In what some consider to be a totally random announcement Disney has stated Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy are to be ported to the Nintendo Switch. In fact Star Wars Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast will be released on September 24th while Jedi Academy is slated for early 2020. So far the Nintendo Switch has been devoid of Star Wars. Which is something I have complained about before – and we are not counting Star Wars Pinball set for September 13th.
While I am excited with Star Wars content making its way to the Nintendo console I am also disappointed. Both games are over 15 years old and it makes the Switch feel like another dumping ground of decades old titles. The games are being ported by Austin, Texas based developer.
It was 1997, the best year for Star Wars
The announcement regarding these ports was made during Nintendo Direct. Both games are sequels to the first two Jedi Knight: Dark Forces games released back in the 90s. While I played Dark Forces it was its sequel released in 1997 that got me hooked. I played it the same year I purchased my original trilogy box on VHS and I read Heir to the Empire. Jedi Knight Dark Forces 2 also featured live-action cut scenes giving players a very immersive experience.
The two sequels, Jedi Knight Outcast and Jedi Academy were certainly worthy but as cost cutting efforts lacked the live-action scenes. They made up with excellent lightsaber fighting that is still renowned today. Unlike other Star Wars games lightsaber dueling required skill and perfect timing giving players both a feeling of reward and frustration in equal measure.
For those losing track of the strange naming conventions I will sum them up once. Star Wars Dark Forces was released in 1995. Its sequel Star Wars Jedi Knight Dark Forces 2 in 1997. The Switch games are Star Wars Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast (2002) and Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (2003).
Jedi Outcast – Kyle Katarn?
As such it is absolutely fantastic that both games are being released for the Nintendo Switch. However, if you have not played the first two Dark Forces games you may left wondering what the story is about. Certainly players will not know who Kyle Katarn is. Some may not realize his character is not even part of the new Disney Star Wars canon. So far Aspyr has not released any screenshot or videos which means the games will not be remastered or have high definition textures applied. They will be straightforward ports released as digital editions only. For some that may be reason enough to pass, but if you have not experienced either game and if the price is right you may just want to give them a try.
What about Force Unleashed and Kotor?
If Disney is going to release older Star Wars games for the Nintendo Switch they can do a lot better. Star Wars The Force Unleashed was never released for a Nintendo console and it sports more modern graphics. Aspyr has already ported Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic to the Mac so that is also an obvious candidate. Knight of the Old Republic may well be the most popular Star Wars game of all time. Finally there are the Rogue Squadron games from Factor 5. These could also be ported. In fact, Factor 5 created a new version of the franchise just for the Nintendo Wii that was subsequently never released – Star Wars Rogue Squadron: Rogue Leaders Wii. The game a compilation / remaster of Rogue Squadron 2 and 3 with new material added as well.
Not suitable for a console?
So this makes the choice of releasing Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy even weirder. Except that porting should be an easy chore even for a middling games company. Finally I will say this about my own suggestions: they were all originally released on a console. That ensures the gameplay is already tailored for a gamepad. Neither Jedi Outcast nor Jedi Academy can claim that. And having played Skyrim and Wolfenstein on the Switch I believe 3D shooters are best avoided.