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Oldies but Goodies- Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
I am an unabashedly obsessive Star Wars fan. Seriously- if I could find a spouse who was down for it, I would probably name my first-born son Chewbacca. But when I think of characters/events who really defined my love of the universe, I (GASP) don’t always think of the films. My nerdy affection is for the first thing that made me feel as though I was actually a Jedi. A game that trusted me enough to let me swing my lightsaber any way that I pleased. That glorious, dream-fulfilling game was Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy (JA for short).
From the moment I saw it on the shelf of my local game store, I knew that I was destined to spend a good portion of my life training in the ways of the Jedi. I spent more time playing this game than I did doing homework, and I was a nerd- so I did a LOT of homework.
One qualm I have often had with Star Wars games that place the player in the role of a Jedi is the distinct lack of variety in lightsaber combat. For example, in Battlefront 2, saber combat is composed of the repeated pressing of a couple of buttons to set off a repetitive attack animation. It looked cool and was fun to a point, but seriously lacked variety in the long run. JA, on the other hand, offers an incredible variety of intricate, skill-based lightsaber combat that I have not seen in any game to this day.
You play as the ambiguous Jaden Korr. I say ambiguous because the character, despite having a distinct storyline, is customized by the player. Head, clothing, lightsaber hilt/color, and favorite food (that last one was just for me- I got really in depth with my role playing) were up to you. The voice even changed depending on Jaden’s gender. Jaden was my Commander Shepard before Commander Shepard was a thing.
While not necessarily the best written/acted of game characters, Jaden was an extension of myself- not just because of the level of customization but also the fact that I learned to utilize my own distinct style of combat. As the game progresses, you the player are given the option to learn additional saber “styles” such as “strong,” which is made up of big, sweeping, slow motions that deal a ton of damage if they connect at the proper angle, or “fast” which is the self-explanatory opposite. On top of that, there is also the option to dual-wield or get all Darth Maul-y with a saber staff.
The story line is full of Jedi/Sith action, lore galore, and cameos from fan favorites such as Luke Skywalker (who runs the academy) and Boba Fett. The story that REALLY blew my mind, however, was the real life story of my multiplayer clan experience. Although the multiplayer mode is now a barren wasteland, in its prime JA MP was exhilarating; players would hop from FFA server to FFA server, socializing, dueling, and adventuring to their heart’s content. Many clans had massive custom maps, full of secret rooms and dozens of areas for fighting. Despite the current lack of servers, most of those maps are still available on http://jediknight3.filefront.com/, along with custom skins, sabers, even a total conversion of the single player mods that adds an entire new fan-built story line (Escape from Yavin IV).
So why should you play it? There are hundreds of hours in gameplay here if you’re creative. All of the spawns and hacks are readily available online- sometimes I’ll construct massive battles, then sit back and let them play out for my own amusement. In addition, there are maps to explore and mods of your own to construct. All of this on top of the vanilla game.
This game is absolutely worth a play, and it’s old enough now that giving it a shot won’t put too much of a dent in your pocket.
Seriously though. It’s worth it.