Wednesday, April 05, 2017

If you want more Star Wars...

There's a fair bit of Star Wars content available if you're a fan of the franchise, like me.  Even if you're a critical fan like me who's been taking them out behind the woodshed in many ways, complaining about all of the many ways that they've gone wrong.  But I only do that because I remember how good it can be when it gets it right—I can see the potential, and I hate to see it wasted, squandered or frittered away in poorly-conceived foolishness.  And there's an awful lot of that latter in the series too, I'm afraid.

But there's still tons of good to be found in the franchise too.  The original trilogy, signs of imminent collapse in Return of the Jedi notwithstanding, is still wonderful storytelling with a few exceptions.  The Prequels have their moments, in spite of being generally fairly bad.

Although I've given the Clone Wars TV show a fair bit of grief recently, those are actually only the bad moments in what is otherwise a pretty great show.  I highly recommend the whole thing with only the caveat that a few somewhat infrequently appearing characters are really irritating, and a few episodes here and there don't live up to the rest very well.

The Rebels show that replaced it has—so far—not kept my interest as well as Clone Wars did.  It's a shame; I hoped to like it better, and it's mostly the same team of creators.  But I don't.  I think maybe the setting just isn't quite as good and the limited ensemble cast of not quite as interesting characters is actually a bit of a millstone around its neck.  Not enough to make it terrible, but just enough to make me wish we still had more Clone Wars episodes instead.

The newer movies are so far hit and miss too.  The Force Awakens was relatively pretty and sometimes exciting, but hollow and silly when you get right down to it.  Rogue One on the other hand, mostly succeeded in a big way.  The follow-up to The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi (I wonder if part three will be called From His Nap?) is due soon, and I hope to be impressed.  Star Wars won't go away again, it seems, but will they ever really reach their potential?  I suspect probably not; I have little confidence in Kathleen Kennedy's vision for the franchise.  I suppose that's a big part of why, although I can enjoy what Star Wars does, I've seen the need to build my own alternative, and look for other people building their own alternatives too.

I've also been a big fan of at least a few Star Wars computer games, which I think went a long way towards rehabilitating the franchise in the gap between the Prequel movies and the Clone Wars TV show.  There's some highly regarded ones that I've never played, but I did really enjoy The Force Unleashed (especially with a Wii, because I could swing the wiimote around like a lightsaber.  And the original Knights of the Old Republic was a ton of fun.  The sequel had its issues, but I was also really excited for The Old Republic and was frustrated by many aspects of it (most especially the MMO stuff.)  It also is way too much in many ways; it's too long and tedious, and the side quests are hoaky and stupid.  And did I mention that there's way too many of them and they're very tedious?

That said, there is a way to get some pretty cool Star Wars out of the game, even if you don't ever download or play it.  There are a lot of playthroughs available to watch on Youtube.  Some of them are too long and show too much of the running around from one area to another, too much talking with random people who are not part of the main story, too much combat, etc.  Curiously, the best ones are usually the ones that edit out most of the combat, most of the travel, you'd think most of what makes a story exciting (but watching video game combat, unless it's a fighting game specifically, isn't as exciting as you'd think it would be) and all of the side quests and stuff.  Focusing like a laser on the talking heads dialogue scenes wouldn't seem to be what you'd expect from a good Star Wars story, but surprisingly it works quite well.

It's also quite intriguing to see the different kinds of stories that can be told in the Star Wars milieu if you try hard enough.  The link below is to an agent playthrough, and if you've got... I dunno, 9-10 hours to kill of Star Wars, then you should watch it.  The protagonist character was made up to look like "As you wish"  Wesley, which fits the voice actor incredibly well, actually.  This has a kind of strange Jason Bourne feel to it, which, again, you wouldn't necessary expect from Star Wars—but why not?  Interplanetary espionage is a great concept for space opera.

I also, for what it's worth, highly recommend getting the soundtrack and then the extended soundtrack for The Old Republic.  The former is available as a CD you can order from Amazon for... more money than it's worth, really—but the latter are available somewhere on BioWare's website as free mp3s.  You can listen to all of it, including game-rips of the DLC music too, on Youtube easily enough, which is probably a more reasonable place to hear it.  The beauty of this music is that it sounds like Star Wars... but not exactly, i.e., when you're listening to it, you don't think of the exact moment in the films that you heard that music.  It does have a fair number of themes that are borrowed and re-arranged into new pieces of music, but which are immediately recognizable in their new home.  And it also has, which is good for a laugh, several "cantina" songs; songs that hearken back to not just the cantina song from the first movie, but also the music you hear in Jabba's palace, Dexter's Diner or the "Wanna buy some death sticks?" bar.  Mostly it's weird "space funk" and alien lounge lizards type music.  Some of it is actually memorable, but much of it is just strange novelty songs.

But... if you GM a game, this collection is invaluable.  I love playing background music to set the mood in the background when I'm GMing, and for anything Star Wars or even AD ASTRA, I'd have to play the Old Republic soundtrack.

Original Old Republic Soundtrack

Extension of Old Republic Soundtrack

Curiously, I find that with Old Republic, I don't actually like the Force-using classes as much.  There are eight classes (and therefore eight stories, plus lots of variation like who you "romance" if you go light or dark side, male or female, etc.) and half of them are either Sith or Jedi.  The eight classes, again, each of which has their own completely unique storyline and game within the game, really, are the Jedi Knight (a combat class), the Jedi Consular (more of a Jedi wizard and diplomat), the Republic Trooper, the Smuggler, the Sith Warrior (knight equivalent), Sith Inquisitor (sorcerer) the Bounty Hunter and the Imperial Agent.  When I actually played the game, I did a fair bit with the Smuggler and the Bounty Hunter (I've since uninstalled the game and almost certainly won't put it back) and what I've watched on Youtube has so far been the Smuggler, the Bounty Hunter and the Agent.

Lots more to go, still!

No comments: