View Full Version : Evolution of the lightsaber in Video Games

Weapon 117
05-15-2008, 11:02 AM
We'd like to say Star Wars thrives due to its developed characters and provoking science fiction storytelling, but the real answer is a lot simpler: lightsabers.

Star Wars may not have invented the laser sword, but Lucas took the idea and owned it. Now it's the generic term the entire globe uses to describe an energy blade of any type. Like Coke is all cola and Kleenex is all tissue, lightsabers are all melee beam weapons. They're perfect video game weapons too, combining the romantic notion of an adventuring swordsman with the badass appeal of slicing through people like butter, cauterizing wounds instantly.

A study of lightsabers doubles as a study of games themselves; they came into being extremely close to each other, so as game tech evolved, the virtual representation of Star Wars' iconic weapon grew along with it. Join us as we explore their shared history, plus several knockoff fauxsabers that popped up in your favorite games.

Jedi Arena (Atari 2600/1983)


The first game that let you control a lightsaber wasn't even developed by LucasArts. As you can tell from the gripping image above, it sucked. A lot. Move the saber left and right to deflect blasts from the seeker in the middle. The goal is to whittle their defense wall away and zap 'em with a wayward bolt. Exciting!

Star Wars (NES/1991)


Luke shouldn't even fight with a lightsaber in a game based on Episode IV, but the temptation was apparently too strong. Gotta please the kiddies.

The Empire Strikes Back (NES/1992)


The following year brought Empire and its lightsaber-appropriate side-scrolling. Released during the NES' waning years, most people passed it up in favor of the vastly "superior" Super Star Wars (http://www.gamesradar.com/f/the-top-7-games-that-dont-deserve-nostalgia/a-200805129370318082/p-2) on SNES, and with good reason; what kind of game gives Luke a red saber and Vader a blue one? Sacrilege!

The NES version of Empire seems to be the only one that includes a fight with the fake Vader on Dagobah, complete with awesomely graphic 8-bit decapitation!


Blarg! Peter Pan totally kicked Vader's head's ass.

Super Empire Strikes Back (SNES/1993)


Thousands more colors meant a true-blue saber for Luke in SSW and SESB. The latter offered Force Powers, including a saber toss and saber deflection.

Super Return of the Jedi (SNES/1994)

http://static.gamesradar.com/images/mb/GamesRadar/us/Features/2008/05/Lightsabers/Lightsaber_Jedi--article_image.jpg http://static.gamesradar.com/images/mb/GamesRadar/us/Features/2008/05/Lightsabers/Lightsaber_Jedi2--article_image.jpg

Another year, another SNES Star Wars. Saber control was the same, but for the first time on a console you could play with a green saber - not surprising, as this was also the first console game based on Return of the Jedi. The best part of all three Super Star Wars games wasn't the gameplay, it was the sound effects, especially the saber's hums as Luke wildly swung and flipped around. Just looking at those sprites fills us with nostalgic glee - but not enough to actually play it again.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (PC/1997)


The first Dark Forces was filled with first-person running and gunning, not too far removed from Doom. The sequel focused on Kyle Katarn's transformation from regular ol' soldier to Force-sensitive sentinel, lightsaber and Force powers included. Even though it was an FPS, lightsaber actions switched to third-person, a move that made sense but left us wanting a true in-your-face method of dueling. This is also the first instance of multiplayer lightsaber duels across the burgeoning internet.

Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (PSOne/1997)


Often called the worst Star Wars game of all time, or the worst fighting game of all time, or the worst anything that appeared on Earth in 1997, Teras Kasi can still proudly claim to be the first one-on-one fighting game with lightsabers. But, in keeping with its immense suckage, they don't cut people into bits or behave like energy weapons at all. Might as well be a stick. But wait... what's this?


Oh how precious, they used lightsabers as energy bars. See, because it's Star Wars and it's a fighting game. Tip of the hat, dev team.

Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (Arcade/1998)

A massively popular arcade machine with three distinct play types - X-Wing piloting, on foot blasting and lightsaber dueling. All were controlled via a flight stick, which kinda-sorta feels like a saber handle if you squint and imagine really hard. After Vader you're off to best Boba Fett by deflecting blaster shots. It's not the 1:1 control that people babble on about, but it's a whole lot closer to the real thing than anything prior.

Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles (Dreamcast/2000)


New movies meant new canonical video games, and after 1999's Episode I tie-in (with first Maul lightsaber) we got this brawler that let you handle purple and yellow sabers in addition to the standard blue, green and red. As with any good beat 'em up, Power Battles had a list of combos for each Jedi rather than simple slash-slash-slash attacks we'd seen up to this point.


A couple of years after the Dreamcast version hit stores, a watered-down GBA port appeared to aid the Episode II blitz. See those tiny blue... things? Lightsabers!

Star Wars: Obi-Wan (Xbox/2001)


Another turd Forced out of the LucasArts orifice, this one focused on Obi-Wan prior to Episode I. You run, you swing, you turn off the game in disgust, but it's worth noting for its all-analog lightsaber control and for centering on one well-known Jedi for the duration of the game. There's also a chance to fight the whole damn council as a way to prove yourself worthy of Jedi-dom.

Xbox, PS2 and GC games look bare and lifeless by today's standards, but as far as lightsabers are concerned, there isn't much visual change from here on out. But our journey is far from over...

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (Xbox, GC, PC/2002)

Baffling title aside, the most curious thing in this sequel to a sequel is its dismemberment code (seen at 0:35). Ever since Obi-Wan sliced off Ponda Baba's arm we've wanted to run through stormtooper hordes with a saber, hacking and slashing them into bits so small even their clone-mothers couldn't identify them. Watch out when it's activated though - enemies are just as capable of taking your arms, legs and head off as you are. It's so sensitive that enemies will fall apart even if lightly brushed with a saber. This highly regarded cheat was left out of Jedi Academy, Outcast's 2003 sequel. Boo!

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox/2003)


A bit brighter, but overall not a lot's changed from 2001's Obi-Wan. KOTOR gets a nod anyway for cramming every known color and style of lightsaber into its many tactical battles. You want a double-bladed saber? Sure thing. Dual-wield violet sabers like Mace Windu? No problem. It's like a rainbow-colored slaughterhouse.

LEGO Star Wars (Everything/2005)


Kid-friendly slashing is all you get with LEGO sabers, but that's to be expected. Enemies do fall apart as if dismembered though, so that's something.

Republic Commando: Order 66 (Mobile/2005)


If you were dying to see lightsabers converted into a barely visible assemblage of pixel slop, then Order 66 and Grievous Getaway were a personal slice of heaven. Hm, Grievous Getaway sounds like a children's popup book.

Source: http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090

Weapon 117
05-15-2008, 11:05 AM
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Multi/2005)


Anakin and Obi-Wan use acrobatic techniques, twirling and spinning the saber like an ornamental dancer. We see a lot of this style in the prequel films, but games had mostly stuck to the slash-stab-slash pattern. Too bad it wasn't as exciting as the exaggerated animations.

Star Wars Battlefront II (Xbox, PS2, PSP, PC/2005)


The first game in this shooter MMO was all about blasters and vehicles. Part two introduced legendary Jedi and Sith characters capable of dishing out intense punishment to the opposing army. It's the best example of how one or two lightsabers can affect a 64-player showdown.


Battlefront II didn't improve on the appearance, but it is the first time you can (briefly) play as General Grievous, the multi-limbed Jedi slayer armed with four stolen lightsabers. Luke, Vader, Yoda, Maul and the ultra-hot Aayla Secura also star.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Multi/2008)


A new generation of saber waggling begins in a few months. The next-gen versions probably won't stray too far from what we've already seen and played on XB/PS2/GC, but the Wii version does utilize (http://www.gamesradar.com/wii/star-wars-the-force-unleashed/preview/star-wars-the-force-unleashed-hands-on/a-20080415115111938081/g-20060808163223978049) motion controls for rudimentary dueling. Still no 1:1 control, but your movements will dictate slashing, stabbing and throwing so that's small step above the arcade game from 10 years ago, right? We're not even sure how fun a 1:1 saber game would be; most gamers aren't adept swordsmen, so how can we be expected to engage in intense duels without direction and hours of practice? Anything less and we'd be fighting some really inept enemies.
While we're talking about Force Unleashed, what's with the secret apprentice's Raziel fetish?


Whatever the future holds for lightsaber tech, be it a true dueling simulator or a 50-on-50 online Jedi/Sith massacre, you can bet the knock-offs will keep on coming. To that end, our last page is dedicated to all the would-be lightsabers that litter the gamescape.


Time Killers (Arcade, Genesis/1992)

After Mortal Kombat became every underage kid's gory wet dream, '90s developers wrongly assumed blood and guts were the only reason people played Kombat at all. Several one-trick games followed, Time Killers being the most gratuitous of all. It also featured two not-sabers that carved opponents into pieces. And yes, the game really did look like a child hastily mashed radioactive crayons into a blender.


Mega Man X3 (SNES/1995)

One of the most valuable SNES games, X3 finally let you play as Mega Man's long-haired counterpart Zero. In addition to traditional blasters, Zero also wielded a green energy blade, which somehow made him cool despite the flowing blonde hair erupting from his robotic skull.


Einhander (PSOne/1998)

This long-forgotten space shooter wowed fans 10 years ago with intense enemy patterns and innovative "you pick the power-up" gameplay. One of the many ship pickups was a laser blade that your ambidextrous craft could whip and toss all around. Einhander roughly translates (http://www.gamesradar.com/f/what-game-names-really-mean/a-2008010992458729011) to "the one-handed."


Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64/2000)

The reckless 64 branding continued well into 2000 with this so-so Kirby platformer that allowed the puffball to mix powers together instead of using one at a time. Fusing shock with cutter yielded this Darth Maul-inspired yellow lightsaber, well before the prequels established such a color as canon.


Super Smash Bros. Melee (GameCube/2001)

GameCube had its biggest hit within weeks of launch. Melee's unrivaled popularity directly led to Brawl's current level of fame, and both versions proudly display dime-store lightsabers known as "beam swords." This time around it was bright purple, just as Mace Windu popularized the hue for the entire franchise. Here it is from the 1998 original:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkXbuv6CSYk&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkXbuv6CSYk&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4)

More or less the same, though a little less vibrant. Fuzzy visuals didn't stop the game (which almost didn't make it out of Japan) from creating a whole new level of Nintendo fandom.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itg04yVL1Zs&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itg04yVL1Zs&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4)

Silent Hill 3 (PS2, 2003)

Completing the game with more deaths caused via melee strikes than guns awards Heather with a beam saber. Not scary, but neat, especially the lighting effects. Watch that shadow dance!


World of WarCraft (PC/2004)

Is there anything WoW doesn't have? This one's called the "Argent Avenger," found after a chain quest in the Eastern Plaguelands.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpaLMlAIf78&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpaLMlAIf78&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4)

Dead Rising (360/2006)

Frank West has three consecutive bad days in a zombie-infested shopping mall, but dedicated players eventually get to mow 'em down with a humming imitation lightsaber.


Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (Xbox, PS2/2006)

The latest entry in the long-lived series starred 62 nutjobs with all kinds of make-believe weapons. Sektor, around since Mortal Kombat 3, brought his two Pulse Blades along for the red-soaked ride.


No More Heroes (Wii/2008)

This sadly doomed M-rated Wii exclusive showcased Travis Touchdown and his "beam katana" he won in an internet auction. How meta can you get?


Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii/2008)

And where we are today, with Brawl's blatant rip-off that isn't even trying to hide its roots. They were purple before, but now they're straight-up lightsabers with a little hilt flourish to keep the lawyers away.

Honda Ridgeline Meets Thanksgiving (TV/2007)
Tradition meets innovation when you carve a delicious turkey with burning hot plasma. Yum!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNf995B0_kU&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNf995B0_kU&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4)

Lightsaber Christmas present (Internet/Timeless)
Kid opens lightsaber, chops off grandma's head

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmc3pee1yP8&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmc3pee1yP8&eurl=http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090/p-4)

Source: http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090 (http://www.gamesradar.com/f/evolution-of-the-lightsaber/a-20080514113654308090)

05-15-2008, 01:36 PM
Blizzard Braught Light Sabers into their games before World of Warcraft, in Diablo 2's Expansion pack Lord of Destruction their was lightsabres.

Also if you count the Prottoss hand blades as wolverine type light sabres they were in starcraft as well.

I'm Not sure if the Argent Avenger in World of Warcraft really counts because it was a frost sword that did more damage to undead based on the story behind Naxxramas.

Krymson Fury
05-15-2008, 08:56 PM
I couldnt help but notice you didnt even mention KOTOR II

05-15-2008, 09:15 PM
I couldnt help but notice you didnt even mention KOTOR II

weapon didn't write it it is from Game Radar

05-15-2008, 10:00 PM
Nice find. And it's been a long time since I saw someone mention Time Killers. What a great game, hacking off limbs with chainsaws and whatnot. lol.

Lord of Fate
05-15-2008, 10:21 PM
Star Wars Episode I: Jedi Power Battles (Dreamcast/2000)


I love this game! Lol, wish they'd bring it to XBLA btw.

And of the games that you listed that aren't Star Wars but have lightsabers in them, dunno if you listed 'em or not but there's also: Super Smash Bros. series & Phantasy Star series. Weird how there's so many games that have copied the lightsaber but either Lucas doesn't care or just no one gets in trouble for it.

05-15-2008, 11:20 PM
I couldnt help but notice you didnt even mention KOTOR II

KOTOR 1 is there...he isn't saying which is the best Star Wars game, he's showing the evolution of the light saber. :P

I didn't realize there was a history of the light saber. lol.

05-15-2008, 11:28 PM
Ha, this thread is epic. I like the new one the best.

Abez Meister
05-17-2008, 05:24 AM
Star Wars Force Unleashed looks sweet. Finally get to be on the dark side for once.