Star Wars’ current canonical era—where the series is bigger and more expansive across film, TV, books, comics, and video games than ever, and yet also everything simply must align and matter to the rest of its wider universe—makes for a weird mix. It means that we’ve gone from, say, a side character in a series of novels showing up as a big deal on The Mandalorian, to this: how do you logically navigate the story of a Star Wars arena shooter?
Because that’s what Star Wars: Hunters is, a previously announced Nintendo Switch and Mobile devices game that is, derivatively speaking, the galaxy far, far away’s riff on the current popularity of the hero shooter genre—games like Valorant, Overwatch, Paladins, and what not. It’s not surprising that in the current expansion of Lucasfilm’s gaming ideas, getting Star Wars skins on trending ideas in the modern gaming space is a thing that’s happening. Star Wars games have always been like this, from the highs of simulation games like TIE Fighter to the iconic Knights of the Old Republic, to more modern games like the Battlefront series and Jedi: Fallen Order. And judging from the new gameplay trailer released for Hunters today, it’s going to be no exception.
While it mostly focuses on the rough idea how the various characters of Hunters are going to play in its four vs. four arena combat game—setting the teams seemingly not just against each other, but pushing payloads and defending objectives—there’s also an introduction to the game’s looser personality, and its cast of kooky Star Wars characters. There’s our aforementioned fave Utooni, literally two Jawas stacked on top of each other. There’s a Sith acolyte named Rieve, and a droid programmed to think he’s a Jedi Knight literally called J-3DI. Whether it’s bounty hunters and smugglers, agents of the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant, there’s a lot going on here that, considering we live in the “Everything is Canon” age of Star Wars, makes it hard to square the circle.
It’s wild that this is meant to be set in the immediate wake of Return of the Jedi, that a galaxy recovering from conflict on unfathomable scale as the Rebel Alliance finishes its civil war to reform as the New Republic, that somewhere out there there’s teams of mercenaries turning out droves of onlookers to a lethal arena combat sport event that somehow has agents of those big galactic factions involved. If a Disney hotel can get a comic series, why not an Ugnaught riding a droideka?
But maybe the point of the matter is that line of thinking is just kind of silly with the scope of Star Wars as a behemoth right now. The desire to seek a value out of canonical status has long had a detrimental effect on the way audiences perceive storytelling in Star Wars or otherwise, but given that this is a push Disney and Lucasfilm have stuck to for the best part of a decade now, it stands to reason that people are going to want to find some kind of answer to make something as silly and fun-looking as Hunters fit alongside the latest High Republic books or the next Star Wars TV show. Perhaps the answer is that we should take a page out of Hunters book and lighten up—and that it doesn’t really matter if Rey, Finn, Rose, and Poe sit alongside the same universe as two Jawas in a trenchcoat. Maybe we should look back to Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe for inspiration, and say that all these stories and ideas loosely fit into each other, but somethings things will get weird and messy and you can take what you want out of these stories from a certain point of view, rather than trying to make everything rigidly slot into the fabric of a massive universe.
Maybe it’s just that stacked Jawas are cool. Who can say? Maybe Star Wars: Hunters can when it releases on Switch and mobile platforms in 2022.
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