No one ever thought LucasArts would go. Sure, times are tough, and a whole slew of development studios have been decimated in recent years, but LucasArts? They had big old George Lucas fighting in their corner, a man who will make money despite himself. Even Howard the Duck turned a profit. Just about.
But then George sold everything he’d built up to Disney, meaning he can lounge about his living room and watch Jeremy Kyle in his pants for the rest of his days. The House of Mouse are now the sole owners of everything Lucas, meaning they have Star Wars, Indiana Jones and every other thing created under that name.
While Disney on the surface are a happy clappy family organisation it rarely holds back. Lest we forget, Walt Disney had his head cryogenically frozen so he could come back once the reptiles take over, or something.
Anyway, worse than that, they’ve just shut the interactive entertainment arm of Lucas’ conglomerate, LucasArts. It’s probably more of a kick in the childhood than the prequel trilogy was. There’s no denying that, recently, the studio were responsible for developing and producing some utterly heinous junk (remember Fracture? Exactly), but really it’s a terrible shame, and a sad day for anyone that’s old enough to remember the studio in their 90s heyday. When they were on form, there were few better.
VideoGamer salutes another dead hero and takes a look back at a small selection of some of LucasArts’ most memorable and cherished products. May the force… oh just read on.
5. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (1997)
Admittedly there are dozens of better games in the LucasArts oeuvre, but virtually everyone that owned an N64 had fond memories of this one. You see, the N64 wasn’t exactly swimming in games at the time (there was Mario, Mario Kart, and Turok, and Turok was so expensive it required a bank loan) so a big old Star Wars epic was just what the doctor ordered, especially considering it was released to coincide with the digital re-releases of the original trilogy. It was flawed but it was unmistakeably Star Wars and did a much better job of telling a side story in the universe than the more recent The Force Unleashed, a game that somehow made being a Jedi seem boring. It also introduced us to the character of Dash Rendar, who for all intents and purposes was a budget Han Solo, but he was OUR budget Han Solo. The Snowspeeder level at the Battle of Hoth meanwhile was so good, it inspired the development of the highly successful Rogue Squadron series.
NOSTALGIC TRIVIA: Dash Rendar’s ship (The Outrider, which was basically a wonkier Millennium Falcon) makes a cameo appearance in the 1997 re-release of A New Hope.
4. Day of the Tentacle (1993)
You’d think with the recent success of Telltale’s (which is made up of ex LucasArts devs) The Walking Dead that someone at Disney would have twigged that narrative driven point and click style adventures were making something of a comeback. However that’d make too much sense, so rather than draw upon LucasArt’s past as kings of the genre they seemingly couldn’t be bothered. Oh well. Day of the Tentacle was the sequel to 1987’s Maniac Mansion (the game which kickstarted LucasArts’ love affair with all things pointy and clicky), and a fine showcase for Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman it was too, dealing with time travel, trans-dimensional toilets and the obligatory tentacles.
NOSTALGIC TRIVIA: Day of the Tentacle was Tim Schafer’s first game as development leader. He was an underling to Ron Gilbert during Monkey Island.
3. Star Wars: Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight (1997)
There once was a time during the days of games journalism past where every first person shooter was accused of being a Doom clone. Looking back now it’s pretty unfair, as during those dark days - the 90s - some pretty good FPS titles were made, chief among them Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight. The sequel to Dark Forces, it changed things up by affording splendidly bearded protagonist Kyle Katarn some nifty force powers and a lightsaber letting him bash away at a myriad of helmeted fools. It was a monstrous hit on PC spawning an expansion pack and two sequels. We’ll likely never see good old Kyle Katarn again, unless J.J. Abrams sees sense and makes the upcoming Episode 7 an intergalactic version of Death Wish with Steven Segal playing him.
NOSTALGIC TRIVIA: The live action cutscenes featured the first lightsaber fights filmed since Return of the Jedi.
2. The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)
It’s testament to how a good a game is that it still gets talked about a full 23 years after release. The Secret of Monkey Island is still funnier and better written than pretty much everything that comes out these days, and people still remember the antics of Guybrush and Ghost Pirate LeChuck fondly. It’s pretty doubtful any game characters from more recent times will be so lovingly cherished. Can you seriously imagine getting misty eyed with your doubtless rotten children in the future as you recount the time Kane and Lynch shot up a load of guys in the nip? Exactly. Given how good Pirates have been financially to Disney in the last decade you’d think they’d at least consider doing something with Monkey Island, but there’s about as much chance of that happening as a sequel to John Carter. Yeah, we went there.
NOSTALGIC TRIVIA: Monkey Island was inspired by the novel On Stranger Tides, which was then (how’s this for a coincidence) used as the inspiration for Disney’s completely unnecessary fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, also called On Stranger Tides, because no one has their own ideas nowadays.
1. Grim Fandango (1998)
As wonderful as Monkey Island is, it’s Grim Fandango that really brings out the rampant love. It probably wouldn’t get made today, what with it being a darkly comic noir adventure set in a highly stylised Land of the Dead starring a sharp suited, sarcastic Grim Reaper character. You can’t shoot anything in it either. Like Monkey Island it was brilliantly written, and had a plot that made many modern attempts at ’mature storytelling’ look even more painfully silly. It wasn’t all laughs and witty barbs either and didn’t shy away from tragedy or gloom. It was one of the last point and click adventure games before LucasArts devoted itself to making sporadically brilliant, yet largely crappy, Star Wars games.
NOSTALIGIC TRIVIA: Main character Manny Cavalera was named after Max Cavalera, the lead singer from Sepultura and later Soulfly. Also, that’s a blatant lie.
Yes, we’ve missed out Sam and Max, X Wing and Tie Fighter, Knights of the Old Republic, that game with the gun that shot sharks and a whole slew of others, but that’s what the comments section below is for isn’t it? Feel free to wax nostalgic about your favourite LucasArts products.
So farewell LucasArts. You will forever be in our (Lucas)hearts...