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Anybody Remember Jedi Knight? (And Mysteries of the Sith?)


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#1
Zerimar Nyliram

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Just as I did for Dark Forces' twentieth anniversary a few years ago, so I will now do for my favorite game in the world, Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and its companion, Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, on the occasion of the latter's twentieth anniversary. Once again, I am sorry for the whitewashing of the text--this seems to happen when I copy from Facebook and past it on Nightly. (Nightly has a lot of goofy problems, like when I'm viewing it on my computer at work I can't copy-and-paste at all, and the quote button does not function.)

. . .

 

Today is a landmark day! Have you ever heard me talk about my favorite game in the world, Jedi Knight? Well, today, February 17, marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of its expansion, Mysteries of the Sith. Jedi Knight celebrated its twentieth anniversary back in October, but I missed it because I was in the hospital and trying not to die from sugar shock, so I was a tad preoccupied. Thus, I will use this opportunity to talk about both games, which are near and dear to my heart.

 

My dad bought me Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight for my birthday back in 1997, along with the official strategy guide you see there. I was still in Star Wars mode that year, with the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition having been released in theaters earlier that year.
 

Jedi Knight picks up where the first-person shooter Dark Forces (which I would not get the chance to play until many years later) left off. You take control of the protagonist, a hardened mercenary named Kyle Katarn, in his quest to find the Dark Jedi Jerec who murdered his father, assisted by his pilot and romantic interest, Jan Ors. Along the way, Kyle is visited by the deceased spirit of Qu Rawn, a Jedi Knight and friend of his father, who informs Kyle that Jerec seeks the Valley of the Jedi, a lost Jedi battleground where thousands of Jedi souls remain trapped from an ancient battle.
 

Along the way, Kyle recovers his father's lightsaber and begins to learn the ways of the Force, learning useful Force powers along the way. Force powers come in three categories: neutral (jump, speed, sight, and pull), light side (healing, persuasion, blinding, absorption, and protection), and dark side (throw, choke, lightning, destruction, deadly sight). The Force powers can be manually strengthened by assigning experience stars, which are accumulated automatically by finishing every third mission. If you find every "secret area" in a level, you receive a bonus star for that level.

 

The game is the first of its kind in that it makes use of a morality scale, which fluctuates between the light and dark sides of the Force. Assigning stars to light side powers will tip the scale toward the light side of the Force, whereas assigning stars to dark side powers, or simply by killing innocent civilians and droids, will tip it toward the dark side (it is the quick and easy path, as Yoda said). Eventually, the story reaches a point of no return, where Kyle's alignment will permanently swing to one end of the scale or the other, which affects the game's ending.

 

The seven Dark Jedi serve as boss fights every few levels, which unfortunately means that there isn't a whole lot of incentive to use your lightsaber in combat against any of the other enemies who are all armed with blasters (aside from it being really fun).

 

The game features fully-rendered cutscenes with real-life actors shot against green screens with fully-rendered CGI environments. Sure, the effects look cartoonish and unimpressive by today's standards, and the acting is rather lacking, but it was very impressive at the time. The light and dark side paths offered two entirely different endings, with only the light side ending being canon. (This would become the standard for Star Wars games moving forward, because Star Wars is all about virtue and redemption.)

 

The story of Jedi Knight would prove important for Star Wars lore, even affecting the harmony of the movies themselves: in The Phantom Menace, it is revealed that there only exist two Sith at any one time, whereas previous Expanded Universe stories--particularly the Tales of the Jedi comics--depicted the ancient Sith as a rival faction to the Jedi, numbering in the thousands; and in Attack of the Clones, Chancellor Palpatine mentions the Galactic Republic having stood for a thousand years, whereas it had been established in the EU that the Republic is 25,000 years old at the time of the films (interpreting Obi-Wan's "a thousand generations" line in A New Hope literally). Naturally, the quick-thinking EU writers worked their magic to correct both of these issues with retcons (retroactive continuity), using the lore from Jedi Knight as its basis. By way of a short story, and then a comic series, and finally a trilogy of novels, they established the planet where the Valley of the Jedi as Ruusan, with a battle between the Jedi and Sith taking place a thousand years before the films, obliterating the entire Sith order and a good portion of the Jedi, entrapping their souls in a coccoon that would eventually come to be known as the Valley of the Jedi from the game. One Sith--Darth Bane--would survive, and would proceed to take on an apprentice to establish the Rule of Two, mandating that only two Sith--a master and apprentice--can exist at any one time, with the apprentice rising up and slaying the master when becoming powerful enough and then taking on an apprentice of his or her own, continuing in this fashion until the time of the movies. The Republic also underwent major governmental changes known as the Ruusan Reformations, to the point where it bore little resemblance to the previous 24,000 years. Thus, the continuity issues were resolved thanks to Jedi Knight!

 

I spent many days playing this game, often with my best friend, Shawn. Many fond memories were created by this game. The default quick save key (there were no automatic checkpoints to save your progress) was F9, and every time we pressed that button to save our games we would shout, "F9 on ya!" To this day, when I play any PC game, I always reassign the quick save key to F9 in honor of those days, sometimes even yelling the phrase out loud.

 

Fast forward to early 1998. After a few months of pure Jedi Knight bliss, I was at Costco with my parents and came upon Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, with a mysterious (no pun intended) woman on the box wielding a purple lightsaber while fighting a rancor. Needless to say, I was excited. More Jedi Knight! Well, I didn't end up getting it that day, but Dad was kind enough to purchase it for me the next time we were there, and we had Shawn with us as well. He and I poured over the box and instructions manual in the car, reading about this woman, Mara Jade, who was introduced in "Timothy Zahn's award-winning novel Heir to the Empire." I made a mental note of it for later.

 

We took it home, played it, and were amazed. While we were a bit disappointed that this entry featured cutscenes rendered by the in-game engine with the blocky characters instead of real-life actors, and that Kyle's voice actor was different, those reservations soon passed as we became enraptured in the story and gameplay. You resume control of Kyle Katarn for the first few missions, and then switch over to Mara Jade (whom Kyle has been training in the ways of the Jedi) once Kyle discovers references to an ancient Sith temple on the forgotten world of Dromund Kaas and pursues it, believing it to be part of his destiny. As Mara, you must redevelop your Force powers as you tangle with a Hutt named Ka'pa (bitter over the death of his friend Jabba), battle a fearsome rancor, and rescue a Jedi holocron from a smuggler before pursuing Kyle once it appears he has been gone too long.

 

Mysteries of the Sith features no morality scale and only one ending, and considers all Force powers neutral instead of grouping them according to the dark and light sides. Several new Force powers are introduced (including far sight, which allowed you to exit your body and travel anywhere you wished), and unlike Jedi Knight, which was possible to play through without ever using the Force (but who would want to do that?), Mysteries has areas of the game that can only be progressed through using Force powers. Once your character finally makes it to Dromund Kaas, you find that none of your weapons are functional other than your lightsaber, making lightsaber combat mandatory.

 

I was so impressed with Mara Jade that I went out and bought Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy and learned all about Mara's origin. Yes, this means that these games were what got me into the Expanded Universe, so as you might expect, they are very near and dear to my heart. Imagine how shocked I was to learn that Mara eventually goes on to marry Luke Skywalker!

 

Both games do an excellent job at capturing the feel of the original Trilogy, especially Jedi Knight. They are accompanied by John Williams' masterful scores from the films, really working wonders to set the mood of any particular setting, whether it is the dark, dingy alleys of crime-ridden Nar Shaddaa or the panic-ridden chaos of the falling cargo ship. As iconic as the soundtrack is, my only wish is that these games could have featured original scores composed by Skywalker Sound just for the games, like we got with Dark Forces albeit in midi format. I would love to have heard an orchestrated version of Kyle's theme, or Jerec with his own theme, possibly providing for a more fitting final battle score. I found the Williams track they selected for that battle to be rather inappropriate, doing nothing to instill a sense of excitement and climax but achieving just the opposite: anticlimax.

 

They also feature a multiplayer mode which takes a Ph.D to figure out how to find and connect to available games on servers. Personally, I was never successful at joining someone else's game or attracting people to my own, so my experience with the multiplayer has been a rather boring, consisting of just me running around by my lonesome without anyone to battle. No matter: I have never had much interest in multiplayer modes anyway. But I know that many people's fondest memories of these games come from the multiplayer.

 

As I mentioned, these games were my introduction to the Expanded Universe, so they are very special for me. Indeed, they are the reason why I am still a Star Wars fan, having renewed an interest from my childhood that was fading, and for that I am grateful. They hold an especially important place in my heart, which is part of the reason why the EU, in its original continuity before the Disney buyout, will always be the true continuation of Star Wars for me.

 

So I have been typing this post on my phone all day long between calls on an unusually busy Saturday. Sorry in advance for any typos. I will correct them once I get to my PC when I get to my PC. I encourage all of you to download, play, and enjoy Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith on Steam or GOG.com.

 

May the Force be with you.

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#2
El Chalupacabra

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I remember both Dark Forces and DF2 Jedi Knight/Mysteries of the Sith.  The level with the wasp things is bad ass.  Loved the fact that DF2 actually filmed its cut scenes, and if memory serves, that was the first Star Wars footage shot since ROTJ (excluding the ewoks and droids cartoon).  My DF2 box came with a picture of Darth Vader on it.  Seemed like such a bait and switch, but good thing the game was awesome.  Mysteries of the Sith, though on the same engine, seemed to have worse graphics. 

 

Love all of them.  DF2 was my all time favorite Star Wars game, until KOTOR.  Shadows of the Empire deserves a shout out, since it was the direct competitor (N64) to the Playstation version of Dark Forces.   


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#3
Zerimar Nyliram

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Actually, the game's cutscenes featured the first fully-rendered lightsabers since Return of the Jedi!

See, I'm a bit weird: KOTOR is what I deem the best Star Wars game, but Jedi Knight is my favorite Star Wars game (and favorite game, period). It's kind of weird how the two might not necessarily be the same.

Yeah, I had the first editions of both games, which is why the boxes look so beaten up. They were repackaged a year later and sold together on one box with Darth Vader on the cover.



#4
El Chalupacabra

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KOTOR probably wouldn't be around if it weren't for DK2 Jedi Knight.  That was the first game to feature the light side/dark side paths, I believe.  KOTOR just built on DK2, then added the D20 system to it.  I also love the Jedi Knight games Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy, but I have to say that when they decided to CGI all the cut scenes for those games, I found it a bit jarring and disappointing, because I loved the DK2 filmed cut scenes.   Just think how much more awesome those games could have been if the original actors reprised their roles for Outcast and Academy.


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#5
Dark Wader

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Loved Jedi Knight and Outcast...I think I played the Jedi Knight demo as much as I ended up playing the full game when I could finally "afford" a copy. 

 

I'd also probably say KOTR is the best SW games, but my favorite would probably end up being Rogue Leader on Gamecube. 


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#6
Zerimar Nyliram

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El Chalupacabra: Same here. I was always disappointed that the newer games did not feature live-action actors, or that Jason Court and Angela Harry did not reprise their roles as Kyle and Jan. Although I now realize that Court was a rather poor actor, and Jeff Bennet was definitely the superior voice actor. Still, when I think of Kyle Katarn, I think of Jason Court (which kind of has me baffled as to why nearly all official depictions of Kyle never attempt to make him look anything like Court).


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#7
Filthy Jawa

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Maybe they'd have to pay him for likeness rights(?)
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#8
Odine

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Or maybe he's got a face for radio/voicework.
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#9
El Chalupacabra

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Maybe they'd have to pay him for likeness rights(?)

That would be my guess.

 

While I remember DK2 JK very well, I didn't play Mysteries of the Sith much, and don't remember finishing the game.  Yesterday, I  viewed some walk through on youtube of MOTS, and looked fun, yet tedious in parts.   I forgot the majority of the game, except those wasp things!  

 

Another game I remember playing around the time those came out was Rebel Assault II.  Also had some filmed cut scenes.  Not a very good game, but I respected the attempt it made.  Probably the most notable thing about it is on level 1 (or was it 2, technically), you fly the un-Millenium Falcon...just some freighter that happens to look just like the Falcon, that the player uses to escape an Imperial base. 


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#10
Brett

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Lot of memories with those games. Jerec was awesome... I remember getting my ass handed to me in multiplayer... using the SPORK mods. Yeah. The Jedi lore and how it was integrated into those games was really cool. If anyone needs a prime example of "what makes Star Wars Star Wars" outside the original films, I say look at the Dark Forces and Jedi Knight games.


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#11
Odine

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Lot of memories with those games. Jerec was awesome... I remember getting my ass handed to me in multiplayer... using the SPORK mods. Yeah. The Jedi lore and how it was integrated into those games was really cool. If anyone needs a prime example of "what makes Star Wars Star Wars" outside the original films, I say look at the Dark Forces and Jedi Knight games.

Never played Jedi Knight, but I would assume you are bang on.

And like Chalup I would add KOTOR and KOTOR2 to that list. When I think of Star Wars those games (and the stories within) are an indelible part of it's identity. I cannot separate them from the concept of what "Star Wars" is anymore.

Edited by Odine, 27 February 2018 - 04:22 AM.

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#12
Zerimar Nyliram

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Extend that same sentiment to the EU in general and you'll know exactly how I feel. ;)

But yes, I agree with you. Most of the '90s video games (X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Dark Forces, Jedi Knight, etc.), along with KOTOR in the early 2000s, are some of the most authentic Star Wars experiences I have ever had. It is hard to put into words the feelings I had while playing them.


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#13
El Chalupacabra

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To me, Star Wars games just haven't been the same since EA took over.  I know the graphics are awesome, but I have ZERO interest in ANY of the Battlefront games, old or new (latest looks pretty, but looks like a boring play through...I'll stick to viewing it from youtube).  I unfortunately didn't have any interest in the TOR MMORPG (yeah I know you can play it like an RPG pretty much but MMORPGs have too many meaningless side quests).   

 

I loved the Rogue Squadron movies, lesser extent the Xwing, Tie Fighters games.  But IMHO, Star Wars games excel as RPG like KOTOR and KOTOR 2 or RPG/FPS hybrids like the Kyle Katarn games were, too me, the high water marks for Star Wars games. Also Shadows of the Empire in there, too.  As for the Prequel Era games, I also loved Bounty Hunter, and have to say Clone Wars was a surprisingly fun game, too.   I was always sad they never released a KOTOR 3 on the Mass Effect engine. Liked the movie scenes and first time play through with the Force Unleashed, but they just don't do it for me like the Kyle Katarn games and KOTOR games. 

 

 

 

 

Lot of memories with those games. Jerec was awesome... I remember getting my ass handed to me in multiplayer... using the SPORK mods. Yeah. The Jedi lore and how it was integrated into those games was really cool. If anyone needs a prime example of "what makes Star Wars Star Wars" outside the original films, I say look at the Dark Forces and Jedi Knight games.

Agreed.  And for me, add KOTOR.


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#14
The Kurgan

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Those games were good. Jedi Academy was fun too.
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#15
RamonAtila

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I remember playing Jedi Outcast and having the bombest time. I used the cheat code that gave me unlimited force powers and allowed me to even fly unlimited distances. It was weird because I would just fly through every level at one point just completely clear the stage by zooming through. And I have to admit using the cheat codes took away the fun of the final boss battle, but anyway the game was great. I enjoyed Luke in it. I enjoyed the cloud city level. I tried playing Jedi Knight some time later. The game felt old to me and I didnt enjoy it as much.


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#16
El Chalupacabra

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Dark Forces II Jedi Knight is a hard game to get in to, if you didn't play it back in the day, and before Jedi Outcast or Jedi Academy.  It's not game play per se, but the graphics are very dated by today's standards.  

 

But if you did play DFII JK back in the day and liked it, then it's hard not to have nostalgia for it. 



#17
Zerimar Nyliram

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What's weird is that I never got the chance to play the original Dark Forces back in the day, and could never get the CD-ROM to run on my PC. I finally played it midway through the 2000s on PlayStation, and it was okay, but I kept hearing about how the experience paled in comparison to the original PC version. Finally, in 2015, with the advent of GOG.com, I was able to play the PC version of Dark Forces, and it absolutely blew me away! I had finally experienced what others had experienced twenty years ago, and although the graphics were lousy and the controls extremely irritating, I could not help but be thoroughly impressed.

Since I came to the game late you would think my experience would have been similar to Ramon's experience with Jedi Knight, but it was not like that at all. I do think it depends on the person and not just the nostalgia factor.



#18
El Chalupacabra

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Yeah, mileage may vary, and depends on what graphics level you are used to.  Some people can't get past graphics, others are all about game play itself and don't care about graphics.  





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