While most people focus on Electronic Arts’ handling of Star Wars, Aspyr has been porting classic Star Wars titles. Here’s why that’s important.
The conversation around Star Wars video games is completely dominated by Electronic Arts. EA has monopolized the space, both literally through its exclusivity deal and through speculation around upcoming projects. However, EA’s involvement in Star Wars gaming only represents a portion of the brand’s interactive output. Many players don’t realize how pivotal of a role Aspyr Media plays in revitalizing older Star Wars games.
Even though Aspyr Media has ported several Star Wars titles to modern platforms, the studio hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. In actuality, Aspyr Media is fairly important, having been acquired by the Embracer Group (formerly THQ Nordic) for hundreds of millions of dollars. The Embracer Group has teams that are more recognizable in name than Aspyr, like Gearbox Software. However, Embracer’s ability to publish Star Wars games through Aspyr makes this team vital to the overall conglomerate.
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Aspyr should be considered vital by Star Wars fans, considering that many classics would be largely inaccessible without the studio. Aspyr Media has ported Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic to mobile and Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords to PC, Mac and Linux. Aspyr Media has also ported Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Star Wars Episode I: Racer, and Star Wars: Republic Commando to both Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. This is a hearty list of beloved Star Wars titles.
As such, it’s strange that Aspyr doesn’t get better recognition when the company fulfills such an important niche that EA never could. EA’s hyper-focus on high-fidelity, blockbuster Star Wars games overlooked the richness of the franchise’s past titles. EA never released a Mass Effect: Legendary Edition-type collection for classic Star Wars games, nor did EA even attempt to iterate on the classics in its modern titles. Of course, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the one exception. For the most part, though, EA had a clear multiplayer direction for Star Wars, for better and worse.
Aspyr, by contrast, has staked its Star Wars identity on embracing the rich past of the series. Sprawling and beloved Star Wars RPGs, adventure games, racers, and shooters are available again because of Aspyr. Not only are these classic Star Wars games accessible again, but new audiences are also able to access them. Younger players who missed out initially can experience these classics for the first time. But, a game like Republic Commando, which only released on Xbox and PC, is now available to Nintendo and PlayStation gamers for the first time.
Most likely, Aspyr’s work goes under the radar because it isn’t glamorous. It is hard to attract attention to these old ports when EA’s Star Wars titles are so striking visually and so dominant in conversation. It’s easy to look at these ports as curiosities. That’s fair to do, especially when titles like Jedi Knight have aged so strangely. But, that doesn’t take away from their importance or their charm. Nor does it undermine Aspyr’s effort to do things such as integrate classic online multiplayer into Jedi Academy. Both from a Star Wars fan perspective and a gaming preservation perspective, Aspyr is doing important work.
Hopefully, Aspyr will have the opportunity to bring more Star Wars titles to new platforms. While the team has worked on Knights of the Old Republic already, having that game and others on Switch would be excellent. Beyond that, from the classic Battlefront titles to The Force Unleashed, there are so many games that still deserve a refresh. While the community’s attention is on the future of Star Wars gaming and Ubisoft’s upcoming title, some attention should also be paid to the franchise’s history. Star Wars has a legacy of fan-favorite but inaccessible games, and Aspyr is going great work to correct that.
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