Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – A Canon Divided

Star Wars Force Unleashed Stormtrooper

As Star Wars The Force Awakens bursts the Big Screen, a look at one of Star Wars greatest moments that’s been force pushed out of history… The Force Unleashed.

* Includes spoilers for The Force Unleashed, not so much The Force Awakens *

IT WAS JUST BEFORE HALLOWEEN 2012 THAT STAR WARS PHASE TWO STARTED. Disney had seized control of the Senate, undermined the Jedi order and taken control of Lucasfilm and Star Wars. With the ominous suggestion that the franchise was underexploited, plans were sown for a future that few had suspected. And frankly, many who had, dreaded.

But when George Lucas said at the time, “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of film-makers,” he really meant it. Three years on, the first Star Wars film in ten years ready and poised to break records as it kicks off a new trilogy sparked by three different hot property directors. And filming is already under way on the first Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One, taking a punt at providing a proper prequel to the original Episode 4. But it wasn’t all positive for creativity as far reaching surgical cuts were made to give the future of the franchise absolute freedom. It took just over a year for Disney to issue their own Order 66 against Star War’s expanded universe and wipe the canon clean.

The search for canonicity

The strained emergence of what one of entertainment’s largest brands led to confusion from the outset…

Canonicity is a hotly disputed topic in fan bases, especially around genre properties. Even under strict control, the issue can get murky across divergent media. The rule of all official material being canonical quickly gives way to caveats that it’s only canonical if it doesn’t contradict a more important and compelling part of the canon.

As it stands, the current core of canonical Star Wars is formed by the six film sequence, with the notable addition of the well regarded Clone Wars cartoon series joining new animated series Rebels as part of lore. The expanded universe of novels comics, videogames and animated series is now branded (relegated) under Star Wars Legends. The decks cleared, all future created content across multi-media will be officially canonical forming Disney’s next great shared universe. And on the basis of Star Wars The Force Awakens, signs are very good indeed.

But now there’s no room on the timeline for Star Wars Holiday Special or Droids. No imperial cargo decks reserved for Knights of the Old Republic or shooting galleries where Shadows of the Empire or Dark Forces can hang out.

Disney’s move was a shrewd, ruthless and necessary one. After all, the strained emergence of what would become one of entertainment’s largest brands led to confusion from the outset. Alan Dean Foster’s 1978 Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was a prose sequel to the original Star Wars film, intended to be filmed as a low budget follow-on should the original film’s box office not have come up to scratch. History records that Star Wars set the box office alight, instantly enabling a high budget sequel in The Empire Strikes Back and the writing off of Mind’s Eye. But still, it lingered until it met Disney’s scythe. While not contradictory, there’s an uneasy link between those duelling sequels, even considering Mind Eye’s distinctive and iconic front cover. Disney has now shredded this very early tension, along with the vast majority of expanded universe stories that followed. Those books and storylines that followed the original trilogy, many of which spun out to explain the events that took place after Return of the Jedi were complicated and mainly the preserve of completists rather than the ticket buying mainstream that inspired Disney’s purchase. Although all were signed off by Lucasfilm, that didn’t guarantee their canonicity for what will always primarily be a film based franchise and Disney have proved it. The instant impact of this decision has been thousands of column inches dredging the irony that some elements of the ever-tweaked film run remain canon. Yes, gungans, Darth Vader being called “Ani”… But aside from reducing the many volumes of Star Wars universe encyclopaedia, the real cost has been the relegation of some of the franchise’s greatest moments. In particular The Force Unleashed – quite possibly the highlight of 21st century Star Wars.
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Super Mario Bros. The anniversary play-through!

Super Mario Bros at 30 - Mario

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros.’ release – a venerable writer played… Super Mario Bros. And here’s a transcript of the anniversary play‑through of the game’s first world – you know, the tutorial/easy one… What could possibly go wrong?

Bing. Da-da-da-da-da-da —dum-dum-dum -da-daa-daaaa -dum-da-da-da -da-da -da-daa-daaaaa… 

Game loaded.

Super Mario Bros, World 1-1

Great plumbing, not so keen on the really poor masonry

GO! THE PLUMBER’S OFF, ACCESS TO EVERY HOME IN THE WORLD, BUT THERE’S ONLY TIME FOR ONE CALL-OUT.  RESCUE THE PRINCESS. Packing a set of lives, toolbelt on and stomp in the step. I’m just gonna– whoa, Goomba already, just splat and head butt the block– boom, large mushroom and super large three-tone Mario. Looking a little bit out of shape there old chap…

Smash block, smash block, smash block… 200 points from a jewel, grabbed. Small pipe, squat plumber, squat – nothing.  Higher pipe, squat PLUMBER! Sound like King Koopa – nothing doing, all these pipes have blockages! Boom, double stomp on goombas. Even higher green pipe. There is a lot of plumbing done round here – squat, c’mon – yes! Into… A warehouse basement! Great plumbing, not so keen on the really poor masonry, but loads of coins – got ‘em all. Oh yeah.  But Mario just seems little bit big for this, again I blame the mason. Into green pipe, out and run… Up… The… Steps like Rocky. The music’s pumping in my ears, the victory sprint, see the flagpole and…. Fly my plumber fly… Epic fail, 100 points.

The red star flag of disappointment rises over that pitiful display. Never hacked that bloody flag pole stuff on the 2d scrollers…

Super Mario Bros, world 1-2

Some rather off-colour Goombas, clearly not a great environment down here

Okay straight out the pipe and run right… Into another pipe! Through the floor, okay underground, this is getting serious. Five boxes and boom a fire flower. Spring up for the fire flower and suddenly Mario’s ginger and looking a wee bit jaundiced. And in shock at the pure white dungarees (I mean, that’s a helluva flower) run straight into a Koopa Trooper. Great. Timing.

Boom, back, run up ignoring all embarrassment, catch the first Koopa, classic shell move to wipe out the next one. Still such a satisfying move. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom – now pick up the mushroom and those irritating box spires. Just remember, it’s more difficult in 3d, it’s more difficult in 3d. Leap, leap – some rather off-colour Goombas, clearly not a great environment down here. Not exactly racing through here… Racing through this. 100 points, 100 points… Yes, made the high jump from the snaking blocks and then splat, into a Goomba.

Respawn, jump the flower pipes (seriously, y’know, if I had time I’d clear those out but the clock’s ticking).  Jump on the rising platforms, knock out the Koopa Troopa with a bit more colour – miss the secret room I just know is lurking round here… Through the green pipe. So close…. And so nice to be outside again! Vitamin D, pause to let it sink in. Still look jaundiced. Run up the steps – whoa, a piranha plant in the pip I just jumped out of – and big moment… Yes, less epic fail. 400 on the flag.  Into the castle. 400!

Super Mario Bros, World 1-3

Where did those 20 seconds go?

Treetops and Koopa Paratroopas. I can hear them calling.

Bring it, I’m invincible, just without the invincibility… This camera that raises a few inches is annoying, but hell, time is ticking.  The skies so blue, but those clouds are annoying with their blue smirks.  Leap around the treetops, take out the Troopa, and so excited, go flying off the tree… No flying Mario yet. A painful lesson. One life left.

Pound through, take out the Troopa, avoid the flight bounce – slight drop of pressure on the confidence gauge. Bounce, bounce. Big plunge to grab some jewels. A rising platform that looks like it disappears, camera trickery. Jump and up and… Hang on… Music speeds up, 20 seconds left!?  Damn those clouds, spent too much time trying to throw insults at them… Jump the platforms, can’t spring on the Paratroopa and so close. Time out. Time over!? TIME OVER!? Where did those 20 seconds go? Done. Game over. Man, a 5850 score, sandwiched between Troopa and Lakitu. Man, I am so much bigger than those guys. Embarrassing. Okay… Continue. Race through, no way time’s catching me this time. Even catch a Paratroopa in flight. Take that turtle head (it’s a turtle, with a head, stomped). Boing, platforms, platform, steps… I’m unplayable as I reach the flagpole and… 100 points. Another let down… Shrug, readjust tool belt, carry on.

Super Mario Bros, World 1-4

Ripped the floor out from under the big false fire dragon

Boom, into the black and white brickwork, who built this place!? This is much more stylish (Miyamoto and co, trick question). Pits of lava, I instantly test by diving in. Result not realistic but devastating.

Respawn, the indomitable plumber. Leap three and hit the…. Fire bars, I hate these swirly bastards. There’s a tempting box right there and a giant mushroom. Three deaths and it’s mine – ha ha! It’s all about the timing, dodge the fire bars, getting good and then fire bolts. That’s a lot harder when Mario’s at full weight. And there at the end a platform… Wait, a Goomba impersonating Bowser? Go for the leap…. Fake Bowser jumps.

Take two – smaller this time, easier to dodge the flame bolts until I head butt one. That plumber! Try again, run in, avoid the platform, hit the Goomba, lose my size, still a bit of life left. And over, over, over… Agonising split second plumber lives flash past. And… Hit the axe. BOOM! Ripped the floor out from under the big false fire dragon. If only it was the real Bowser. My reward – a Toad! Welcome to the Mario franchise. And no Toad, you may be ecstatic and heroed out, but no need for the princess thanks. It’s all in a day’s work for this plumber.

Well, easy. Right? Now time for a rest.

Super Mario Bros. Arrived on the NES to wish it all the best. Not only Toads, but quite possibly the most influential videogame of all time.

The one to measure every other game against. Happy 30th SMB.

Super Mario Bros at 30 - Mario Super Mario Bros at 30 - Luigi 

Super Mario Bros. the Movie! Dystopia hits the Mushroom Kingdom

Super Mario Bros at 30 - Luigi

To mark 30 years since Mario’s arrival in homes, a look at one of the Italian plumber’s rare misfires: 1993’s Super Mario Bros. The Movie! A side-line to Jokerside’s summer of dystopia, it even features a villainous spin for Dennis Hopper. Time for a reappraisal?

IT’S 30 YEARS SINCE MARIO WENT SOLO, WELL ALMOST SOLO. ENLISTING HIS MALACHITE SIBLING, THE SUPER MARIO BROS OFFICIALLY HIT THE NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM ON 13 SEPTEMBER 1985. The plumbing brothers had appeared on arcade machines two years before of course, not quite getting the look down pat while they battled strange invaders in the sewer system under New York. And two years prior to that Mario, the everyman masquerading for a bit as Jumpman, had conquered the misguided Donkey Kong as he rescued Lady Pauline in the arcades. But it took four years from that first pioneering stab at putting narrative in a videogame for the Mario we all know to arrive in homes across the globe. On consoles. In living rooms.

And it was then that everything slotted into place like Tetris (invented a year before, but yet to turn the videogames industry on its head). With Super Mario Bros. Mario was suddenly in the brightly coloured Mushroom Kingdom. Princess Toadstool has been kidnapped by the forces of the dastardly Bowser and only the pipe-travelling plumber Mario could save her. Coins abounded, as did invincibility stars. Enemies were stomped and blocks head-butted, granting 1-ups and special abilities including that brilliant and powerful lil’ fire flower. Everything was pretty much set in this much ported game. And you could even introduce Luigi by picking up another controller.

From there the games piled up. Sequels, and the arrival of Super Mario World on the SNES and Super Mario Land on Gameboy. The Italian icon diversified as he took on sports like tennis, golf and baseball. Guest appearances in the broadening Nintendo home franchises saw him juggling, typing, karting, studying for a doctorate, dealing with over excited dinosaurs and even merging with the blocks in Tetris Attack. It was all going swimmingly for Mario and his brother, and then Hollywood came calling for the Brooklyn plumbers and everything changed…

Super Mario Bros. The Movie (1993)

“Strap your belt on kid, we’re going in”

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Nintendo and Satoru Iwata: Dream Brothers

RIP Iwata Mario & Luigi

Nintendo lost its President a month ago, leaving a fine legacy from one of the game giant’s shortest leaderships. There were distinct highs and lows during his 13 years, and perhaps his most significant legacy will prove to be a fresh and secure direction towards mobile gaming. While the identity of his permanent successor remains a mystery, Jokerside sets about a tribute play of two handheld games that have a lot to say about Nintendo and the legacy of Iwata-san:

1989’s Super Mario Land and 2013’s Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros.

Iwata-san RIP

One of Nintendo’s occasional revolutions

THE GAMING WORLD WENT INTO APPROPRIATE MELT-DOWN IN MID-JULY WITH NEWS THAT NINTENDO’S CEO IWATA-SAN HAD PASSED AWAY AT 55. Taken too soon, too young by cancer, he left Nintendo at a crossroads as his 13 year Presidency of the company came to an abrupt end. Only the fourth President in the company’s 126 year history, his relatively short presidency saw the typical triumphs and stumbles we’ve come to expect from the Japanese giant as it continued to stridently stick to its own path. For all the highs of the Wii and the DS, their successors have stalled… But in leaving a new and set strategy for development into the mobile market there is a chance for Nintendo to grab a crown that was always waiting for them. A natural and overdue fit for the company, we should all hope they’ll magic up one of their occasional revolutions on mobiles over the next two years. It’s a long time coming and a move engrained in their DNA, but leaves the future of their hardware undefined to the outside world…

A new century

An unwavering pursuit of gameplay

Under Iwata Nintendo pushed into new ground with the new century. It started by resisting the continued rise of Sony while sticking rigidly to its non-connected and affectionately unique formats. The GameCube, remains a distinctive and brilliant idea – but while Nintendo had learned from the limited software range that left the Nintendo 64 bereft, the GC couldn’t quite move on from expensive cartridges without dipping into the unusual mini optical discs for a generation. It was a well-received console, a fun and contained example of what a gaming device should and could be. But while the GC managed a six year career, its clear and unwavering pursuit of gameplay over graphics, experience over a multi-player network, pushed Nintendo well behind the social machinations of its Japanese and American rivals.

The Third Way

Via dead-ends and love hotels

Mario NintendoIwata was hand chosen by President Hiroshi Yamauchi to become his successor at the start of the 21st century. Following five decades that had seen Yamauchi take Nintendo from playing card manufacturer to world leading videogames company, via all sorts of dead-ends and love hotels, was some ask. A games developer by aptitude, Iwata had joined by proxy from a part-time programming position at HAL Laboratory to heading the giant’s corporate planning division. On the way he helped develop titles including Kirby’s Dream Land, Pokémon Gold and Silver and Super Smash Bros. before spending a couple of years before his presidency successfully cutting Nintendo’s game cost and development time.

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