Sequels That Should Have Been: Jedi Academy 2
When I was a kid, Star Wars was the coolest thing in the world. I had all the toys. I memorized all the movies. I read the Expanded Universe novels where Luke was a badass and a Tuskan Raider became a lord of the Sith. I even played the absolutely god awful Super Nintendo Star Wars games, you know, the side scrolling ones where you were inside the Sand Crawler, the one where the Jawas had spikes in their homes.
I remember Shadows of the Empire being my first great Star Warsian love in terms of video games. The Jedi Knight series followed, and while I liked Kyle Katarn quite a bit, I never fell in love with those games. They were good, but they didn’t quite scratch the itch I wanted scratched.
My favorite part of Star Wars’ Expanded Universe was the Young Jedi Knights novels. These books, about Han and Leia’s children Jacen and Jaina Solo, were my childhood. Sure, I dropped off long before most of Jaina’s novel length Wookiepedia entry happened*, but Luke’s Jedi Temple on Yavin 4 remained the most evocative part of Star Wars lore in my mind. They were like Harry Potter, but in space and with lightsabers.
So when Jedi Academy, a game where you played a player created Jedi named Jaden Korr taking place at said temple, was announced, I was ecstatic. Massive lightsaber battles! Dual wielding, and double bladed action! Darth Maul was the shit at the time, so it promised to be the most exciting game of the fall of 2003.
What was surprising, though, was just how good a game it was**. While most previous Star Wars games had focused either on using blasters or on starships, Jedi Academy had a fantastic, satisfying lightsaber combat mechanic. The previous game in the “series”, Jedi Knight 2, had featured some lightsabering, especially in the famous multiplayer mode, but the single player still persisted in forcing you to use inelegant blasters for much of it. With a lightsaber, fighting stormtroopers and the like felt right: you were a powerful badass who could deflect lasers and cleave through groups of enemies, but you were hardly immortal. The game made sure not every situation was just a cut and dry firefight: missions were varied, with some forcing you to run from a horrible mutant rancor, another placing you on a planet with a hostile sand worm, and others having you lead attacks against Imperial Remnant installations. There was fantastic variety to the thing.
The best part, though, was the lightsaber combat. Early on you might find one or two enemy Jedi per area, and they were always thrilling, tense boss encounters. By the end of the game, you had the saber skills and force powers to completely and utterly dismantle these enemies, and the game started throwing smart enemies at you, who’d use stealth, crafty combinations of moves, and good old fashioned skill to fight you off. Alternatively, you could just use force choke and dangle people off of ledges; this was equally effective, and pretty much the most enjoyable thing ever.
I can still imagine some of the saber fights, some of the levels, in my mind, and I last played the game two years ago. That’s some powerful stuff. Equally effective was the story, which, admittedly, was the Star Wars master arc (boy finds light side, boy is tempted by the dark side, boy turns to dark side or stays with the light side and beats evil) but with some interesting wrinkles. The game was structured into missions you could choose from inside a larger arc, and this allowed the writers to tell interesting individual stories like of a prison planet designed to trap Jedi, meetings with universe favorites like Chewbacca and Wedge Antilles, and let you explore massive ruined Jedi and Sith temples. There was variety in the combat, in the storytelling, and in the missions, and this kept the game fresh for it’s rather long fifteen hour run time.
Why would I want a sequel (which, by the by, would be Dark Forces 4: Jedi Knight 3: Jedi Academy 2. Let’s add another subtitle: Dark Forces 4: Jedi Knight 3: Jedi Academy 2: I Want to Be the Jedi)? Well, for one thing, we haven’t had a good Star Wars game in a long time. Sure, George Lucas has tried stuffing the whole Force Unleashed thing down our throats, but the first game felt cheaply epic, relying on huge, action-movie moments instead of what made Stars Wars so good, and the second game was kind of a disaster. The newest Star Wars game, the utterly miserable looking Kinect monstrosity, firstly takes place in the altogether mediocre prequel setting, and second it looks to be an awful game. Jedi Academy‘s biggest strength, in this brave new prequeled world, is that it doesn’t have Jar Jar Binks disease: there’s not a single reference to the world before the first three movies. And that’s the way I like it.
Really, on one hand, I miss the opportunity to be a Jedi. On the other, I feel like they could take the classic multiplayer modes of both Jedi Knight 2 and Academy and make something truly modern and spectacular out of them. Star Wars multiplayer has been alternatively shit and focused on blasters solving every problem, which basically just makes the specific game a first person shooter. Imagine massive Jedi fights like the ones in the (only good scenes of) Episode 2, and you can imagine what Star Wars multiplayer should be like. Jedi on Jedi action, with some folks with blasters doing damage with ingenuity and guile. Frankly, it’s a shame there’s no quality Star Wars multiplayer game that’s been released in the last couple of years, because perhaps the multiplayer story of new games journalism came from the franchise’s very annals.
In total, I just want to be a Jedi: not the modern creature of rage popularized by Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side, but rather a wise, peaceful man who could kick everyone’s asses. And if games want to be anything, it is wish fulfillment. That is my wish. I know Lucasarts would rather have me wave my arms about like an asshole in a setting inspired by the prequels instead of being a paragon of virtue in an action RPG setting, but this isn’t about them. This is about Jedi Academy, and how I wish there were another one, so that when I begin one of my frequent pilgrammiges back to Yavin 4 I could do it in a different, superior game.
*SOMEONE WROTE ALL OF THIS. THIS IS 47850 WORDS. ABOUT A FICTIONAL CHARACTER FROM NOVELS BASED OFF A MOVIE BY A GUY WHO THINKS HE SHOULD GO BACK DECADES LATER TO MAKE HIS PUPPETS BLINK. AND SOMEONE WROTE IT.
**The game’s creators, Raven Software, went on to make another personal favorite of mine, X-Men Legends. They clearly knew how to deal with licenses. It’s a shame Activision has them making user interfaces for Call of Duty now. Raven Software, I feel for you.