For nearly as long as there have been video games, there have been Star Wars video games. Some of these, like the Super Star Wars games on the SNES, the Jedi Knight series, and Knights of the Old Republic have been highly acclaimed and remain classics. Many, many other have been much less successful. One game in this latter category is Star Wars: Yoda Stories, a title that was poorly received at the time of its release and has enjoyed little retrospective praise. But personally? I loved it.
Released by LucasArts in 1997, Yoda Stories rode the wave of the Star Wars Special Editions along with a number of other games and products. Hype was high for the prequels, and Star Wars was celebrating its 20th anniversary. But unlike Shadows of the Empire or Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Yoda Stories was not a flashy 3D affair. Instead, it was a slow-paced point and click game with a distinctly mid-90s Windows aesthetic, looking like Star Wars by way of Chip’s Challenge. This wasn’t LucasArts’ first attempt at this kind of game, either — it was preceded by Indiana Jones and his Desktop Adventures. Designer, writer, and director Hal Barwood worked on both titles, as well as other LucasArts games of the era like Big Sky Trooper and Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine.
The loop of Yoda Stories is simple. Luke Skywalker lands on Dagobah and asks his titular swamp-dwelling mentor for a mission. Then, he flies off to another planet to try to rescue a friend, collect an obtain, destroy a facility, or warn the Rebels of an attack. The game’s locations and objectives are randomly-generated, with each mission taking about an hour to complete. Luke can push and pull objects, fire a blaster or swing his lightsaber, and collect items to use in different situations. It isn’t a complex or particularly attractive game, but something about its tiny little worlds had a hold on me back in 1997.
I was fully in my Star Wars era in the mid-90s, having just seen the original films for the first time and being too young to understand how silly some of the changes to the Special Edition re-releases were. Even then, I might not have enjoyed Yoda Stories as much as I did were it not for the ritual that surrounded it. I’d walk over to my friend’s place after school, we’d pour some pretzels into a bowl and bring it over to the fiberboard desk with faux-wood finish, we’d put on a Silverchair or Bush album, and we’d alternate controlling Luke and giving advice on how to clear each puzzle.
Maybe we could have been playing anything, but there was something about the laid-back approach of Yoda Stories that was a nice contrast to the action-heavy games that were everywhere in the 90s. That decade was all about bigger, better, and faster, from Sega’s “blast processing” to the race to create increasingly realistic 3D environments on 32 and 64-bit machines. Something like Yoda Stories just wasn’t what most people were looking for at the time.
25 years later, there’s a huge market for more down-to-earth “casual” games, not to mention the huge resurgence of the roguelike genre over the past decade. In a sense, then Yoda Stories was ahead of its time. I’m not nearly as big a Star Wars fan as I was back in the 90s, but if they released a cartoony, top-down title like Yoda Stories on the Switch or mobile today, I’d definitely give it a shot.