The Empire Has Struck Back, but all is not lost as a ragtag group of Rebels take stock, regroup and try once more to restore freedom to the Galaxy.
Released in cinemas three years after The Empire Strikes Back, but set only a year afterwards, Return of the Jedi is a spectacle of special-effects led cinema and while it may not reach the dramatic highs of Empire, it’s nonetheless a worthwhile way to complete a trilogy. After all, it made more than enough of us want more Star Wars, for a decade and a half afterwards.
Naturally, in 1994, a year after the release of Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the final movie in the Original Trilogy would find its way to Super Nintendo (and other consoles, but that’s a story for another time: Hint Hint). Sculptured Software would once again take development duties, and for what it’s worth, it feels like lessons have definitely been learnt after the flaws of the prior titles.
Return of The Jedi SNES Review Video
They really got into their stride here, making for the best looking and sounding game of the series. The levels are incredibly detailed with some clever visual touches, the sprites are bold and there’s more character to them. Meanwhile, the cutscenes are more dynamic and use more digitised images from the film itself, to keep the presentation in line with the movie.
It starts immediately with a Mode 7 Landspeeder section straight away, as you race to Jabba’s Palace to rescue Han. You’ll need to be on your toes here to leap over chasms and avoid smashing into rock formations. Luckily, there are plenty of health pickups and a few Force icons for points.
Once you pass this brief introduction level, you can get into the game proper, and this time around Luke, Leia and Chewbacca are selectable from the very start of the game, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
Luke is now an accomplished Force user, but now only has five Force powers instead of the eight he had back in Super Empire Strikes Back. Luckily, he’s kept most of the better ones: There’s Force Sabre, which lets you throw your weapon around the screen, Deflect which automatically deflects enemy lasers, Freeze which encases an entire screen of enemies in ice, Vanish which makes you transparent and pretty much invincible for a brief time, and Heal, which allows you to restore your health. Each of these powers depletes your Force bar when used, but it feels like there are more Force replenishing powerups this time around.
Chewbacca remains completely unchanged in terms of abilities, but thankfully he still keeps his insanely powerful spin move that makes him invincible, deals heaps of damage and quickly recharges.
Finally, Princess Leia makes her playable debut from the very start. In the early stages, she’s disguised as the Bounty Hunter, Boushh – But she has a few costume changes throughout the game, which we’ll get onto later. In this guise, she uses a short-range staff to attack but can unleash a long-range energy beam by holding the attack button for a short while and releasing it. She also has her own version of Luke’s sabre Super Jump too, which is just as effective. Finally, she is also able to block using her staff.
As our trio climb to Jabba’s Palace, you can instantly see the visual upgrade given to this third instalment. Levels are much more detailed and interesting to look at – See the heat hazing in the background, with there also being a lot more variety to each stage as well. No longer is there hours spent going through identikit areas repeated over and over again.
Jedi is also a much friendlier game than Empire overall, with checkpoints generous (and now visible as they come in the form of R2D2. There’s a good balance to difficulty now, which was sadly missing from Empire.
As we reach the entrance to Jabba’s abode, the first boss of the game is the weird spy hole droid at the door. It bounces around to try and crush you while expelling lightning. Ranged weaponry is definitely a good way to dispatch this sentient Ring doorbell.
Inside Jabba’s Palace is an awesome looking stage with so much to look at – I love the detail in the onlookers in the foreground and background. Jawas return to be slaughtered, while a varied range of alien creatures stands between you and the big guy. There are some acrobatic Twi’lek dancing girls, rock-wielding brutes and a few weird frogs with teeth, plus a few flamethrowing nasties. Oh, and Salacious Crumb is also knocking about, cackling away at you until you bonk him on the head.
Of course, you also need to be very careful of multiple trap doors, not least because falling in them leads to instant death, but some of them also expel small Rancors that attack you. Once you reach Jabba’s throne, old fatso will be getting a front-row seat to you beating the absolute bejeesus out of his servant, Bib Fortuna – This level’s boss.
Finish him off and you play as either Luke or Chewie as they make their own way through Jabba’s Palace to bargain for Han’s life (and rescue Leia while they’re at it). This dark area is quite labyrinthian in structure, but at least you have a few of Jabba’s goons to keep you company. The levels in this game are definitely a little less straightforward than previous entries in the Super Star Wars series, but thankfully there isn’t too much of a risk of getting lost – For the most part, anyway. There are a few dicey falling platforms over bottomless pits, but Sculptured Software finally learnt to not chuck oodles of enemies around them, so there’s something to be grateful for. The end of this area features a gigantic version of the smaller frogs seen throughout the level. It’s a huge, Mode7-powered behemoth, but very susceptible to the old lightsaber Super Jump move, so you can kill him in less than 15 seconds if you’re quick.
We’ve rescued Han, so now we have a trio to choose from including Luke and Chewie too. This is good because they’ve been thrown into the Rancor pit. Another dark, cavernous stage, the two main barriers are the destructible floors you need to blast apart, and these heinously irritating volcano thingies that spit out projectiles for a long time that, and you can’t pass without hurting yourself until they stop. Like Chewbacca, the returning Han Solo retains the exact same abilities, including his uber-powerful grenades and as it happens, this stage is more than happy to hand them to you on a platter, along with plenty of blaster upgrades. For the third game in a row, you start with a laser and can upgrade to Flame rounds, Seeker Missiles, Rapid Ion and finally a Plasma shot.
An absolutely huuuuuge and fire-breathing Mode 7-powered Rancor is unsurprisingly your boss for this level and is as impressive to look at as it is large. However, all of that size means diddly squat when you have about 30 grenades and a blaster to let loose with.
Jabba’s Sail Barge is our next destination, and it’s another great looking level as you leap from barge to barge. Playing as Luke, there’s a lot of Force canister powerups about, so it’s a good opportunity to use some of those powers to get by. I found Freeze to be incredibly useful, especially as this is a stage featuring a lot of long-range turrets that requires a lot of moving platform jumps. Plus, it kind of feels right to play as Luke on this level. Once you’ve made your way past an army of Bounty Hunters, it’s time to fight this ball-and-chain wielding beast. His attacks are pretty well-telegraphed, so he’s not too terrible to deal with.
Luke takes a leave of absence for the next level, so Han Solo, Chewie and a bikini-clad Leia hunt for Jabba inside his Sail Barge. In her skimpier outfit, Leia now wields a whip and has a similar charge move to her Boushh disguise, but the staff block has been replaced with a Twirling move, while her Super Jump is a similar twirl attack but in the air.
There are a ton of environmental hazards to be wary of here, from pistons in the background, rolling barrels, steam from broken pipes and a few really unfair bottomless pit traps that enemies really love to push you into. No new enemies of note here, apart from the usual crowd that hangs around Jabba, but you’ll be pleased to know you’ll finally be fighting the Hutt himself. He is too lazy to actually move, instead, he sits on a moving platform and spits his froggy snacks at you. If you haven’t learnt yet, Han Solo’s grenades are ridiculously useful for bosses, so have at it.
After what seems like an age, we finally leave Jabba’s Palace and Tattooine for good. Luke and Leia now set off for Endor, the land of the grumpy teddy bears. In another vehicular minigame, once again you need to kill x number of enemies, in this case, you’re riding on speeder bikes and taking down Imperial Scouts. You gotta admit, it feels like it’s been a while since we actually fought some Imperial enemies. Dodge trees, jump over logs, and blow those suckers out of the sky so you can move onto the next stage.
If you ever dreamed of playing as Warwick Davies, you can either play Willow on the NES or in the Arcade or this game, because you’re now tearing shit up as Wicket the Ewok. In this treetop village, you’ll be armed with a simple bow and arrow, taking on Imperial troops twice your height. Expect a lot of climbing and jumping between trees. What I particularly like about playing as Wicket is that his arrows stick into walls and can be used to bounce to higher levels, a mechanic that’s incredibly useful, nay essential for these next two levels. At the end of the first village level, you’re up against this odd droid on a jet bike. I’m not sure what its deal is but there’s a serious mismatch in firepower here. Even though he has a rapid-fire cannon and drops bombs, he’s incredibly weak and easily destroyed, taking you to the second and final Ewok Village level.
This second level starts off with a good old water slide and then, it’s time for some more climbing, and more sliding. A few Endor wildlife get in the way, but they’re not too much of a handful. The biggest hazard here is some really nasty flaws in the level design, such as this arrow that makes you think “this seems like a good place to jump down” and then you fall into the water and die. So, you try and work your way down slowly, only to fall into a water slide that dumps you into the same instant kill water. Once you figure all of that out, via patience and great care, your boss is this weird green rhino that breaths fire. Not sure where Sculptured Software got all the ideas for these enemies from, but I guess they couldn’t just all be Imperial Stormtroopers. He’s no match for your rudimentary weaponry though.
It’s time for Luke to step to the plate once more, and he’s on his way to settle a score with Papa Vader. This might be my least favourite level, to be honest. It’s a massive wide-open space, and it’s not terribly clear where you actually need to go. Eventually, you realise you need to make sure way to the upper areas, but even then, you think you need to go all the way to the right, and then you reach R2D2 and what appears to be the end of the level, but no. You have to find your way back up top and figure out where the actual boss is. It’s a pretty impressive boss though, a gigantic transport carrier and a few of the massive assault droids from Super Empire Strikes Back – But they all fall to their knees at the power of your sabre Super Jump.
Time for another Mode 7-a-thon, and this one’s pretty cool. You’re controlling the top turret of the Falcon and have to scroll left and right, blowing up oncoming TIE Fighters. It’s pretty brief and doesn’t overstay its welcome. A nice palate cleanser for the upcoming stage.
Han, Chewie and Leia are up and ready to raise Hell in the Power Generator, and it’s another costume change for Leia. In her Endor Rebel uniform, she’s just a standard blaster wielding character. She doesn’t even have any special moves, grenades or anything – So she’s pretty useless when compared to Han and Chewie. There isn’t too much to say about this level, to be honest. There’s a lot of Imperial Stormtroopers and officers to kill, turrets and mortars to blow up, platforms to jump between. There’s an area filled with destructible walls that take ages to blow up, but it’s filled with blaster powerups and extra lives, so it’s well worth taking the time to dig in and grab everything. I haven’t yet mentioned the single new powerup in Return of The Jedi – This pickup gives you super speed and is the absolute worst thing ever. It usually appears when there’s a part of the game that requires accurate platforming, and you move so fast you become an uncontrollable mess. Kids, just say no to speed…pickups.
Eventually, you reach these circular moving platforms with turrets in the centre, and the first one has one of those arrows that makes you think you should jump straight down. Don’t. After that first lesson, it’s just a matter of jumping between the moving platforms and quickly blowing up the turrets before they hit you. Then, as you reach the end of the level, there’s this massive Death-Star like laser that intermittently fires, so you need to make sure you’re not in its path when it goes off.
At the end is the source of this gigantic laser, and this time you’ll need to climb up falling platforms, while dodging the fast-moving laser, while trying to hit it. The easiest thing is to just lob grenades at it over and over again and keep an eye on your footing.
Now the Shield Generator is down, Luke can enter the Death Star and face his destiny, his father and Emperor Palpatine. But before that happens, it’s back to the old Super Star Wars staple of droids, Stormtroopers and moving platforms. Two gigantic assault droids await you at the end, but they seem so much easier to kill than they did back in Empire. They’re not even proper bosses, but defeating them finishes the level.
It’s time to pilot the Falcon once more, and it’s another “kill n number of TIE Fighters” battle. It plays very similarly to the Death Star level in the first Super Star Wars, and well, most of the vehicle sections in these games, really. You’d think they’d have come up with something a little more unique for this last game, but no.
Back to action platforming, and Luke comes face to face with his nemesis – The Sith Speedup icon of doom. Oh God, I can’t control a thing! A lot of lightsabre Super Jumps, Imperial Officers, Stormtroopers, droids and moving platforms later, and you’re at the end of the level with another two assault droids to blow up, followed by a lone Imperial Guard enemy. If that seemed anticlimatic, well, it is.
Still, the next, level is a little more interesting. A brief section featuring red Imperial Guards is quickly followed by a final battle with Darth Vader. He is far less harmful than he was back in Super Empire Strikes Back, with just fewer attacks and no force powers whatsoever. Another enemy falls prey to the lightsabre Super Jump.
Now for the final platforming game and final boss – A showdown in the Emperor’s Chamber with old Emperor Palpatine himself. They sampled his creepy old man laugh and it sounds pretty damn good. He’s pretty terrifying looking, especially as he floats around the screen, throwing Force lightning all around the place. However, you always have the power to Heal yourself, and there are plenty of destructible items that drop Force-replenishing items, so he shouldn’t trouble you.
You’d think defeating the final boss would be the end of Super Return of The Jedi, but if you did – Then you’ve forgotten the plot of the film, haven’t you? Or, at the very least, you didn’t read the game’s manual – Because it tells you these are the final two levels, right here. Remember when manuals spoiled the game for you?
Anyway, it’s time to strap into the Millenium Falcon for the real finale, a tense ride through the bowels of the second Death Star over the course of two levels. First up, we’re travelling through to the core, avoiding pipes and taking down TIE Fighters. The Falcon is quite hard to control in this first-person level – The Dpad is used to steer in each direction, while L and R are used to rotate the ship. The B button accelerates, and Y fires. You can press the Select button to set the D-pad to rotate and L and R to steer left and right, but the default way seems more natural to be honest. The trick with this level is to keep your movements brief and do what you can to blow up the TIE Fighters before they become a nuisance.
Once the core has been destroyed, the whole Death Star catches fire, prompting an escape sequence. You’ll need to keep the B button held down to accelerate at all times, otherwise, the explosion will catch up with you, causing you damage and eventually killing you. There aren’t any TIE Fighters to worry about here, you just need to keep her steady and make sure you don’t crash into anything. This is easier said than done as the first-person view really doesn’t give you a good sense of what’s in your flight path and what isn’t, and that’s a problem when you have to actively rotate the ship as the tunnels change and strafe left and right to avoid some of the walls. Escape the Death Star explosion, and the game (and the entire Original Trilogy) is over.
Your reward for saving the galaxy, as it rightly should be in a pre-Special Edition era, is some beautiful cutscenes and a Super Nintendo rendition of that classic Star Wars jam, Yub Nub. Savour those notes. Let them sink in before the credits start rolling.
And that, my friends, the end of my Return of The Jedi SNES Review. Plus, it is the completion of the Original Trilogy as told by the Super Star Wars series. Didn’t we all have fun? Actually, I did. While Return of The Jedi does little to surprise the player, it does do a fantastic job of polishing up the gameplay of the first two entries. It’s a fairer game than Empire, a lengthier but better-rounded game overall than Super Star Wars, and it arguably the best game of the Super Star Wars Trilogy.
I had fun playing these three Super Nintendo games, I really did. Each one has done an excellent job of bringing Star Wars to home consoles, and as I play these games in 2021, I realise how much I miss a good movie license or even a passable one. The games industry has lost the idea of taking a movie and distilling it into an interactive adaptation, adding a little flourish here and there. It’s something I do think is missing, when it’s done in such a fashion as this. Like a Jedi’s lightsaber, it’s a relic of a bygone era.
You think I’d be closing the book on the Super Star Wars Trilogy, but you could not be further from the truth. Like I’ve done with the previous two games, this week will also see some extra videos with my entire playthrough of Super Return of the Jedi, a video detailing every cheat in the game, and more.
Plus, we still have a week of Super Star Wars Month to go, and if you thought this series was confined to the Super Nintendo – You were wrong, as the series made its way to smaller consoles, and almost made it to the SEGA Mega Drive too. Come back soon for the final week of Pug Hoof Gaming’s Super Star Wars Month!