The Secret of Star Wars

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There are plenty of theories as to why the original Star Wars trilogy has been so successful. Analysis of its "hero's journey", its appeal to young and old alike, its timeless tale of good vs evil.

I subscribe to a lesser-known theory. That it's been such a big hit because the original three films were so dirty.

A lot of science fiction material produced, whether it be on the silver screen, in comics or in video games, tends to come off looking clich├ęd. Indistinguishable from countless other examples in the genre. Cheap, flimsy and clean.

Designers and producers (at least when not hamstrung by tiny budgets) usually think this makes something look sleeker, more futuristic, but what it actually does it make it look fake. Artificial. Like the set or make-believe product it is. You never get the sense that it is a world in which people live, which they inherited from their forefathers, and which they'll pass on to their kids. Which limits your ability to really lose yourself in the universe.

The visual design of Star Wars, at least the original three films, did something else. The ships, built from random pieces of plastic model kits, looked like things that not only functioned, but had been doing so for years (to be fair, it was not the first to take this approach, as Thunderbirds did something similar). Its people sometimes looked like they needed a bath, or a haircut, or a hug. Places like Mos Eisley reminded us that science fiction doesn't always have to be about monstrous cities and space stations; it can be about shitty little pubs full of people who smuggle drugs for a living and who with a wrong move can get their arm cut off.

In short, it was a universe that looked like one that had actually existed for millennia, and we were only now just getting the chance to peek in through its windows. Because of this, it seemed like one you could really lose yourself in, as it felt more "real" as a result.

The latest trilogy, and almost everything based on them since, has forgotten that. Like an old episode of Star Trek, it often looks like an elaborate stage production of a boring space opera, instead of presenting us with a world we could imagine ourselves actually living in, flaws and all.

Sadly, it's a fate many Star Wars games based on both trilogies have also forgotten. Too many developers over the years have thought including the words "Jedi" and "Empire" were enough to ground their works in the look and feel of Star Wars, when really, they were doing nothing of the sort.

Above you'll find a few of the games that, like the original trilogy, got it right, not only dropping you into the middle of the Star Wars universe, but making you feel like you were really up to your eyeballs in it. www.kotaku.com
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