Star Wars

The Trouble with Licensed Games – Part 1

Generally speaking, when we talk about a TV or film franchise being adapted for some other medium, if that IP doesn’t come from a Galaxy Far, Far Away, it’s going to be bad. Game tie-ins have a rather long and mostly dubious history beginning back in the 1950’s when game shows started creating ‘Home Versions’ of their show that people could take home and play themselves. This then expanded into applying a popular IP to classic games, with Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and Clue being some of the most prominent examples. Most of us have probably sat through a game of Harry Potter Scene It? or Modern Family: The Board Game or Halo Risk or Friends Clue. That last one isn’t an actual game, but you’ve seen enough of these to believe it. You’ll have to just settle for The Big Bang Theory Clue instead, which does.

Once video games started to gain popularity, the video game tie-ins began to happen. The E.T. game for Atari is the stuff of legends now with it being so bad they just threw it away. Nowadays every summer blockbuster gets a video game tie-in, and they are almost universally reviled. This has proven to be such a trend now even a mediocre adaptation is usually enough to generate sufficient sales to parents eager to let their children sate themselves on whatever the new hotness is to justify their budget.

The Big Bang Theory Clue

Don’t we all want to play that classic game where Raj murders Sheldon with a dog-eared comic in the laundry room?

Despite my pessimism, there are the occasionally successful licensed adaptations. I will still gladly stop and play my friend’s arcade cabinet version of Turtles in Time, being a passionate TMNT fan. I have fond memories of the Lord of the Rings movie tie-in games from EA for the Playstation 2 more than a few years ago. The LEGO series of games is also one that comes to mind, but that series has more in common with licensed versions of Monopoly than with a traditional adaptation, taking the very successful LEGO engine and pasting all sorts of different themes on it. LucasArts has made a small mint on successful Star Wars licensed products, but they are more the exception than the rule. This certainly doesn’t stop people from trying. There are definitely passionate communities behind some of these products, and if you can do it right, they will reward you.

I think we can learn a lot by trying to consider why so many licensed games fail. One simple answer is that developers often expect that a game with a strong license and current market relevance will sell, even if it’s bad, so it becomes a rushed attempt to maximize profit before their window of excitement closes. It is nearly impossible to succeed if you don’t try, so lets ignore those for now. What about those games that do try? Why do so many of them still fail?

As a quick case study, let’s look at two recent examples from a single, high profile IP, the Aliens franchise – Aliens: Colonial Marines (2013) and Alien: Isolation (2014). Both games were developed by separate development houses but released by Sega. They provide a good contrast between successful and failed licensed games. Colonial Marines was a technical disaster, universally panned and unintentionally hilarious, but it’s failure goes way beyond bad code and goofy character animations.

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Get your knees flexin’ and your arms T-Rexin’, and do the Creep.

Alien: Isolation, however, is a fantastic game, critically acclaimed and palpably terrifying. The main difference between the two, aside from a little polishing of code, is the experience players have while playing the game. Alien: Isolation captures the essence of what the Aliens franchise is about: being terrified in the face of the perfect killing machine.   It puts players in that world, not just mechanically but emotionally. If you want to see what a licensed property title can be like done right, go pick this game up from Steam and treat yourself to a few hours in the dark by yourself playing Isolation. There have been many, many attempts to recreate the Aliens experience in video games, and while some of them have not been terrible, Isolation is the first game I have ever played that actually feels like being in an Aliens movie.

Let’s take a look at another massive IP: Star Trek. The Star Trek Universe is abundant with story telling opportunities between mining the existing lore for great content and having such a vast universe capable of encompassing new content. The canon spans decades with compelling settings and conflicts for whichever part of that timeline you happen to enjoy. And there is a committed fan base, eager for good content and willing to pay when they find it. There have been several new fan film projects recently that prove this to be true.

Star Trek Monopoly

To boldly go where no collector has gone before…

There are dozens of licensed Star Trek games, both board games and digital games. A brief browsing through Wikipedia in the board game space shows a pattern typical of many popular licensed properties: The Cash Grab.

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive VCR Board Game
  • Trivial Pursuit: Star Trek Edition
  • Star Trek Scrabble
  • Star Trek Monopoly, featuring numerous editions including the Original Series, The Next Generation, Klingon, and a Continuum Edition covering all 5 TV Series
  • Scene It? Star Trek
  • Star Trek Catan (full disclosure: I own this one, and it’s virtually indistinguishable from standard Catan)

There have also been some attempts to develop serious board games using the Star Trek IP, but most have flopped. There’ve been multiple attempts to build a collectable card game using this license. All have since been discontinued. There was a game called Star Trek: Expeditions designed by acclaimed designer Reiner Knizia (who has designed a number of very popular and well-designed board games) where players assume the role of cast members from the 2009 film. It received middling reviews and has since mostly faded from discussion. There is a miniatures game called Star Trek: Attack Wing, the inferior cousin to a similar Star Wars game, which is producing expansions at a prodigious rate and seems to remain fueled mostly by the collectability of the models rather than the gameplay. My personal favorite, a game called Star Trek: Fleet Captains, gives a fairly time consuming but immersive experience achieved through a tremendous amount of complexity and poorly written rules with players controlling an entire faction, such as the Federation or Romulans, in a game of exploration and conquest. Even that game is much more of a niche offering and is hard to find now.

Star Trek Fleet Captains

A two-player starting setup for Fleet Captains. Nice and simple, right?

The video game side of things doesn’t fare much better. With the exception of Star Trek Online (released in 2010), which saw modest success, before going free-to-play, changed the dynamic of the game, there hasn’t been a good Star Trek video game since maybe 2000. There have been several games released as tie-ins to the new movies as Cash Grab titles, which have almost universally flopped. My favorite Star Trek game is an older title called Birth of the Federation, a classic 4X-style game from 1997 that inevitably bogged down into micromanagement late in the game, but I have spent many enjoyable LAN play sessions with friends over the years, and still have a copy of the game fondly on my game shelf.

Why aren’t they more successful? In some cases, the quality is just inferior, but people buy it anyway because they are fans or collectors (because I gotta have at least one copy of Monopoly, so it might as well be the Collectors Edition Star Wars Episode I Monopoly. It was a gift…). In other cases, the usage of the license makes no sense. At this past GenCon, I had a chance to demo a board game using the Top Gun license which had me initially incredibly excited… only to be massively disappointed in discovering it was a weak party game that mainly involved reading movie quotes from cards. Few things generate as much vitriol as butchering a popular license, which is one of the reasons I think publishers are less prone to take the risk. The Internet can be a scary place for people who make bad games.

In most cases, especially with the more serious attempts, they fail because the creators of the licensed product don’t understand or fail to capture what draws us to that content in the first place. We will come for the license, but only stay for the feeling. This is one thing that the Star Wars IP does so well. Want to feel what it’s like to fly an X-Wing? They have you covered. Want to feel what it’s like to engage in lightsaber duels and crush your enemies with the force? Covered as well. But what does it feel like to do something Star Trek-y? It’s much harder to define, and probably different for each person, which is why capturing that experience is so much harder. It’s one reason I think the Bridge Simulator game Artemis is the best Star Trek game that exists right now, despite not actually being a Star Trek game. Artemis captures what it feels like to work as a crew, to solve problems together, and to recreate the best aspects of that collective experience.

Artemis

A glimpse at some of the different stations in Artemis.

To make a truly great licensed game, you have to tap into what makes that license special.  It’s a lot harder to get right than it seems.  In my next post, I’ll take a look at some examples of licensed games done correctly, and some keys to their success.

Got an example of a licensed game that really hit home for you?  Let me know in the comments below.

The Trouble with Licensed Games – Part 1

Star Wars: BB-8 Unboxing and Review

In the wake of Force Friday, we were able to get our hands on one of the new $149.99 BB-8 Droids from Sphero. This little Droid looks just like the one in The Force Awakens trailer and is controlled via a connected mobile app, compatible with Android and iOS devices. The video below is our unboxing of the brand new BB-8 Droid toy along with a review of its quality, functionality, and possible value. Watch the video and then let us know your thoughts about the most interactive consumer Star Wars Droid, BB-8. If you’ve got one yourself, let us know your own experience. Do you agree with my take? Disagree? We want to know! Comment below! Oh, and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars: BB-8 Unboxing and Review

Star Wars Figures: 1995-Present

When I was 8, I was walking down the action figure aisle with my dad. As I gazed upon the seamless displays of toys, my eyes fell upon a C-3PO glistening in its shiny gold paint. At the time, I had never heard of Star Wars (Mind you, this was at the tail-end of the Star Wars dark age in the 1990s when there were almost no toys or products to speak of. The C-3PO I saw was the beginning of the return.) but I was very much into robots. So, as an avid robot lover, I asked my dad what that was and if I could get it. His response was along the lines of, “Oh, that’s C-3PO from Star Wars. I think you’re old enough for that.” If he knew what would happen next, he probably would have never let me get my first Star Wars figure.

Within a week, I had also gotten R2-D2. Playing with the two droids was odd since I didn’t know what either one sounded like or what their backstory was. But I can assure you that the two of them had some grand adventures even if they had nothing to do with Star Wars. Shortly thereafter, my dad finally tracked down Star Wars: A New Hope and thus officially began my Star Wars action figure collecting. With this article, we shall go through the past 20 years of Star Wars figures leading up to the recent release of The Force Awakens figures. Now, mind you, this is only a part of my collection and not an exhaustive presentation. Let’s just say I would need a lot more space if I were to show my entire collection. Now, without further ado…

1995: The Return of the Figures

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It is a fact that there few to no products released during a certain span of time following Return of the Jedi. This was a dark time for Star Wars fans as they had almost no books and toys to collect. Nevertheless, with the publication of Timothy Zahn’s incredible Heir to the Empire, the products were coming back. Here’s a shot of the original set. Note that Leia was included into this set later and that I considered myself a bit of a painter back then and tried to do the Toy Story 2 restoration to some of my figures. These were quite simple and also very hard to find at the time. For the next few years, though, the main molds for the figures would be used for a variety of figures. Luke and Han always had the same head regardless of the figure. They did not bother messing with the mold until much later. Figures during this era were $4.99 apiece.

1996-1998: The Special Edition

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Shortly after the 1995 releases, Kenner must have realized they could still sell Star Wars stuff without there being a movie in theaters. They therefore expanded the Star Wars line to include some more figures. Of course, when the Special Edition was released in 1997, a plethora of action figures hit the market. It was at this point that I could not keep up. So I had to pick and choose which ones I wanted. You’ll notice that the detail is much more enhanced (the Leia’s don’t look like men!). Yoda included the backpack that Luke carries him around in while the Dagobah Luke was sold separately. In fact, Luke could not stand properly without the backpack. The Jawas’ eyes actually glow when you hold them up to the light. But, with any run, this one hit its end in due time. Tarkin and the spy from A New Hope were the last figures I purchased from this era at around 90 cents apiece.

1999: Figures can talk!

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Yep, that’s right. Star Wars figures could talk! With the arrival of The Phantom Menace, Hasbro included computer chips for each action figure. When the chip was scanned by a Commtech Reader (you can see that under the destroyer droid), the lines from the chip could be heard. The inclusion of the computer chip made the $6.74 price tag more than worth it. You can certainly see an evolution with this line. The figures were much more poseable, which made putting Darth Maul into fighting moves much easier. Detail was insane as well. You just have to look at the C-3PO to see that. You will also notice the battle droid on the STAP. That one was actually an Episode I preview that was released before the actual Phantom Menace line. And the last bit of information on this one pertains to the Sebastian Shaw Anakin Skywalker standing next to Qui-Gon. This one was in a series of flashback action figures in which you had a little card that showed you what the character looked like before and after. By the release of Anakin Skywalker (2001), the commtech chips were no longer offered with the toys but the price remained the same.

2002: Using the force

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First, figures could talk. Now they can use the force… with the help of magnets. Hasbro included a number of magnetic variations into their Attack of the Clones line. You’ll notice Obi-Wan is hanging onto the assassin droid. And, in fact, you could run around the house with that droid with Obi-Wan dangling for dear life (trust me, I tried it). However, the magnets were not as strong as Obi-Wan’s. That’s one reason why Anakin’s arm is somewhere deep inside my Attack of the Clones box… along with the Tusken Raider’s head. Lightsabers had a tendency to fall out of the Jedi’s hand. Oh, and I don’t know what the lightning is all about with Aayla Secura. It came with her and looked cool, I guess. But hands down, one of the coolest toys was the Jango Fett action figure. Not only could you remove his helmet and play shenanigans to Kenobi with his cable, but you could also fire a missile out of his jet pack just like the original Boba Fett. Did I also mention that R2 can blind you with his light because he can. Beware!

2005: Revenge of the Sith

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This was the peak of Star Wars figures during the prequel era. These figures had a good balance of detail along with some fun slashing action. I was disappointed with the Emperor, who does not wear the awesome fighting robe from his duel with Yoda. But it’s sort of full circle with C-3PO, whose appearance looks much like it did in 1995 (albeit more detail) with the shine. These were a good line… even if they may have gone a bit far with the “Anakin battle damage” action figure.

2006 to the Present: End of an era

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With the end of Star Wars as we knew it, the action figures started dwindling down. I more or less went into retirement since my interest had turned to video games and I did not have the budget for both. I occasionally purchased the random figure here and there, but I mostly just looked. Hasbro also seemed to see that they needed to release different items. So they turned to the EU. In particular, Knights of the Old Republic and Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars. Cad Bane was probably the only figure I bought during Lucas’s Clone Wars run. Otherwise, this was a pretty dead decade for me with collecting.

2015: The Force Awakens

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Well, I just had to come out of retirement for the new movie. These new figures are fun, but they are not nearly as poseable as their predecessors. It’s unfortunate really. It’s almost a step back to the days of 1995. They’re still fun, but the Black Series for the 3 and a half inch line seems to be where all of the poseable figures are going. Those are a bit too expensive for my taste. I will say that I got the X-Wing primarily because you can actually remove Poe’s helmet with that set. The single figure has his helmet permanently on and obscuring his face. Also, BB-8 is in the back, but he isn’t removeable. That’s probably a good thing since someone should always stay with the ship.

Do you collect Star Wars figures? How long? Do you have a favorite line? Do you collect other Star Wars stuff? Let us know in the comments.

 

Star Wars Figures: 1995-Present

D23 News: Disney and Pixar

This last weekend was the annual D23 convention, which, if you are not familiar with, is a magical time filled with everything Disney. It’s truly the best time of the year.

Now, we’ve already brought to you all the amazing Star Wars news (which you can find here). Today, we’re on all of the remaining Disney animation and Pixar news.

zootopia

First off, Disney gave us updates on Zootopia, a film featuring cute anthropomorphic animals in a modern civilization slated for 2016.  Ginnifer Goodwin, known as Snow White on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, helped introduce us to her character, an adorable little bunny named Judy who is trying really hard to be a cop (a position normally reserved for larger animals like rhinos). While fighting her way to the top, she comes across Nick, a con artist fox, voiced by Jason Bateman.  The combination between con and cop, fox and rabbit will undoubtedly bring some light-hearted fun to the Disney cannon.  Look for this film out March 2016.

moana-movie-image-slice-600x200

Also slated for a 2016 release is Moana, the epic story of a strong young girl from the South Pacific.  Already on board as voice cast is Dwayne Johnson as a demi-god Moana meets on her travels, and Alan Tudyk, a Disney favorite, in a unnamed role.  D23 released multiple concept pictures as well as one beautiful image of Johnson’s character in full (pictured above).  Expect to see Moana join the popular Disney Princess franchise in 2017.

giganticheader

Lastly, D23 was the place to announce new projects this year, including the latest addition to the Disney cannon, Gigantic, what is promised to be a Disney reworking of the classic tale Jack and the Beanstalk.  The 2018 release plans to be set in Spain during the “Age of Exploration” where the titular Jack meets a young girl giant and promises to help get her home.  With Nathan Greno helming and the Lopez couple responsible for the popular Frozen soundtrack behind the score, the film is already set for massive success.

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On the Pixar side of things, we got loads of announcements!  The teaser posters for four new sequels were revealed.  While movies like Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2 had been previously announced, they also confirmed Toy Story 4 and Cars 3.  Toy Story 4, written by Will McCormack and Rashida Jones, was said to be focused on a romance between Woody and Bo Peep.  Hopefully they’ll explain her absence during Toy Story 3. Joining comedian Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Dory is a wide variety of stars including Always Sunny in Philadelphia actress Kaitlin Olson, and Modern Family alum Ed O’Neill and Ty Burrell.  This sequel has long been championed by DeGeneres through her daytime talk show.

coco-teaser-poster

Pixar also released information regarding an original story in the works entitled Coco, a film inspired by Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday. The brief synopsis for the film follows a 12 year old boy named Miguel in Mexico who sets off a chain of events that will change him forever on Day of the Dead.  The artists claim to be inspired by the gorgeous visualizations of the holiday.  While the film has not been slotted for a release date, Pixar has dates in November 2017 and 2018 reserved.

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Lastly, D23 celebrate the anticipated return of Kingdom Hearts with related announcements for Kingdom Hearts 3 and Disney Infinity, 3.0.  Kingdom Hearts 3 will feature the transformable keyblade, available for every keyblade in the game. Each will have its own unique transformation(s) that should enhance both the weapon and the gameplay.  Some featured transformations included keyblades to projectiles, larger attacks, or more power.  The big news for KH3, however, were the reveals of two new worlds to visit: Tangled and San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6.  The keyblade will also be available as the newest weapon in Disney Infinity, 3.0 along with a special edition King Mickey figure.

disney-infinity-3-0

Disney Infinity, 3.0 focused on many of their newest additions, including upcoming figures from The Good Dinosaur and Zootopia. They’re introducing a completely new Marvel Playset entitled “Marvel Battlegrounds” featuring the brand new playable characters of Ultron and Hulkbuster Iron Man.  While most news regarding the Star Wars figures had already been announced, they did get all the fanboys in a twist by revealing that there would be limited special edition figures with light-up light saber capability once placed on the game pad.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens actors John Boyega and Daisy Ridley were presented with their own playable figures of their characters’ likenesses, the first from the new anthology of films.

Obviously there are tons of reasons to be pumped for the next few years at Disney.  Between Star Wars parks, and 5 Pixar films, and Kingdom Hearts 3, and so many new figures for Disney Infinity…I’m going to be so broke.

How about you? What are you most looking forward to from Disney? Comment below!

 

D23 News: Disney and Pixar

D23 News: Star Wars

We’ve been hearing a lot of Disney news over the past couple of days due to D23, an expo put on by the official Disney fan club. But with Disney news, we now get Star Wars news! There are three major things happening with the Star Wars universe…

Concept art for the Star Wars parks.

Concept art for the Star Wars parks.

1. Disney Star Wars Theme Parks

The theme parks are finally coming! In both Anaheim, CA and Orlando, FL, Disney will be opening up lands and rides that will finally feature Star Wars. We don’t know too many details right now, but we have concept art and can rest assured that they will properly make the world of Star Wars come to life. Find out more here.

2. Colin Trevorrow to Direct Episode IX

Although not coming out until 2019, Episode IX now has a director. Colin Trevorrow, best known for his work with Jurassic World, will be directing the final movie of the new Star Wars trilogy. We already knew Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) would be helming Episode VIII. More information on Trevorrow’s new gig here.

Colin Trevorrow will direct Star Wars Episode IX.

Colin Trevorrow will direct Star Wars Episode IX.

3. Rogue One Cast Announced

Lastly, Rogue One is well into production and now has a cast. This cast includes Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Mads Mikkelson (Casino Royale), Alan Tudyk (Firefly; I, Robot), and Riz Ahmed. We’ll be seeing this one hit theaters in 2016.

 

The cast of Star Wars: Rogue One.

The cast of Star Wars: Rogue One.

D23 News: Star Wars

So Many Theme Parks!

Last week, Universal Studios announced its new deal with Nintendo to bring new theme parks to life dedicated to Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, and the rest of our favorite characters!  While Universal has created haunted houses based on franchises like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, the world of video games has been largely untapped by way of theme parks as of now.  There have been no official reports of exactly what the park could feature but fans have already begun to speculate actual Mario Kart Go Carts and something dedicated to Splatoon.

Universal Studios Theme Parks Nintendo Logo

This deal is also very unique because Universal plans to build a Nintendo theme park at each of their four locations (Orlando, Hollywood, Singapore, Japan) as well as break ground on a fifth location in Beijing.  This is, of course, a massive undertaking considering Orlando’s Harry Potter’s Wizarding World still remains the only Harry Potter theme park Universal has planned.  The park plans to open in 2021.  I better start planning my vacation now.

Walt Disney World Theme Parks Star Wars Logo

Universal’s largest rival, Disney, has also made enormous theme park plans for some of its newly acquired franchises.  Earlier this year, Disney announced the intention of building a theme park set in the Star Wars universe, in addition to the themed rides already found in Disney World.  Disney chief Bob Iger has reported the intention of the theme park being based on the new films made under the Disney name, including Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens  and Star WarsRogue One.  Since then, the presence of Star Wars has increased tremendously at all of the company’s global locations.

Which of these theme parks are you most looking forward to? Comment below!

So Many Theme Parks!

A Review of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Apparently this is even true in galaxies far, far away. Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope is a masterpiece and succulent fusion of two very different genres. Contrary to what one might think, it is not simply Star Wars written in Shakespearean dialogue, but its own separate piece of art generating flawless finesse in taking our boy from Tatooine and re-imagining his story told in Victorian England by the Bard himself.

It may be fruitful to compare this style to something akin to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame Smith. However, I find it very different. Smith simply took the original writing of Jane Austin and had fun playing with the words by changing out words like “love” with “brains.”  Doescher doesn’t do this at all. Apparently, Lucasfilm gave him all sorts of freedom to do pretty much anything he wanted. So this book is best described as a Star Wars and Shakespeare fan’s attempt to blend the two genres into something equally as beautiful. If you’re asking me, he succeeded. Now to the good stuff. What makes it awesome?

ShakespeareswvaderThe Mechanics 

Anyone who paid attention in High School English remembers that William Shakespeare is arguably the greatest writer/storyteller/poet/Renaissance man of all time. They will also remember that the reasons he is recognized as this is by his impeccably unique writing style. He pretty much invented the English Sonnet for crying out loud, not to mention modern story telling. The man was a genius to put it lightly. So, like myself, when hearing that this book existed, you most likely asked yourself, how can someone pretend to match the elegance, craftsmanship, and artistry of the The Bard? it’s simply impossible. Call me a little obsessed with the guy, but It is virtually impossible to match Shakespeare’s talent. Doescher doesn’t quite make it there, but he’s pretty dang close. Here were the main pieces of Shakespeare’s writing style that Doescher nailed on the head.

  • Iambic Pentameter. Once again, for those of you who paid attention in school, this word is familiar. But to those who didn’t, you’re very confused at what I may be getting at. An overwhelming amount of Shakespeare’s work is written in iambic pentameter. I would go as far as to say that around 95% of it is, making this the most essential thing for Doescher to excel in. Quick English lesson to aid the confused: most people in school are taught that iambic pentameter is simply ten syllables per line. However, it is far more complex than that. It follows five (penta) pairs of iambs (one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable) to create a cohesive rhythm. If you would like to learn more about this in detail, follow the link here for a great TED video explaining it in depth. Doescher does this without breaking a sweat. It seems, flows, and sounds nearly exactly like Shakespeare. In fact, he even uses it with characters speaking different languages, like Chewbacca with Shyriiwook, Greedo with Rodese, Jabba with Huttese and even R2D2’s beeps and squeaks. Here’s an example from Verily, A New Hope next to a selection from Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare so you can get the idea of what this looks like in action.
    • “How LONG, now, ERE thou CANS’T aCHIEVE lightSPEED” -Obi Wan (Act III, Scene 4)
    • “if MUsic BE the FOOD of LOVE, play ON” -Duke Orsino (Act I, Scene 1)
  • Puns: Shakespeare is truthfully the King of Puns.  One of my favorites comes from Romeo and Juliet in a conversations between Sampson and Gregory in Act I, “Sampson: I will show myself a tyrant. When I have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the maids, and cut off their heads. Gregory: The heads of the maids? Sampson: Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads; take it in what sense thou wilt.” Doescher includes several puns throughout, but most of them are a play on what us Star Wars fans expect to see vs. what he actually does. So I’ll let them be a surprise.
  • ShakespeareswlukeAsides and Soliloquies: One of the most common ways that Shakespeare develops his characters is by allowing them to talk privately to themselves. It’s a well known proverb that “a man is really only himself when he is alone.” Shakespeare utilizes this truth in every play he wrote in order for the audience to fully understand his characters better. He does this with two different methods, either an aside (character talks only to him/herself and no one else can hear) or in a soliloquy (a monologue or long speech when the character is the only one on stage). These mediums are especially helpful to aid the audience to see development in the most difficult characters. In Hamlet, the main character with the same name has, over the years, been labeled the most difficult character. This is why Shakespeare awards this character with 4 of the 5 soliloquies in the play, one of them carrying some of the most famous lines in history, “To be or not be, that is the question,” and “Aye, there’s the rub.” There are two characters in particular who are given multiple asides and a few soliloquies to gain our understanding. Han Solo and R2-D2. The latter is most interesting, because, when speaking to others, R2 uses his beeps and squeaks, but, when speaking to himself or the audience, he speaks good old Galactic Basic Standard, or what we call English.
  • Songs: Shakespeare loves to write lyrics to songs to express deep emotion with his characters and allow them to pour out their feelings. Two of the most famous songs are sung by Ophelia in Hamlet and Ariel in the Tempest. Doescher gifts this wonderful blessing to none other than Princess Leia after the destruction of her home planet Alderaan, and it is beautifully written as well.

The Art of Re-Imagination

shakespeareswjabbaAs hinted above, this story is not simply a carbon copy of Star Wars. It’s a beautiful merger of two different genres in a new re-imagination of a well known story. Doescher takes some liberties, and includes some scenes I may not have. Namely the discussion between Jabba and Han. Deoscher also sheds some light on some arguments and where he stands on them. So you should read it and see where he stands and keep your eye out for my review of The Empire Striketh Back.

Are you a Shakespeare enthusiast? Have you read this book? Let us know what you think in the comments.

A Review of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope

5 Things We Can Deduct From the Star Wars VII San Diego Comic Con Reel

Despite two teasers and the newly released comic con reel, we still know very little about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Nevertheless, there are a few things we learned from the reel that should shed some light on the plot. Without further ado, here are five things we can deduct from the Star Wars comic con reel:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. The new TIE fighters have seen better days.

Courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

Courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

J.J. Abrams has told us that this new planet is Jakku and that a great battle was fought on this planet. However, the smoking TIE fighters show us that someone has shot them down. Perhaps the Millennium Falcon during that chase we have seen in both teasers?

2. This is Carrie Fisher’s costume.

Courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

Courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

A rumor was floating around for awhile that this was indeed her costume. Like it or not, the reel has confirmed that this is what her costume will look like… even though it strangely resembles the uniforms the Rebel Troopers wore in A New Hope.

Rebel Troopers from Star Wars: A New Hope.

Rebel Troopers from Star Wars: A New Hope.

3. Kylo Ren definitely comes to Jakku.

Courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

Courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

You can see here that Kyle Ren is walking down onto a desert landscape. Since Abrams has told us that it is not Tatooine, we can assume that it must be Jakku. Maybe we’ll see some lightsaber fights on the planet?

4. Rey flies the Millennium Falcon solo.

Rey falcon

Both pictures courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

You can very clearly see the entrance to the cockpit of the Falcon in this shot. Both pictures courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

This shot shows what is clearly the Falcon’s cockpit and that Rey (Daisy Ridley) is flying it. So why is she flying it alone? One of my theories is that Rey is in fact the daughter of Han and Leia. For some reason, she steals the Falcon and takes it to Jakku. Mind you, that is only a theory. All we know for sure is that she flies it with no one else in the cockpit.

5. Han will fly the Millennium Falcon with Rey and Finn.

Courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

Courtesy Disney Comic Con Reel

Piggybacking off of the fact that Rey flies the Falcon solo, it would seem that Solo himself joins her and that she is co-piloting. Going off of my previous theory, is Han reclaiming his property? At the end of the second teaser, he does say, “Chewie, we’re home.” This implies that they had been separated from the Falcon for some time. Maybe Rey doesn’t even steal the Falcon. Maybe Han gives it to her while he goes into temporary retirement. No matter the reason, we shall find out when the movie hits theaters this December.

5 Things We Can Deduct From the Star Wars VII San Diego Comic Con Reel

Marvel’s “Princess Leia” Fails to Impress

Marvel’s five part series, Princess Leia, isn’t perfect—despite how much I wish it was. As the industry sits, there aren’t an overwhelming number of female protagonists in the well-known Star Wars canon. A comic centering on women was a welcome, refreshing tide to the often stagnant diversity pool.

If you haven’t read it, the comic portrays Leia’s life between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” It details her grief over losing Alderaan, and her struggle to keep her culture alive. (A responsibility she takes very seriously as the princess, yet one she seems to blow off once she’s ready to move on.) Through the story, Leia is accompanied by the ever-faithful R2-D2 and a new face, Evaan. That’s a 2/0/1 ratio of women to men to droids. It was a little bit exciting, to say the least.

Marvel's Princess LeiaPerhaps that’s why I had such high expectations. After all, if you’re going to do something, you need to do it well. It’s evident that a large amount of planning went into the storyline, but there are moments when it falls short. As your eyes grace certain pages, it’s almost as if you can hear the makers debating the plot.

“How do we get them out of this situation?” they say. “What if we included yet another last-second, un-foreshadowed, confusing rescue sequence?”

That, paired with the lack of panels depicting what and how many of the rescues actually happen is almost inexcusable. Instead, the story opts to flash forward to after the battles. In one of the worst instances, we’re given a single panel of Leia, summarizing what happened with dialogue that sounds unnatural. Disappointing much?

The character arc of Evaan was severely underdeveloped from what I had hoped. Her personhood and ideals changed in a single panel, as she sits and explains to Leia how exactly she has changed, and what’s even worse, how the reader can go back and see it happening over time. Apparently, the change should’ve been apparent through Evaan’s beginning to call Leia by her first name. That plot device would’ve worked on a mediocre level, if the authors hadn’t pointed it out to us with a strobing road sign. Evaan had such a strong potential, and I was so excited to see how her character would grow. Unfortunately, the integrity of the arc was compromised in favor of anything and everything else.

Marvel's Princess LeiaThe comic does have strong points, however. The world-building and exploration of Alderaanian culture brought a fascinating element to the story. Watching the destruction of the planet on screen, with no cultural background, it’s sad and a crime against humanity. After learning about the way Alderaan society operates, the ideals its people hold dear, and the deeply ingrained traditions, the world came alive to me, and I found myself mourning its passing in a deeper way.

Additionally, we were provided with some colorful and sweet insights into Leia’s childhood. Though the series did seem a little flashback-heavy, the flashbacks were all events I wanted to see.

If the comic’s purpose was to enlighten the reader on Leia and the culture of her homeworld, it did a rather decent job.

However, if the comic aimed to illustrate a story of a race finding their way to each other, it was shoddily done. A more focused story goal would have benefitted the series, as the completion of this goal is brought about in a hasty, awkward way through a group of people that the reader has seen very little about. In fact, the large group of Alderaanians that join Leia are not introduced as a story concept until the last issue. After escaping by the skin of their teeth through yet another rescue, Leia decides to return to the Rebellion. As she leaves, she  gives Evaan little information on how to proceed with the large group of Alderaanians seeking guidance on rebuilding their culture.

Marvel's Princess Leia with Chewie, Han Solo, and Luke SkywalkerIt was too vague and far too shallow to buy into. As a reader, I suspend my disbelief enough as is when reading science fiction. I know these things are not possible, but, if the events cannot really happen, the characters need to live, breathe, and feel as real, humanistic beings. I need to relate to them because their changes and emotions ring true.

Princess Leia failed me on that front, though I am very open to seeing any future works that center on her work with rebuilding Alderaan’s spirit.

Marvel’s “Princess Leia” Fails to Impress

Guardians of the Galaxy Cartoon Gets a Release Date

With the smash hit taken by Guardians of the Galaxy last summer at the box office, it comes as no surprise that an animated series was to follow. The show will premiere on Disney XD on September 26, 2015. Also, as expected, none of the original actors from the movie will reprise their roles. Nevertheless, a plethora of talented voice actors will lend their voices for the now iconic Guardians. Among them are Jeff Bennett (Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast), Will Friedle (Batman Beyond), Kevin Michael Richardson (Planet Hulk, Legend of Korra), Vanessa Marshall (Star Wars: Rebels), and James Arnold Taylor (Star Wars: Clone Wars), among others.

Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon poster

Disney released some test footage of the Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon, which looks fairly impressive and can be viewed below. With any luck, this show could be as good as Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Guardians of the Galaxy Test Footage:

Are you excited for the new Guardians of the Galaxy series? What are you looking forward to on it? Let us know in the comments.

Guardians of the Galaxy Cartoon Gets a Release Date

Top 5 Boss Themes

The door thunders and opens. Inside, the villain awaits you. He or she says something clever, gets angry, and then you fight. In that moment, as the villain lunges toward you, the music picks up and fuels your adrenaline as you draw your weapon and battle your enemy. For this article, here is my top 5 favorite boss music themes. I will go from my least favorite to my most favorite. Just know that I absolutely love them all. . .

5. Tomb Raider Anniversary

The Tomb Raider Anniversary boss was a difficult one for me in part because I had not fully mastered some of the special moves. There was much dying on my part and beating on pillows or whatever else was next to me. However, one thing that kept me going was the music. The music was a choir that illustrated Natla’s ultimate desire for world domination.

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4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Modern Warfare 2 has you chasing the final boss, who happens to be voiced by Lance Henriksen, in a boat down a river filled with all of his cronies. The desperate theme pumps your adrenaline as you chase down this general with an “ends justify the means” attitude. No enemies or obstacles will keep you from taking this guy down!

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3. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Knights of the Old Republic’s music does a perfect job at illustrating your completion of this enormous game. Not only does it reflect the epic nature of the battle taking place between you and Malak, it also shows that your fate is not the only one hanging in the balance. There is a massive battle for the Republic happening right outside the space station as you fight. The fate of your battle with Malak could ultimately decide the fate of the battle beyond.

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2. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Ganondorf’s boss theme reflected the happenings of the environment around you. It also painted Ganondorf’s use of the power of the Triforce. It makes you feel like the battle is impossible as he throws his magic at you. Yet, there is a small glimmer of hope.

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1. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

The Sands of Time still remains as my all-time favorite boss battle music. The music reveals to you that, sorcery or not, you know you can beat this old man. You can also hear the deception of the vizier through small sections in the music. He is the one who influenced the Prince to cause all this trouble in the first place. Along with the amazing percussion and Middle Eastern flavor, this music has got to be one of the best boss battle themes of all time.

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Do you have any boss themes you think should have been added? Feel free to post them in the comments.

Top 5 Boss Themes

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Movie Review

Things were looking pretty good for our heroes at the end of Star Wars Rebels Season 1; however, the Empire is not one to turn the other cheek and makes sure that the rebels pay for their actions by sending along an expert in dealing with such matters, Darth Vader.

WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!

Overview

Following a huge victory at the end of season 1, Rebels picks up where it left off with the crew of the Ghost helping out the new rebel fleet. Some of the crew, in particular Kanan, feel a bit overwhelmed by their new circumstances. The idea of serving as a sort of intergalactic Robin Hood against the Empire was fulfilling. Fighting a full on fight against said Empire, on the other hand, is almost out of their league. So when the crew receive a message from Lothal concerning the smuggling of a high ranking official off world, it seems like the perfect opportunity to get more Imperial information as well as return to their roots in small-time rebellion; however, little do they know that this is a trap laid by none other than the Sith Lord, Darth Vader.

The Good

Kanan expresses his uneasiness with joining the larger rebel cause.

Kanan expresses his uneasiness with joining the larger rebel cause.

1. “The Siege of Lothal” changes the dynamic even more than the season finale. We honestly were not sure where the series was heading after finding out that the small band of rebels aboard the Ghost were actually one sect in a larger group. The option of them still operating in Lothal is completely thrown out by the end of this episode as Vader makes that an impossibility. Getting off of Lothal was a good and bold move on the show’s part, as it throws our characters out of their comfort zone.

2. Darth Vader is used properly and it looks like he will not return for quite awhile. At first, it seems that our heroes will outwit and escape Vader. This would have been a concern since Vader cannot lose like the villains in the previous season; however, “The Siege of Lothal” uses Vader perfectly. Even when it looks like the rebels had escaped Vader’s clutches, we find out that it was all apart of his plan. Also, as expected, Kanan and Ezra are no match for Vader in lightsaber combat. That scene, in and of itself, was an awesome treat to watch as Vader toyed with the duo.

Ezra and Kanan observe the destruction of Tarkintown.

Ezra and Kanan observe the destruction of Tarkintown.

3. The inhabitants of Lothal have had it rough. Many of them have had to move to Tarkintown, a refugee camp that the rebels often helped out. The name of Tarkintown is a clear call-out to the Hoovervilles of the 1930s when the poor would move to these places and mockingly name them after President Hoover, but Tarkintown also serves as an important plot point as it is burned to the ground by Darth Vader. Why did Vader do this? To take advantage of our heroes’ “weakness” for compassion. Watching Tarkintown burn into ashes really brought the idea home that there was little else our heroes could do in Lothal.

4. When Vader reported to the Emperor of his mission’s completion, we did not see the Emperor. Rather, we simply heard his voice (as performed by the very talented Sam Witwer). I am sort of hoping we do not see the Emperor’s face at all in the show, as his disembodied voice would make him more mysterious and foreboding. Of course, now that Vader knows Ahsoka lives and has already told the Emperor of this, we can only imagine what their plans might be. Vader clearly is not going to turn Ahsoka to the Darkside since he already informed the Emperor of her presence. Sith lords do not inform each other when they want to usurp the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith.

The Bad

Darth Vader reports the status of his mission to the Emperor.

Darth Vader reports the status of his mission to the Emperor.

1. Within the first few minutes of the episode, John Williams’ music was already being used. I am not talking about a small theme. Rather, the show used quite a bit of the asteroid field music from The Empire Strikes Back for much of the scene. This was a problem throughout the first season, and, unfortunately, it would seem that it will be a problem in this season. George Lucas himself pushed the production team of the Clone Wars to use Williams’ music sparingly. That show would throw in a theme here and there, but we would never get a full track pulled from one of the films. Overusing John Williams’ themes and even copying and pasting them into the show, instead of creating new themes, not only devalues their worth but is also lazy.

2. Darth Vader’s voice sounded a little bit off. This is not a stab at the work of the awesome James Earl Jones; however, somebody in the sound department did not do the best job at making the voice sound mechanical. It actually sounded too mechanical. Maybe minimization is the goal of the show, but, for those of us who grew up on the original trilogy, this sounded wrong.

Meet Lando's droid (left), W1-E1, the droid with a Southern accent.

Meet Lando’s droid (left), W1-E1, the droid with a Southern accent.

3. Lando shows up again to help out the crew of the Ghost; however, this could easily have been handled by an unknown smuggler since Lando had a total of maybe thirty seconds of screen time. Minimizing nods to the original trilogy is key since they could steal the show from our core heroes… of course, I might be able to forgive this one since we were introduced to Lando’s awesome southern-accented droid.

Conclusion

“The Siege of Lothal” was a huge opening episode that set the course for the entire season. Our heroes no longer have a planet for their headquarters (poor Ezra’s old home was even destroyed), Vader and the Emperor are plotting, the rebel fleet is on the run, and, on top of that, it looks like we are getting a new Sith Inquisitor! There was very little not to like in this episode. All in all, season 2 is off to a great start.

 

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Movie Review