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Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire [N64]


Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire - Jedi Difficulty (Hardest)

Across the infinite void of space, unlimited possibilities exist for how the human species may perish. Surely, in one Multiverse, the Cold War instead resulted in nuclear fallout such as the events from Red Alert 2. In another Universe, entire solar systems are conquered and planets destroyed in what galactic historians now call the Star Wars.


Despite unbound opportunity, there will always be one common denominator with humans: they will fight. And, in that fight, heroes are made.


On the Nintendo 64 staple, Star Wars: The Shadows of the Empire, the player must find the courage to battle the odds on Jedi Difficulty without actually being a Jedi. There are no light sabers or special powers here. True citizen-warriors of the Galactic Republic instead succeed with sheer strength, finesse and wit.


The Challenge? Complete each Level on Jedi Difficulty.


Is this a worthy Challenge? Let's find out.


Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire - Jedi Difficulty (Hardest)


Gameplay


As one of the many dozens of games adapted from the Stars Wars movies, Star Wars: The Shadows of the Empire stands tall above the masses. Meant to provide backstory to Star Wars lore, this celestial tale follows the gun-for-hire Dash Rendarr who's blaster pistol can match Han Solo's. Luckily for Dash, he was not carbonized and still helped Luke save the galaxy while still earning his credits.


In short, Dash provides indirect assistance to Luke Skywalker's actual Star Wars actions. For example, Dash deviates from the traditional story to track down and eliminate Boba Fett to prevent Luke from further danger. This was a worthy side-story because Boba Fett's hideout in the Gall Spaceport proved to be an incredibly Difficult level.


Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire - Jedi Difficulty (Hardest)

From the iced landscapes of Hoth to the desolate desert of Tatooine, Star Wars: The Shadows of the Empire aligned well with the Star Wars lore. In comparison, the Lord of the Rings: The Third Age's shallow story line did not build upon the Ringbearer's quest in any meaningful way; one of the few compounding reasons to not choose Hard Mode for that game. For Difficult video games, the player should care about the strife.


Although primarily a shooter, Star Wars: The Shadows of the Empire demands mastery of a wide array of controllable vehicles including the Snowspeeder ship on Hoth and the CEC YT-2400 Outrider ship in space. Driving other vehicles such as the Swoop Bike required practice prior to even considering destroying other enemy speeders. Of course, rodeoing mammoth Imperial Walker AT-ATs with the Snowspeeder is a timeless experience.


Jedi Difficulty


Star Wars: The Shadows of the Empire is one of the Hardest games Lord Rigor has ever played. In the face of uncertainty and pain, Lord Rigor remained honor-bound and would not yield to the Jedi Order's Trial of Knighthood.


Becoming a Jedi in Star Wars: The Shadows of the Empire demands endurance and concentration. Inadvertent actions will result in a swift incineration by laser. Compared to the easier modes, the primary difference of Jedi Difficulty is simply the amount of damage enemies inflict. Dash is only as strong as his enemies. Equivalent to the health of a standard infantry Storm Trooper, Dash's health is fully depleted after about 3 shots from stock blaster pistols.



With only three lives to start each level, Game Overs are frequent. In the heat of blaster fire fights, chaos reigns supreme in which Trial-and-Error becomes a cornerstone to successful level completions. This repetition is compounded when approaching a Boss battle because it is of upmost importance to save as much health and lives as possible for the fight.


Star Wars: The Shadows of the Empire would have benefited from not including Bosses at the end of levels and instead separating them. The struggle to approach Bosses at full strength is a barrier of entry for even the most battle-hardened galactic warriors. As is His nature, Lord Rigor humbly acknowledges His numerous defeats below:



Even with such repetition, the levels are engaging and don't wither the fighting spirit. During level replay, secrets are found with each level's play-through including finding unique weapons, Challenge Points, extra ammunition and health. Over time, these additional armaments contribute towards an eventual victory against Bosses.



Bosses


Star Wars: The Shadows of the Empire exhibits a number of Difficult bosses with Dash only armed with a small weapons arsenal. The entrance into Boss lairs are ominous. Like the Roman Empire of yore, death is expected when entering these dangerous colosseums. The most fearsome Bosses are none other than Boba Fett (Level V) and the robotic Gladiator (Level IX). Both of these flying menaces may annihilate Dash within seconds.



Once the movement cycle of a boss is known, strategic firing positions behind or under the enemy is the only method for success.


A note on the Gladiator Boss: this required online research. After many dozens of Game Overs with no tangible improvement, there was no other option but to try to find hidden supplies on the level and, of course, determine the best strategy to destroy the Gladiator. Triumph, in time.



As Lord Rigor has always emphasized, a worthwhile difficult game should strike a balance between Trial-and-Error and third-party resource utilization. Nevertheless, the level was fully memorized and the mechanical overlord at last destroyed.



Double Defeat


The dopamine from beating the Gladiator quickly wore off as the final Skyhook Battle level pummeled Lord Rigor into space dust. Three lives are simply not enough to survive the multi-directional onslaught of the Star-Viper space ships. After repeated attempts, He was unable to shoot the Outrider's blasters accurately enough to reliably progress. Defeat.


Lord Rigor knows when He is beaten. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that a grand total of 85 Star-Vipers were annihilated prior to His final destruction:



There is an alternative method to becoming a Jedi in Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire: turn off the Nintendo 64 and try again on the PC version.


With this new prospect of utilizing a keyboard and mouse, Lord Rigor was hopeful that His firing on the Skyhook Battle could be more accurate than a Nintendo 64 controller. Unfortunately, this was a futile attempt resulting in ultimate defeat. The aiming did not improve on the computer. Perhaps Lord Rigor will return to the PC version someday to better appreciate the extended cut scenes and improved graphics.


At this juncture, it is time to carry on as a Padawan with a head held up high. Jedi Mode shall remain elusive.



Collectability

Is it a worthy Challenge to collect all Challenge Points? No.

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (Nintendo 64) - Jedi Difficulty (Hardest)

Lord Rigor was very tempted to collect all of the Challenge Points simply due to the token's namesake.


Providing bonus lives, Challenge Points are indeed Challenging to locate due to being nestled in obscure locations across the game. For a console not connected to the internet, such a Challenge would require an immense time commitment alongside internet research. Unworthy.

Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (Nintendo 64) - Jedi Difficulty (Hardest)

Bonus lives are awarded upon level completion and available for use on subsequent levels. Dishearteningly, if the N64 console is reset, the lives that were earned are no longer available. For example, since the Gladiator boss took dozens of attempts over multiple sessions, bonus lives were not provided making Jedi Difficulty profoundly more intense.


This logistic is a minor development choice made by LucasArts with profound consequences. Lord Rigor is confident that an extra life or two would have ensured victory over the Skyhook Battle. In a different Universe, He won.


Since Lord Rigor played Star Wars: The Shadows of the Empire level-by-level, He did not search for these useless tokens. However, for diligent players like Silverwings21, there is definite value in pursuing Challenge Points when committing to play all of the levels in a single play-through. A fine example of a true Jedi Master at work.



Conclusion

Is this a worthy Challenge? Yes.

Profoundly Difficult, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire is a definitive example of a rewarding game that is only slightly off balance. LucasArts creatively designed an entire Star wars backstory but, from a functional perspective, fell short of fairly engaging Rigorous players in Jedi Mode.

Most players will fail. If not defeated by the merciless Boba Fett, then by the hardened Gladiator and Xizor's Star-Viper fleet. Similar to a cloven Anakin Skywalker burning alongside the lava pits of Mustafar, this game sears the soul to the brink. But, for those players that don't succumb to the fire, they will emerge even stronger like Darth Vader.


Make the attempt to become a Jedi. For Lord Rigor, the noble rank of Padawan will suffice.

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