Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.
Another Star Wars trilogy has come to a close and it seems like a good time to head back to a galaxy far, far away for another look at the wide world of Star Wars video games. There are many to choose from but today, let’s take a look at one of the more ambitious titles that may have missed the mark. Today’s game is Star Wars: Obi-Wan, developed by LucasArts and released on the Xbox in 2001.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan, like most of the games coming out in the early 2000’s, follows the prequel trilogy of movies. The Phantom Menace had been out for about two years by the time Obi-Wan released and Attack of the Clones was mere months away. Obi-Wan opted to focus on the titular Obi-Wan Kenobi in the weeks leading up to the Phantom Menace and showing his perspective through that movie. As part of his ongoing training to be a full-fledged Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan is being sent on a mission to investigate a criminal gang known as the Black Heth. He soon discovers that this group may have links to the massive Trade Federation and that his mission may have ties to the blockade of Naboo.
The game is a third person action game with a strong emphasis on lightsaber combat and force powers. Obi-Wan is often fighting against droids and a new race of enemies known as the Jin’ha, a species that never shows up again in Star Wars canon. Force powers allow Obi-Wan to slow down time and knock down enemies and the lightsaber allows him to reflect blaster fire back at enemies.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan attempted to do something that gamers had dreamed of for years. The developers at LucasArts wanted to make a game where players had full control of the lightsaber for the first time. Instead of simply pushing a button to swing or holding a trigger to block, they wanted players to have one-to-one movement of the saber. So they started development of a game on PC that would allow players to use the mouse as a control mechanism.
Allegedly, George Lucas himself came in and stopped this, claiming, and I quote, “The expected breadth and scope of the Obi-Wan project could not be met given limitations of technology.” So instead, they changed development from the PC to the Xbox. The team now had a year to change the mouse-based lightsaber movement they had created to work on a joystick instead along with porting what they had built over to the Xbox console. Things didn’t quite go as planned.
Fans and critics alike panned the game in large part due to the lightsaber controls. It was clear what the developers had intended but the Xbox’s joystick just wasn’t capable of doing many of the things they wanted it to do. What was supposed to be an incredibly intuitive control system wound up being confusing and hard to use. The storyline was better received but most agreed it added very little to the movie’s lore and in hindsight, feels unnecessary considering the story of the Black Heth and the Jin’ha are never used again. Ultimately, Star Wars: Obi-Wan would go down as a failed experiment and another example of mismanagement at LucasArts. While we can never know for sure, it’s interesting to wonder what this would have been like if the team had gotten to put the game on PC like they originally intended.
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