Just before the summer got underway, the George Lucas Empire announced that due to public outcry it would condescend to releasing the original (as opposed to the digitally fiddled-with) Star Wars movies. Here was our chance "to see the pioneering, if dated, motion control model work!" -- the actual words from the Lucasfilm press release.
Gee, is it me, or does the punch taste funny?
Despite my hallowed estimation of this film, I haven't bothered to reach for my credit card. Original or remake, the truth is, I don't really care. I've seen the messed-with versions a couple of times. Some of the changes are, I have to admit, improvements (the dogfight over the Death Star now has narrative sequencing that doesn't rely on the audience's instinctual "filling in"); some of it is egregious (I belong to the "Han shoots first" camp); most of it is banal. Whatever. Over the years I've seen both "versions" so many times, it no longer matters which one is playing.
Now this, on the other hand, is exciting news! The original Lego Star Wars game had more excitement, more surprises, more thrills, more humour and more emotional content than the movies it was based on. Graphically speaking, it represented the best that a video game can be by coming up with a wholly unique aesthetic (everything is Lego!) and not trying to ape "reality". Its playability walked a fine line between being a quick study, while still representing enough of a challenge to retain interest. This was one of those rare games I played from beginning to end, figuring out all the puzzles and seeking out all the surprises and bonuses (something I don't usually have patience for). It's been a year, and the girls are still playing the game.
So, yes, once again I've dropped plastic for Lucas. I'm looking forward to features like swapping heads with bodies, building my own landspeeder, etc. Typical Lego stuff, in other words, the nature of which gets me wondering: why doesn't Lucas just make Star Wars public domain? In the case of the movies, this might allow a guy like me the choice to keep the tidied-up dogfight, but switch back to Han shoots first.
And why stop there? Why not make up your own aliens, or swap heads and bodies? Why not (gasp!) mess with the storyline? We might finally get a Star Wars product that does better than trade on creaky nostalgia, something that generates actual interest and excitement. Something, in other words, that recaptures the spirit of the original.
Other gaming news: WIRED has an uncharacteristically dire piece on Playstation 3 and the future of Sony, here.