hard. If you liked the original – and many of you did – then Super Empire Strikes Back is worth a look, but don’t expect any radical changes. The story has moved on, but the play mechanics remain the same, and there’s still that irritating slowdown when the screen starts to get busy.
This review first appeared in E3, December 1993.