Star Wars and video games have a pretty complicated history. You would think that the franchise would lend itself so naturally to gaming, but for some reason developers seem to pump out more clunkers than gems.
For every Knights of the Old Republic, there’s a Force Unleashed 2. For every Jedi Academy, there’s a Star Wars: Demolition. With so many characters to deal with and so much lore to dissect and such a hardcore fan base to please, it’s almost impossible to hit all the right notes all the time.
But even the worst Star Wars video games can’t compare with the steaming pile of Bantha poo-doo that is Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi.
Released in 1997, this PlayStation exclusive was the first title to bring the fighting genre to the Star Wars universe, which was a big deal in the brave new world of Tekken and other 3D brawlers we lived in. Fighting games and Star Wars - sounds like a pretty decent match, right? Well, Masters of Teräs Käsi managed to bungle the whole thing with shoddy visuals, controls stiffer than a corpse and a character literally named Hoar.
Seriously, Hoar - pronounced exactly like it looks. He was a Tusken Raider character in a video game meant for kids. Even 12-year-old me thought someone should have been fired for this.
The whole game revolved around the Empire gunning after Luke for destroying the Death Star, which is pretty understandable, considering that Palpatine probably lost the security deposit on the thing once it went nuclear.
To do this, the Emperor enlists the help of Arden Lyn, who is a - sigh - Master of Teräs Käsi, which is just a fancy name for Star Wars Karate. But the story doesn't really matter anyway, because the game basically boils down to tournament fights where you could choose from all of the classic characters, like Luke, Vader, Han Solo, Leia, Chewie, Boba Fett, Mara Jade (!) and the aforementioned Hoar.
In terms of gameplay, this thing was a train wreck. It didn't have the syrupy-smooth fighting mechanics of some of the better Japanese games, nor did it have the intensity of a Mortal Kombat. Moves were nearly impossible to pull off, reaction times were in slow motion and there’s no real strategy to think of. Imagine a title that plays like a digital Rock 'em, Sock 'em Robots, but without the irony.
Winning was usually just a matter of who could kind of deal with the controls the best. Oh, and you can easily lose every match by simply stumbling out of the ring and careening 2 feet to the floor to your doom.
Still, this was a Star Wars game after all, so all of the bells and whistles were actually well done. The music, the sound effects and stage detail all had a level of authenticity that was unique for the PS1 era. It’s just a shame players got locked into this half-baked Tekken rip-off in order to soak it all in.
Remember, Episode I was still two years away when this game came out, and unless you were one of the few homes in your neighborhood with an Internet connection, chances are you had no idea there would be an endless amount of new Star Wars movies and games over the next decade.
Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi was pretty much your best bet for Jedi action on a console at the time, and I remember desperately trying to recreate Luke and Vader’s duel from Empire just so I could get my Star Wars fix. Be sure to remember these Dark Times before you decide to complain about how rough you have it with Battlefront.