Monday, September 8, 2014

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire is a 1996 third-person shooter video game, developed by LucasArts. It was one of the first games made available for the Nintendo 64. A version for Windows 95 was released a year later. Shadows of the Empire was the third top-selling Nintendo 64 game for 1997.

In the game, the player controls the mercenary Dash Rendar in his efforts to help Luke Skywalker and rescue Princess Leia from Prince Xizor's hands. It is part of the Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire multimedia project and takes place as a backstory between Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

The story begins shortly before the battle of Hoth, as Dash Rendar and Leebo arrive in Echo Base to deliver supplies. He briefly talks with Han Solo, who gets him a position in Rogue Squadron. Dash flies in the battle, but returns to Echo Base when the shield generator is destroyed, just as the Millennium Falcon leaves. He makes his way through the base, attempting to return to The Outrider. Dash encounters several wampas on the way, and has to fight an AT-ST, but eventually makes it back to Leebo and The Outrider, and they escape through an asteroid field.

Part 2 begins after the end of The Empire Strikes Back, as Dash searches for Boba Fett, so he can rescue Han Solo. He hunts down and battles IG-88, attempting to repair his ship on Ord Mantell. The droid tells him that Fett is hiding on a moon of the planet Gall. Dash finds Boba Fett, and damages his ship, Slave I, but Fett manages to escape.

Believing that The Emperor will let him take Vader's place if Skywalker is killed, Prince Xizor orders Jabba the Hutt to kill Luke Skywalker. Jabba sends a group of swoop bikers to Obi-Wan Kenobi's home, where Luke is practicing his Jedi skills. Dash races them, and ends up eliminating all members of the gang. Luke informs Dash of a secret imperial supercomputer aboard the Imperial Freighter Suprosa. Dash steals the computer, and battles with a cargo droid in a hangar.

The final chapter begins with Luke, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, and Dash infiltrating Xizor's palace on Coruscant to save Princess Leia, whom Xizor has taken captive. Dash enters the palace through the sewers, and battles an enormous dianoga in the sewer, before entering the palace itself, where he does battle with Xizor's Gladiator Droid. After defeating the droid, Xizor escapes to his Skyhook space station. Xizor battles the Rebellion before a Star Destroyer arrives. Dash then proceeds to fly into the Skyhook, and destroys it from the inside. Dash is presumably killed in the blast, along with Xizor.

A short scene before the credits show Luke and Leia on Tatooine, mourning Dash's death. If the game is beaten on the Medium, Hard, or Jedi difficulty levels, this is followed by one more scene of Dash and Leebo, who had managed to escape the blast, discussing how they plan on hiding from their enemies, with Dash saying, "It's good to be remembered as a martyr without actually being dead, wouldn't you say?"

The work on Shadows of the Empire project started in late 1994 with the idea of making a side story to the movies. After dismissing the use of the main characters from the movies as the star of the new game, which gave the developers more freedom with the game and story they built on a minor character from the book, Dash Rendar. Rendar is a character with many similarities to Han Solo, and who also owns a ship that closely resembles the Millennium Falcon named the Outrider.

Jon Knoles, who was the game's Senior Artist, Animator and previously worked on other LucasArts games for PC and SNES, is credited with bringing the idea of Shadows and placing it between the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi films.

While in production, Shigeru Miyamoto, Senior Marketing Director of Nintendo, suggested while viewing an early version of the game that the character of Dash be more animated. He suggested Rendar could become restless when waiting for the player to control him, and more animated in how he holds his weapons.

A prototype Nintendo 64 was not yet available when the work began on Shadows, and as a result, the developers used a Silicon Graphics Onyx. For a controller to test the game, they were required to use a modified SNES controller designed by Konami, which was placed in a sealed box that the designers had to place their hands into.

Originally, the game was planned to have 19 levels, but an article in Volume 83 of Nintendo Power stated that it was down to 12 levels. When the game was finally released, it contained a total of 10 levels. This game was unique among other Nintendo 64 titles for using a "real" orchestral soundtrack, instead of synthesized music like that in Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.

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