Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Greg and Danny's Top 10 Star Wars Everything Episode V: Return of the Revenge Strikes Back

This is part 2 of our countdown of all things Star Wars. If you haven't read part 1 yet, we recommend starting here: http://butmostlymetal.blogspot.com/2016/12/greg-and-dannys-top-10-star-wars.html

Danny's 5: Plagueis
Plagueis may be a bit of a misnomer for the title, as the book is largely about the rise of a young Palpatine under the tutelage of his master, Darth Plagueis. Aside from the obvious interest in Palpatine as a character, the book is also noteworthy because it manages to make the events of the prequel trilogy MAKE COMPLETE SENSE! I’m serious. Luceno brilliantly discusses Palpatine’s hand in all the events that led to the blockade of Naboo and, ultimately, the Clone Wars. Having asked Luceno in person about this, he wrote all of this with no guidance from anyone. The poor man had to come up with a way to make The Phantom Menace not seem completely ridiculous, and he succeeded. The saddest part is that Luceno published Plagueis right before Disney mashed the reset button on Star Wars canon. Though he managed to sneak a bit of it into Tarkin, so he’s clearly trying to keep some of that around. If you’re interested in the backstory to one of the most important characters in the original and prequel trilogies, this is a great place to get it.

Greg's 5: Star Wars (A.K.A. Episode IV: A New Hope)
No list would be complete without the one that started it all. It’s the rare movie that changes how movies are made yet still holds up after decades of sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and imitations. The original Star Wars is still the gripping adventure it was in 1977, dropping us into a world that feels real with an endlessly quotable, instantly likable cast. It’s the archetypical story of good vs. evil shot with a style and conviction that separated it from the pulp sci-fi that inspired it.If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and go watch it. Just be warned that this rabbit hole is vast.

Danny's 4: Heir to the Empire Trilogy
First off, can I just say WHAT THE FUCK GREG HOW HAVE YOU NOT FINISHED THESE YET?! I’m legitimately floored over here. Like, I think Greg might have just broken me all together with this shocking revelation. Star Wars has some amazing villains, and here, Timothy Zahn invented my personal favorite, Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn is so well-loved by fans of the Expanded Universe (as it used to be known), that he’s been re-introduced into Star Wars canon through Rebels and a brand new book from Zahn (coming out in April). But anyway, if you thought our heroes were back on their heels in Empire, then you are going to love what has come to be known as the Thrawn Trilogy. The fledgling New Republic comes to the brink of destruction at the hands of the most brilliant military mind of the Galactic Empire. Of course our heroes come out on top and win the day, but god damn if it isn’t a nailbiter to get to that point! And I didn’t even feel bad cheering for the Empire! If you’re vaguely interested in getting into Star Wars beyond just the movies, Zahn’s novels are the place to start.
Greg's 4: Rogue One
The movie that puts the war in Star Wars. Rogue One is, above all else, proof of just how far the franchise has come. If you’ve seen the original trilogy and the prequels, played the games, read the books, and lived and breathed Star Wars, this movie will feel like it was made just for you. Its heroes are mortal and its scope is personal even when you’re treated to the most gripping battle scenes in series’ history. Rogue One actually makes other Star Wars movies better by reminding viewers of the gravity of what’s at stake and the sacrifices made to get this far. It’s everything I love about the EU in movie form.
Danny's 3: The Empire Strikes Back
Speaking of The Empire Strikes Back, this is easily the seminal installation of the Star Wars film franchise. ESB is the movie where Star Wars becomes the real deal. The characters you were introduced to in A New Hope become more fleshed-out and the relationships among them are allowed to more fully develop. More so, you get to see what happens to the once mighty heroes who took down the Death Star after a series of pretty big setbacks and how they respond to adversity. You also meet Yoda, by far the most endearing and interesting (in my opinion) character of the entire film franchise. And then there’s the quintessential plot twist that has become so fundamentally ingrained in popular culture that you don’t even need to have seen Star Wars to know who Luke’s father is! ESB is a brilliant look at what happens when you let someone else take the reins of George Lucas’ brainchild and run with it. Irvin Kershner does a perfect job working with the cast here, which is largely (I think) why the cast chemistry is so perfect. This is the standard by which all other Star Wars films are, and always will be, compared.
Greg's 3: Jedi Knight Series
Of course, we might not have had Rogue One without the man who originally stole the Death Star plans and didn’t need a small army to help him. I’m talking about the one and only Kyle Katarn, Imperial defector turned Rebel agent turned Jedi knight. The Jedi Knight series mixes gunplay, lightsaber action, and mastery of the Force into a galaxy-spanning story that lets the player be Luke and Han rolled into one deadly package. While Doom might have set the standard for action-packed shooters in the 90s, Dark Forces was the first shooter I can remember to actually immerse me in an engaging story where the characters mattered and the levels were part of a living world instead of a loose collection of shooting galleries. Jedi Knight expanded on the formula by introducing moral choice and giving the player the power to walk their own path. Gaming wouldn’t be the same without this highly influential series.
Danny's 2: Knights of the Old Republic Series
It may be a video game, but the KotOR games are Star Wars storytelling at their best. These days, basically every gamer knows BioWare, the game developer studio responsible for the critically acclaimed Mass Effect series. But before they introduced us to Commander Shepard and company, they made KotOR, a d20-based RPG set roughly 4000 years before the Battle of Yavin. KotOR came out in 2003 (holy christ) and quickly shot up the charts to be considered one of the best PC/XBox games ever created. Play it and it’s easy to see why. The characters are, generally, amazing and well-rounded, particularly one hilariously murderous psychopath assassin droid. The plot is engaging and brilliant, with one of the best plot twists since The Empire Strikes Back. Did I mention you get to go to Kashyyyk? KotOR II came out a few years later (though it was done by Obsidian rather than Bioware), and while it's definitely the weaker game because of it's rushed release, the fan community has worked tirelessly to restore KotOR II to the amazing game it should have been to begin with.

Greg's 2: The Empire Strikes Back
For any Star Wars fan, this is the entry that needs no explanation (except maybe why it’s not at number one.) Empire is everything its predecessor was and more, giving us a darker, more character-focused look into Star Wars universe, merging the epic and human scope of Star Wars in a way not seen before or since on the big screen. The action is still gripping to this day and feels the least dated of the original trilogy, the cast chemistry is stronger than ever, and let’s not forget the mother of all plot twists. Episode V marks a high point in drama, adventure, comedy, and overall badassery. Few movies can boast half as many iconic characters, lines, and moments.

And now, for our #1 spots
Danny's 1: TIE Fighter
When I think of things I love about Star Wars, this 1994 PC game immediately comes to mind. (Technically, the edition I owned as a kid was the 1996 CD-ROM release that came with the Defender of the Empire expansion.) TIE Fighter was the sequel to the equally creatively named X-Wing. Only this time, you’re a pilot for the Galactic Empire rather than for the Rebel Alliance. If there’s one thing that has consistently been great about the Star Wars franchise, it’s the villains. And now you get to be one of them. I played the shit out of this game. Combat is simplistic and arcadey, but flying around in totally unshielded ships puts your skills with the joystick to the test like X-Wing never could. Plus, you eventually get to fly missions alongside Darth Vader, which is the coolest fucking thing ever when you’re a 9-year-old Star Wars geek. I still play this game today, since it somehow still runs on my laptop. But holy mother of fuck does this game need a re-release. Every time I see a new space combat scene in a Star Wars movie, I wonder why this game hasn’t been updated yet.
Greg's 1: Knights of the Old Republic Series
Some people got to grow up with this crazy new phenomenon called Star Wars. But those of us born a generation too late for that still got to experience an epic story of our own that wasn’t the prequels. Set 4,000 years before the original trilogy, KotOR 1 and 2 provided a blank slate where players got to meet and fall in love all over again with a cast just as memorable as Luke and co. More than that, this RPG series let you choose your own path in a story full of jaw-dropping twists, gripping confrontations, and the kinds touching character moments that only the best writing can offer. KotOR is not just the gold standard for Star Wars stories, it’s also a reminder of what gaming can be from a narrative standpoint. If you haven’t played this series yet, this is your cue. The first game is free on the Amazon appstore and usually goes on sale everywhere else this time of year. Query: what are you waiting for, meatbag?

Thanks for reading. We'll have more Star Wars material from time to time, and we'll have some year end music lists coming soon.

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