In Replaying the Classics, StarWars.com revisits Star Wars games of yesteryear, examining why we loved them then and why they stand the test of time.
The first thing you should know about LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is that it’s actually two games in one. Released in 2005, LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game was the first Traveller’s Tales project to feature either LEGO bricks or Lucasfilm characters, and it was made all the more ambitious by encompassing the key events of the entire prequel trilogy within a single game. It was charming, cinematic, and had a playful sense of humor that won over fans of all ages. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy shipped a year later and, as promised, delivered the second half of the then-six-part Star Wars series. In 2007, The Complete Saga combined both games into the ultimate tour of the galaxy far, far away — a casual two-player co-op adventure that’ll be celebrated for years to come.
It’s a welcoming, forgiving experience; you won’t find any “game over” screens here. If Super Star Wars on the SNES is as hard as Star Wars games get, then the LEGO Star Wars series is at the opposite end of the spectrum. That’s not to say that the game is too simplistic to offer a challenge, however. It’s mostly built around a series of puzzles, which can occasionally leave you feeling stumped or asking yourself: Am I missing something here? There’s also a fair bit of combat involved, of course, so you’ll have to learn your way around a blaster or lightsaber if you want to survive the Dune Sea or escape the clutches of the Empire.
As some fans will recall, LEGO first partnered with Lucasfilm ahead of The Phantom Menace in 1999, and one of the coolest merchandising deals in the history of licensed toys was born. There was something sublime and magical about seeing the haunting visage of Darth Maul rendered in cute, stylized form as a LEGO minifigure, or putting together your very own rebel snowspeeder, holding it in your hands, and flying it across an ice planet that existed only in your imagination. That effect is captured flawlessly in the LEGO Star Wars games, with every minifigure feeling authentic to its original toy counterpart.
“[Star Wars is] like a silent movie,” George Lucas told comedian Stephen Colbert at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. “You could be two years old and not understand anything that’s being said, but you understand the movie.” In that spirit, the celluloid qualities of the first six Star Wars films are given life throughout the game courtesy of John Williams’s iconic scores and Ben Burtt’s unmistakable sound effects. Once, when my Padmé minifig fell in battle against a squad of B1s, I was sure I heard Natalie Portman’s pained cry from the Geonosis arena scene in Attack of the Clones, where the nexu claws her back.
If you enjoy make-believing you’re one of your favorite heroes, you’ll find tons of replayability in the game’s free-play mode, which offers up over 120 characters from the films, along with a certain fedora-wearing archaeologist from another Lucasfilm franchise (“You call him Doctor Jones, doll!”). In the game’s central hub — modeled on the Mos Eisley cantina, naturally — you can even create your own custom character, or revisit any chapter of any Star Wars episode whenever you’d like.
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga offers an endearing blend of puzzle solving and silent-film storytelling, and it knows how much detail matters to its audience. Mechanics and puzzles make full use of each character’s particular flavor; Artoo is handy to have around when you need to get past a locked door, whereas only Threepio is equipped to interface with moisture vaporators, given his familiarity with languages and protocol. The puzzle design gets somewhat better and more intuitive in the second half of the collection, understandably, but there’s no end of fun to be had in any part of this delightful journey across the stars.
Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Syfy Wire, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.