Star Wars became a fixture of video games for decades, and has spanned almost every possible genre and platform you can reasonably think of. There are certain ones that audiences have heard over time, like the current one Jedi games from Respawn Entertainment and the Knights of the Old Republic consecutively from BioWare and Obsidian.
Among that pedigree of highly desirable titles is short-lived Force Released games. Its first part is 15 years old, and its big selling point is right there in the title. Far from being the first game in the franchise to allow players to use the Force, its innovation comes from giving players the opportunity to use it to what was once its largest, most violent potential with explosions of telekinetic, mind control, and straight cooking dudes with Force lightning. Narratively, its goal is something bigger as it tries to combine the Prequel and Original trilogies through the original story and new characters through Starkillerwho was kidnapped by Vader as a child and groomed to be his secret apprentice in the search for Jedi survivors of Order 66.
For a franchise that has many characters who feel that someone is playing favorites for them (sometimes in said character damage), Starkiller is the most OC OC of all Star Wars. Over the course of the original game, he ends up brushing shoulders with many Expanded Universe and mainline characters, helps start the Rebel Alliance, and survives facing off against Vader and Palpatine despite both men who were the best swordfighters of their time. . Among his supporting cast is a love interest who serves as the pilot of his ship, and a droid who takes the form of previous lightsaber users to train his master in the ways of combat.
It’s all very silly the way this franchise can always be, even now, but it’s also just as charming. At the time, Lucasfilm wanted to really sell the idea of that Force Released an important piece of Star Wars media similar to films, so the opening crawl and transition wipes are taken from the films themselves. But it also wants to be its own thing, which it does by putting a spin on the Force’s capabilities. The prologue set in Kashyyyk kills Vader Therefore a lot of Wookies who look like they don’t like playing Imperial March. The Starkiller can blast enemies on the other side of the arena, catch TIE fighters mid-flight, and even take down a Star Destroyer, the latter of which is a selling point in its own right. As a 14 going on 15-year-old, this is the perfect kind of power fantasy game: lightsaberslike all swords, is Fearfuland using it in conjunction with telekinesis and lightning to slice through monsters and pathetic soldiers is the coolest thing ever.
The original Force Released was only a bestseller at the time, and spawned a sequel in 2010 that was not SOMEWHAT as well-liked as its predecessor. Nevertheless, and after the games were declared non-canon, both titles made a significant mark on Star Wars fans. For many, the Force Released The games became the semi-definitive text of how they viewed the franchise. If the Prequel trilogy made Jedi superheroes with their backflips and lightsaber twirls, Starkiller is the newcomer billed as big game changer who a publisher would build entire miniseries of the event before he could get a solid run of solo books of varying quality. However, fans love themselves some Starkiller, and hope he makes his way into the official canon again in one form or another. (Many are pinning their hopes on Marrok, a new Inquisitor-looking character in Star Wars Ahsoka, is a new version of Starkiller, which…did not pan out.)
For the bigger one Star Wars franchise, it’s not wrong to say that Lucasfilm downgraded the capabilities of the Force partially in response to Released and completely broken characters like Starkiller. In general, you can see how to announce the two games of the franchise ahead: Respawn’s Jedi game has a similar commitment to feeling as Star Wars as much as possible, pretty good moments of power fantasy, while also much better when and how they are used by the main characters. And without the games, Starkiller’s voice actor Sam Witwer probably wouldn’t have continued to voice Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels.
The Force Unleashed completely ridiculous, but it gives it a certain charm that has clearly allowed it to last for the last decade and a half. It’s the kind of game that just doesn’t happen anymore — video games based on important brands like Star Wars must follow the larger canon or have their own strong enough spin on things to stand on their own. But sometimes, you need a game like that Force Released to exist, if only because the galaxy is more fun when it breaks its own rules in a gleefully silly way like the games do.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is playable on Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation Plus’ Premium tier, and Xbox Series X|S through backwards compatibility. At the time of writing, The Force Unleashed II not on Switch, but on both aforementioned platforms.
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