What Star Wars 1313 could learn from Shadows of the Empire
It’s the 90’s. I’m about ten years old. The Nintendo 64 is my favourite console and Star Wars has been my favourite movie as long as I can remember. I think Shadows of the Empire is awesome, I understand why Official Nintendo Magazine only gave it an average score but I love it anyway. On a day out with my parents I see something that blows my mind: Shadows of the Empire the comic series. I’d heard of it but never seen it in the wild before. Excited I step into the store and pick it up. I open the comic at a random page and see Luke Skywalker jumping into cover and dashing onto a speeder bike surrounded by the unmistakable sands of Tatooine. Amazed I flick through the comic and see more moments of pure Star Wars excitement. I must own this comic. How could I not purchase this comic? My father enters the store seeing that I’ve wandered off and asks what I’m looking at. I show him the comic. I tell him how I need to own it. It is the most important purchase I will ever make (until next week when I find something else anyway). He asks if I have any money. At this moment I sense the tides turning against me. No, I admit, I have nothing. I plead with him, surely he’ll lend me some money, right? Wrong. I already owe him money from the last purchase I desperately needed. Probably a Game Boy game, but I can’t quite recall which. He destroys my dreams of owning the comic with two simple words: “Let’s go.” I place the comic back down and vow that one day I’ll own it. I never actually found it again and by the time I could have gotten ahold of it I’d moved onto the next thing. But hey, that’s not the point. What is the point is that the reason I was so mesmerised is that the comic clearly tied into the game which I loved so much but didn’t just rehash the story. This wasn’t like that A New Hope comic which just showed the same scenes. This actually built upon the story, it showed me new perspectives. That level where you follow the evil guys following Luke? Well now I could see what Luke was up to at the same time! I was too young at the time to properly acknowledge why it interested me so much but I can plainly see it was the cross-media continuity that fascinated me. These days it isn’t all that rare at all. Every game from World of Warcraft to Modern Warfare has its own comic. What made Shadows of the Empire unique is that to get the full true story you had to not only play the game but you had to read the comic and read the book. Each piece of media all added to the overall mythos of Shadows of the Empire without truly requiring another product to appreciate the story on its own. Now wether it worked overall is up to your personal opinion but as an idea the concept still fascinates me. Now why am I writing about this today? Well, what brought back these memories is the announcement of Star Wars 1313. Immediately you can draw some quick comparisons to Shadows of the Empire: both games are meant to be interquels, both games introduce new protagonists and both games are trying to show us something new in the fiction. You might have been reading this article and waiting for the elephant in the room to speak up. Let’s go take a look at it, hello Force Unleashed. The reason I hold the Shadows of the Empire multimedia project in a higher regard than Force Unleashed is that with the latter the tie in novel and comic both do not do a whole lot to expand on the story, instead they re-hash it or just support the video game. I don’t think anyone will make the argument that the Force Unleashed project was anything but a video game first. But I’ve heard people make the argument that Shadows of the Empire was a novel first, while others argue the game was more important. Again, whether it was a success or not is a a matter of opinion, but the intention with Shadows of the Empire was clearly to have three stand alone products that come together to form a bigger story. That’s something I’d love to see with 1313. I’d be absolutely flabbergasted if Star Wars 1313 had no novel or comic to accompany it. That said, I’d be unsurprised if both tie-ins just offered a middling attempt at showing us something different. Meanwhile the focus was on hyping up the game or trying to grab some sales from those who enjoyed playing it. What I really want to see is stories that compliment 1313 while standing on their own. Given the game’s subject matter, an entire level of Courscant that we’ve never seen, there’s plenty of room for writers to stretch their legs. What I would like, as a fan of Star Wars and of video games, is to play through 1313 and then have the opportunity to read a comic or novel that gives nods to the game without just telling me the story of the game all over again. It’ll strengthen the brand as a whole and give opportunities for further growth in the fiction. For example, did you know Shadows of the Empire’s comic series got a sequel? Or that Dash Rendar, the game’s protagonist, recently stared in his own novel? The Force Unleashed 2 stank of being a cash cow and I’d hate to see 1313 get the same treatment. With some effort and imagination LucasArts could make 1313 a really strong brand, and maybe it’ll make some 10 year old kid somewhere get really excited over a comic they can’t afford.