Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi
Happy Revenge Of The 5th! The daring sequel to "May the Fourth" where millions of Star Wars fans celebrate the forty-plus year franchise. There are a lot of "fours" in the first sentence alone, which is why I'm more of a fan of its less-appreciated sibling, "May 5th." Last year's "Star Wars Day" feature was of the obscure yet cult classic Star Wars Demolition, a car combat title that was a re-skinned Vigilante 8. This was arguably for the best as the games it was based on were already amazing in their own way. This was also a lesson learned from a few years ago when Star Wars was in an experimenting state. "Revenge Of The Fifth" will feature less flattering moments in Star Wars history and Masters of Teras Kasi is always a solid choice.
Depending on who you ask as a fan, Teras Kasi may be low-hanging fruit at this point as there are very few who hadn't heard about its infamy. Released during the blooming rise of 3D fighters, LucasArts saw the trending fighting game genre as a potential platform for the next Star Wars game. Teras Kasi shares the honor of being one of the first weapons-based 3D fighters, joining Namco's Soul Edge and Koei's Dynasty Warriors. In hindsight, it's amusing to consider that two franchises had fighting games as one of their first 3D games and both series never touched the genre again. While the legacy of Star Wars Masters Of Teras Kasi has been retold countless times, this piece being no different, I always had a burning question. Exactly what came from the ashes of this game? How did this even come about?
Unfortunately, there wasn't much of an extravagant story behind its development. It was as I mentioned before, LucasArts saw dollar signs (I'm aware it's LucasFilm but I'm keeping things time sensitive) and used games like Tekken as an influence. No big surprise there. It was also no surprise that the lead director of the game hadn't worked on much else after this. For a group of developers who never worked on a fighting game before much less a game on the PlayStation before this one, Teras Kasi could be far worse.
New Star Wars fans who may not be familiar with the overall plot of the original trilogy shouldn't worry about being lost in this game's plot. Familiar faces including Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader make their appearance including characters specifically developed for this game. While characters like Arden Lyn are pretty cool, you have far more infamous examples like the Tusken Raider unfortunately named "Hoar." Perhaps the most unique addition to the game's roster was Mara Jade, a character that debuted in the Thrawn novel trilogy. As this trilogy took place after the original movie trilogy, Mara Jade's inclusion may or may have been canonically correct at the time.
Regardless of whether or not Luke Skywalker's future wife belonged in a game where he was still trying to stop his evil father, Mara Jade doesn't exist in the current canon timeline as we know it, rendering this moot. However, this is the first and one of the rare appearances she's ever made in a video game and probably ever will make. Thus, this is one of the few positives I can give Star Wars Masters Of Teras Kasi. LucasArts was able to make an interesting first impression on others with a character that the majority would have never heard of.
I've never played Teras Kasi growing up, only hearing about its existence like most people have when they hear "Star Wars fighting game." They see the clunky awkward gameplay and say "Oh I gotta try this for myself," and honestly? It's an average fighting game that tries to be too much like a fighting game and less like a Star Wars game. Teras Kasi, in-universe, is based on martial arts. I'm not the most versed when it comes to Star Wars and its lore, but I always assumed the philosophies of the Force itself were martial arts. Looking at any combat involving Force uses shows a display of martial arts with swordplay and weaponry, wearing space armor based on the Japanese films that served as some of its inspiration.
At the time, I think that instead of giving the fans what I assume they would have wanted at the time, which was epic lightsaber duels and flashy movements, they gave them a fighting game. Tekken was an inspiration, but the only real "Star Wars" character on the roster could be Yoshimitsu. Unless there's a roster of 20 Yoshimitsus, this is hardly beneficial. Ironically enough, it would be Bandai Namco themselves who would properly represent Star Wars as a fighting game. In Soul Calibur 4, The Apprentice was available as a guest character with Yoda and Vader available as Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 exclusives.
Eventually, both characters were available for both consoles, but it gave us everything we could ever want in a "Star Wars" game. There's a healthy balance of martial arts and tricky saber movements, force abilities are used with certain attacks, and Yoda hops everywhere when he attacks. All three characters were made to work with the Soul Calibur 4 engine without compromising their identity. The same couldn't be said for Teras Kasi because Chewie with a bow is not that much different from Leia with a blaster pistol, except of course when hand-to-hand combat would be involved.
Fortunately for Star Wars fans, it wouldn't be all doom and gloom as an unlikely developer would release their own homage to Star Wars and other "space operas." Capcom would release Star Gladiator shortly before Masters of Teras Kasi, a weapons-based space fighter with a roster of fighters who would feel right at home in Star Wars. The primary antagonist himself, Bilstein, can be compared to Vader in terms of design as well. While Star Gladiator's story is more compact than Star Wars, gameplay-wise it would have been the perfect base for Teras Kasi to copy instead of Tekken.
Doing any of the moves in-game is an exercise in futility as there's no way to check the move list for any of the characters at all. Players who may not even have the manual are left flailing and mashing buttons hoping for something to come out. I recommend checking out the guide on GameFAQs for less of a headache and to see part of what Teras Kasi was going for. If the instructions were made available in-game and easy to understand, I don't think it would have received as much hate as it did.
I'm morbidly curious to see what a Star Wars fighting game would be like in 2023. Absolute devastation filled with microtransactions, I'm sure, but what if in an alternate future where the Legends timeline was included in the canon, we had a giant Marvel vs Capcom 2-style Star Wars game? Roster size wouldn't be an issue, there'd be enough characters for there to be ten games, each with a unique cast. Or, as Dynasty Warriors learned as well, not everything has to be a fighting game. As much notable dislike as this game gets, Star Wars Masters Of Teras Kasi remains one of gaming's biggest enigmas,