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23. September 2013 13:29
by jedi1

Nintendo Power - Super Empire Strikes Back

23. September 2013 13:29 by jedi1 | 0 Comments

The September 1993 issue of Nintendo Power featured an article on the Making of Super Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back, for the Super Nintendo Entertainment videogame System. (It also featured an article on Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade for NES, wihich I included here also, because if you're a Star Wars fan, chances are you also like Indiana Jones...)

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The making of a Masterpiece

From LucasArts/Sculptured Software/JVC: Super Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back

Photo: The HothHog is one of the denizens of the ice planet Hoth which Luke must defeat. Many of the creatures seen in the game never appeared in the movie.

The Making Of Super Empire

About the spring of 1991, midway through the development of Super Star Wars, Kalani had already begun planning his next tour de force. He had seen his original project venture into areas seldom explored by video games and he wanted the next game to take full advantage of the programming wizardry created by co-develop-er. Sculptured Software. There was never any doubt that “Empire” would be his subject, so Kalani began envisioning how he could bring that story to life. He pictured a Mode 7 stage where players fly across a 3-D landscape in a snowspeeder, then wrap a cable around the legs of an Imperial Walker. He pictured Luke earning Jedi powers on Dagobah and Han Solo escaping from TIE fighters in an asteroid field. In all, 20 stages slowly took shape over the next two years and more than a dozen artists and programmers devoted their time to the vision.

Kalani and crew didn't have to go far to see what the Star Wars ships and items looked like. The archives at Skywalker Ranch contain a universe of props, costumes and pictures.

Photo: From left, the creative team at LucasArts includes producer Kalani Streicher. art supervisor Harrison Fong, Peter Chan (backgrounds), animation supervisor Jon Knoles. and Paul Mica (animation, not pictured.)

The Making Of Super Empire

One reason for the success of Super Star Wars was that the game pushed beyond what other developers thought was possible or practical. Led by Peter Ward, Ryan Ridges, and John Lund, the team at Sculptured goes even further in Super Empire.

The realism of the asteroid stage comes in large part from the scaling of asteroid sprites. Since scaling takes lots of processing time, the conventional wisdom is that scaling sprites will slow a game dramatically.

That isn't the case here. Empire uses several different sizes of sprites and the sailing process simply enlarges a sprite until it reaches the next larger size, then the larger sprite appears and it in turn gets scaled even larger. The result is a smooth sailing effect with very detailed objects. It’s both memory efficient and truly dramatic.

Other technical wonders are found in the speeder stages and when the X-wing flies over the clouds. The sense of speed is imparted from splitting the screen and scrolling two different images. The background (above the horizon) scrolls conventionally left and right. The foreground (below the horizon) is created from a topographical map. Using Mode 7, the map is tilted sideways and the 3-D textures look like surface features as it scrolls beneath you. In Empire, these maps also rise and fall, giving the illusion of passing over hills and valleys.

Advances in programming have also been made in sound by Sculptured’s Paul Webb. Besides hearing the voices of Darth Vader and Yoda, you’ll be bombarded with digitized sounds of ion guns, Lightsabers, TIE fighters and Tauntauns. In order to preserve the speed of play, bulky digitized sound information is down-loaded between cycles.

Photo: The asteroids scale larger as the Millennium Falcon flies through the field. The programmers figured out a way to achieve this realism without using the Super FX chip. Right: The swamp world of Dagohah.

The Making Of Super Empire

One of the great advantages Lucas-Arts has over most developers is the amount of materials available to them. Not only do they have the film, but they have a vast library of music and sound effects, painted backdrops, props, costumes, scripts, novels and most important of all, they are all fans who know and love Star Wars. In the archives Han in carbon freeze can be seen in the game just as in the movie.

at Skywalker Ranch you can find a dozen R2-D2s and just about everything ever seen in any Lucasfilm production. Some of the models won’t look familiar, however, since the scenes in which they appeared ended up on the editing room floor. This is one source for the new char-
acters that appear in Super Empire, but the team also created entirely new creatures. It wasn’t their intention to duplicate the movie scene by scene, but to provide an interactive experience based on the film.

So what goes into the creation of new foes? It starts with a recognition of the type of stage in which the creature will appear. On Dagobah, the creatures can swim in the water, run on land, climb in the trees or fly. Each has a different attack and artificial intelligence (AI). The AI is like a type of radar. The AI for some creatures is very complex, allowing them to zero in on you, while for others it consists of simpler search patterns. The designers plan one attack to compliment the next, which necessitates that players use all their skills. For instance, a ground attacking foe might chase Luke toward another creature that suddenly pops out of the ground, forcing Luke to leap away. Their guiding principle was to keep Luke constantly reacting to new challenges, and it worked. This is one of the most challenging games around.

Photo: on Knoles used the frames shown here above when designing Darth Vader's attack animation. seen below. The most difficult part was getting the cape to move correctly and look natural. In the end, the animation looks almost cinematic.

The Making Of Super Empire

According to Kalani, the supreme master of all Star Wars related gaming development at LucasArts: “We try to push the limits of our games both technologically and artistically. “The push for Super Empire has been to perfect the actioned venture genre of video games. Due to memory space limits, each stage has about 700 to 800 characters with which to create backgrounds and foregrounds. The effect of endlessly new landscapes is really a trick of using a limited number of landscape modules that can be fit together any which way. The same efficiency was used with animation and characters.

Photo: Tilled by Mode 7. these maps create icy ground on the Snowspeeder stage.

Animation sequences like an X-wing flying toward a planet may look like 30 frames, but is really 10 frames or less. The X-wing itself may use the same character flip-flopped for both wing sets, thereby halving memory requirements. The result is that this game has more memory space available for variety, like Luke’s eight Jedi Force powers, more digitized voices, more animated cinema scenes and new graphic effects.

Photo: Above: The Mode 7 Snowspeeder stage adds fast 3-D action. Middle: Chewbacca has a special spin move that is invincible. bottom: This animation is combined with Luke's sprite on riding sequences.

The Making Of Super Empire

What does Kalani hope to add to the Star Wars legacy? “I hope that the games expand the Star Wars world,” he says. “With every game you make, that world becomes more real. We’re bringing it to life.” In fact, the reality may become further blurred in the future as LucasArts’ special effects magicians at Industrial Light & Magic and the gaming group delve into each other’s fields. Someday there may be no division. In the meantime, that matte painting of the Moon of Endor in his office reminds Kalani that there are new worlds to conquer, and the next is Super Return of the Jedi!

Copyright © 1993 by Nintendo of America Inc. All rights reserved. NINTENDO IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF NINTENDO OF AMERICA INC. TM & © for games and characters are owned by the companies who market or license those products.

[Source: Nintendo Power #52, September 1993 P.84-87]


The Following Month saw Yoda on the Cover, and a 10 page feature on the new game:

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Super Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back

The destruction of the Death Star was only the beginning. Now Luke, Han Solo and Chewie must battle the dark side once more. JVC and LucasArts have added stunning new effects and even more varied stages than last year’s hit Super Star Wars. For innovation and challenge, Super Empire Strikes Back can't be beat.

Imperial droids have discovered the rebel base on Hoth. and Luke must race back to the base to warn his compatriots. Standing in his way is an assortment of Hoth’s native creatures and natural obstacles including ice caverns and canyons. The giant ice beast at the end of this level can freeze you with one puff of its breath.


Stage 1

In the first stage of Link's journey, he must race up an icy mountain slope to reach his trusty Tauntaun at the top. Although an army of enemies attacks constantly, you’ll pick up Hearts with every step, making this stage very easy. It's the last break you'll get.

Stage 2

Luke's journey across the ice planet’s surface is made a hit easier with the Taunlaun. Countless HothHogs and snowbirds attack you, but the real danger comes from falling into deep crevasses. Once you land in an ice pit, you'll never escape!


Luke’s natural Jedi abilities are apparent even before he reaches Dagobah. On Hoth, the Spinning Attack is one of his best weapons.


Luke and Han Solo can get extra height by making a second jump at the top of the first jump by pushing the A Button. You'll get almost twice the height.


Push Down and in the direction you want to slide along with the Jump Button. This is a great move for getting past lasers and other weapons mounted in the ceiling.


The rebels' main weapons are Blasters. Pick up Blaster Power-Ups along the way to increase your eight-directional shooting power. There are five levels of Power-Ups.

Stage 3

Inside the ice caverns, Luke meets a new host of enemies like the Ice-Wampas with their freezing breath, ice spores that shoot into the air and flocks of cavebats. Wind tunnels lead to Power-Ups, while frigid pools lead to almost certain defeat. Expect a greater degree of challenge in this lower world. Wield the Lightsaber and jump continuously to make use of the Spinning Attack.

Stage 4

Luke is reunited with his trusty Tauntaun. HothHogs and other enemies will charge at you over the icy knolls, but the biggest danger comes from the eagle-like Dagles that will knock you into the canyon of frozen spikes from which there is no return. Precision jumping is required. Also, use the Spinning Attack to leap from one narrow precipice to the next.

Stage 5

Under the ice once again. Luke has a longer journey ahead of him in this area. Expect the same legions of Hoth creatures to attack you. The Spinning Attack remains your best move throughout.

Stage 6

These tiny platforms hanging in space don't offer much safety, especially since the denziens of Hoth are so eager to push you off. Keep jumping and spinning until you reach solid ground!

Stage 7

Crossing the frigid lake, Luke must hop from one iceberg to the next, but the icebergs sink if you stand on them too long and the water causes damage. The Probe Boss at the end hovers over three small icebergs. Luke must jump between the •bergs', not allowing them to sink into the frigid water.

Stage 8

As Luke returns on his trusty Taun-taun. the rebel base has come under attack by Imperial Troopers and a legion of mechanical war droids. All of the pilots must race to their snow-speeders, but the passages are already crawling with Imperial Probes. The spider-like droids are the worst. Unless you’ve powered up your Blaster, you should jump to avoid these machines. Slide under the hovering probes and watch out for those falling ceiling beams.

Stage 9

Now the action takes to the air in some of the coolest flight combat in any video game as you fly over 360° of 3-D terrain. Don’t just fly straight ahead. Wheel back to attack an individual Walker-over and over!

Copyright © 1993 by Nintendo of America Inc. All rights reserved. NINTENDO IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF NINTENDO OF AMERICA INC. TM & © for games and characters are owned by the companies who market or license those products.

[Source: Nintendo Power #53, October 1993 P.8-17]


Play Nintendo Super Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back online right now, for free at, or on your desktop or mobile device using an Emulator and ROM.

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