Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away... or, more accurately, in a cosy flat roughly nine miles from where I currently sit...
I used to love Star Wars. Like many of my fellow geeks, George Lucas' films played a significant role in my childhood. I never saw the original films at the cinema - I'm not that old, after all - but I did watch the first trilogy on loop, largely via home-recorded VHS tapes that I made myself. Those chunky black bricks were my gateway to the world of Skywalker, Vader, and Solo. I may not be among the most senior generation of Star Wars fans, but I've been around for a while; I can clearly recall the days when Han shot first.
There's no point in going over the various afflictions that have blighted Star Wars over the past 12 years. If you've even vaguely followed the franchise since the release of The Phantom Menace, you'll be acquainted with the many criticisms that can be levelled at the prequel trilogy, and everything that has followed in its wake; if you're a really ardent fan, you may even know the arguments that can be raised in its defence. By now, we all know the score. And yet for me, I think it was only last week that I realised just how dead the series now is to me.
But here's the kicker: In terms of killing my love, I think that video games carry almost as much blame as the recent films. Almost, but not quite.
The occasion for my recent epiphany was the reveal of the forthcoming Star Wars-themed Xbox 360. When I first saw that clip, I came close to dribbling bile all over my desk, but with hindsight that might have been an overreaction. As Star Wars memorabilia goes, it's not so bad. I've yet to see the unit for myself but the design looks to be relatively subtle, relying on the fact that the blue-and-white colour scheme will immediately speak to fans. It's suggestive of R2D2 rather than being shaped like him, as DVD boxed set might be.
The sound effects, on the other hand, are an immediate annoyance. Why? Because they remind me of how Star Wars' most recognisable qualities have been abused over the past decade. The Star Wars universe is blessed with a multitude of iconic images and distinctive sounds, and as such it's a license that can be easily wrapped around pretty much anything you desire. It doesn't matter if the product in question has nothing to do with the source material; adorn it with enough evocative stimuli, and it'll summon that fix-all Star Wars nostalgia. A blue and white toilet would feel Star Wars-y if it went "bibble bibble beep boop!" every time you took a dump.
The icons have always played a key role in Star Wars video games. The 1995 FPS Dark Forces might have been just a Doom clone, but we believed in it because it had Stormtroopers and John Williams' score in it. It didn't matter that the visuals were basic and blocky, or that the music was bleepy - there were enough familiar elements to spark feelings of recognition, and our imagination did the rest. The earliest coin-op titles did an even more impressive job, recreating the X-Wing raid on the Death Star with little more than wireframe graphics.