An Ode to Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (Opinion)

Updated: Feb 19

Looming large

Ah, Shadows of the Empire. This game was my grand introduction to the very notion that there was more to Star Wars than just the movies that had been released - This was even before the prequel trilogy had begun. Before this game I had no idea that there was so much more content out there in the form of comics and books, and now video games too. With that said, in my defense I was 5 years old when this was released. I don’t recall when or how I got this but I’m delighted this came into my life, despite the immeasurable levels of frustration and rage quitting this bestowed upon me as a young boy.

It takes place in and around the events of Empire Strikes Back, and features a greatest hits of sorts of this universe - Familiar characters like Boba Fett, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, locations such as Hoth and naturally enough, the Galactic Empire being a pack of scallywags!

Let’s see how well my long-term memory has held up.

This dashing man

The game opens at the famed Battle of Hoth. You control Dash Rendar - A cheeky rapscallion of a smuggler who was born into privilege, only to have his life changed forever when his parents refused to do business with a crime lord. This ultimately led to the death of Dash’s brother, and the exile of the Rendar family. He’s an all around Han Solo type in that he is a skilled pilot and smuggler, but now he’s stuck on Hoth in the middle of a war between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. Typical.

With trouble around the corner and no clear way back to your ship, the Outrunner, Dash takes it upon himself to get into the fight and grab a snowspeeder. Emerging in the middle of a heated confrontation with the Imperial forces. Naturally enough, you get to see AT-ATs and AT-STs doing their thing and wrecking Rebellion troops. The single greatest moment of this chapter? It of course is bringing down an AT-AT with a tow cable, why would it be anything else? The sense of empowerment in successfully doing so was like nothing else I experienced on the Nintendo 64. This was truly a wonderful and memorable opening as far as any series goes, let alone Star Wars.

Once you help resolve the major trouble outside, it’s time to get back to the Outrunner. To do so, you need to fight through waves of Stormtroopers and even an AT-ST. I haven’t played this since before the 21st century, but if I remember correctly, the gunplay wasn’t the most refined but serviceable. Coupling that with me being a young boy at the time, I didn’t have the best of times progressing through this!

Bounty hunting for dummies

This is where my memory of exact sequences gets a little hazy, to say the least. I can recall a lengthy chapter involving fighting several bounty hunters, such as the renowned Boba Fett and IG-88. There were flamethrowers, canyons and jetpacks and I instinctively feel as though this was not a fun time for young Paul in completing this. Another gameplay piece which I can actually remember was set in Mos Eisley, where you must thwart an assassination attempt on Luke Skywalker. The perpetrators of this attack are a gang of bikers, hired by none other than Jabba the Hutt. This was a really fun section that is essentially a race through the famous Mos Eisley and a far off canyon. At the time, these were visually great environments and once again reinforced the feeling of being in one of the Star Wars movies with the high-octane action in an environment we all know and love so well.

For further reading…

The Shadows of the Empire game was part of a larger multimedia project of the same name in the 90’s. Everything from comic books, novels, new toy product lines, pen and paper RPGs, you name it! This project became a huge hit with the fandom, the gritty style resonated well with fans at the time, it had absolutely everything - Except a movie. For myself and a lot of fans of my generation, this created the idea that there was a wider world to explore in this already classic franchise. This game would be a first step I’d happily suggest to anyone looking to explore the wider series. While this isn’t considered canon anymore (boo, hiss) it’s a worthy starting point. I haven’t played this in a very long time, and even at the time of release it had clunky controls, but for the story alone this is worth experiencing to see a highly popular and influential Star Wars story.

Return of the Dash

As of 2018, Dash Rendar was officially canonised once again. This follows suit with Disney’s trend of slowly reintroducing classic characters, such as Thrawn. In a companion book to Solo: A Star Wars Story, the fan-favourite is mentioned by name Much like the re-introduction of the blue-skinned Admiral, this gives people a reason to rejoice, albeit to a much lesser extent - This is simply a name drop after all folks. Regardless, this bodes well for the future of this important facet of the Rebellion’s struggle against the Empire, insofar as Shadows of the Empire was once considered as a title for Episode VII, The Force Awakens

Star Wars is on everyone’s brain right now due to May 4th, The Mandalorian, The Clone Wars receiving a proper ending, and well, everything else they have going on at the moment! I can think of no better way to celebrate this wonderful space opera than delving into the riches of this project. So here is to Shadows of the Empire, for it’s enduring legacy and influence!

Fancy learning a bit more? Check out this retrospective video from one of my favourite channels, Mr Sunday Movies, right here.

All images taken from the Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire press kit here

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