A Day Long Remembered.

April 24, 2004. “This will be a day long remembered.” For on this date, the valiant freedom fighters Lando Calrissian (Me, piloting the Millennium Falcon) and Wedge Antilles (Sven, piloting the X-wing) managed to not only enter into the Empire’s second (“armed and fully operational”) Death Star, but blow up the power generator (“Now lock onto the strongest power source. It should be the power generator.”), and fly out the winding and narrow passage ways (“You could run of room real fast”) at breakneck speeds in order to beat the chasing flames of the explosion.

Now, I’ve talked about this game a bit, and I’ve mentioned that the one player game was very hard, and the multi-player version was even more difficult… but I can’t even begin to describe how impossible we thought this level was. First off, I must give much props to Sven, who picked up this game very quickly. The first day we played it, he was a little shaky, but then started getting the hang of it, and we managed to make it through about 3 or 4 levels before coming up against a fairly difficult level (Prisoners of the Maw) and calling it a day. The next time over, we took that level down, then after some difficulty with our first Star Destroyer encounter, we went on a tear, wiping out levels on the first try (Our efforts on the Imperial Heist level were particularly note worthy, suffering few losses on but our 3rd try on a level that was one of great frustration for me when playing through the one player game. This particular level requires that you fly in low, and avoid a number of radar towers so as not to be detected… until you steal a Imperial Tie Fighter, and use that to gain access to an Imperial Shuttle which you then use to fly away.) Anyway, we continued to progress nicely, then decided to head back to old levels to acquire a number of technology upgrades (there is one tech upgrade hidden on each level, and many of them are very, very important [stronger lasers, stronger shields, advanced homing missiles, etc.]) We managed to acquire these in no time, and then fought the epic battle of Endor (That big ole’ space battle at the end of Return of the Jedi) We zipped through that level without much problem, taking out two Star Destroyers in the process. We had but one mission left: Fly into the Death Star, destroy it, and fly out before the flames destroyed our ship. No problem.

We played that level for quite some time. Quite some time. The problems (and they were quite.. well.. frustrating) were:

  1. If either one of us crashed, we both had to start over from the very entrance of the Death Star
  2. If you touch or bump anything in those narrow passageways, (littered with pipes, bars, and other obstructions, along with frequent tight turns and inclines/declines) you either instantly blew up, or were knocked so violently off course that there was no hope for salvaging the run.
  3. We were being chased by very annoying TIE Fighters that you has to first allow to pass you (i.e. fly from side to side in the hopes that they’d fly by), then shoot down. If they didn’t pass you, they’d destroy you. (Again, much props to Sven for taking care of these guys.)
  4. The Millennium Falcon is shaped like a giant pot pie, and handles like a comatose Manatee (“It just so happens you live in the ocean cause you ain’t got no job!”)

So there were some strikes against us. The first day we reached the level (the same day we had cleared a number of levels in a row, and were feeling quite good about ourselves) we were quickly put in our place. After repeated (read “Hours”) failures, we managed to make it all the way into the core (by holding on to the brake the entire way into the core.) We then blew up the power generator. Amazing! We rule. We then began our exit. We began our return, and crashed instantly… and again… and again. So, slow and steady, just as we had on the way in, we worked our way out…. and were instantly overtaken by the explosion… and game over. Yup, that’s right.. You get hit by that fire, and you start over from the beginning of the level. The game got the finger, and we called it a day. A number of weeks later, Sven was again free, and we set aside Saturday morning to teach the Empire a lesson it would not forget. We started out confident.. and after an hour or so, we got pretty good at making it into the core and destroying the power generator. We sucked royally at getting out though. We’d try to hall ass so as to avoid the flames, and succeed in ramming our ships into just about every inch of the first few sections of the escape route. More problematic was the fact that we kept running into each other.. neither one of us wanting to get caught by the flames chasing after us… An entire morning spent, and we had nothing to show for it. We ended our day dejected, and fearing that the Empire may have become too powerful….

April 24, 2004. With a new burst of optimism, we took to our ships, and again proved ourselves quite adept and piloting into the core.. now with a bit more speed and gusto (leading to the inevitable cockiness, and repeated explosions). Plans and strategies were constructed for our exit, and we noted some progress. Nevertheless, hours past, and frustration set in. After a number of hours, and repeated declarations that “This was it! This time we’re going to succeed!” the impossible happened… Sven saw the bright and shining glow of stars at the end of a long passageway. As he approached, I sped along after him, and was knocked violently off course by what I maintain was an invisible force sent by a being of pure evil… My poor ship went careening into the mesh of pipes along the wall, and burst into flames. A part of me died at that moment… the part that foolishly believed that good things did indeed still happen in this world… Sven masked his contempt for me quite well, and we pretended to take encouragement from this experience, certain that such a close call could only mean that victory was inevitable…. Some time later, we again found ourselves nearing the exit. Flames were beginning to appear on my screen, and I sped up to avoid them…causing what I can only imagine was some sort of freak electrical malfunction within the Falcon, causing it to burst into flames…. (There are some that might believe it was caused by me smashing into a red pipe on the left side of the tunnel, but quite frankly, I’m skeptical). As I exploded, the flames overtook my ship, and we were kindly greeted with a “Game Over” screen. The TV got the finger.

So twice now we had come very, very close, and twice, I had screwed it up. I was not going to let this happen again. We made it back to the core, and began working our way out…. and then it happened. Sven and I were right next to each other, his X-Wing slightly ahead of me as we twisted and turned through the now (far too) familiar Death Star passageways. As we approached the final passageway, flames began to surround my screen. “We’ve got to speed up”, I anxiously urged, as I hammered on the accelerator, bumping into the back of the X-wing. Sven took off in his craft, moving ahead cautiously, while weaving through the last of the tangled passages and into the opening that lead to space, and victory… All that was left was me… the flames right behind me, and the freedom of the entire Galaxy in front of me. As I made it through the last passageway I reached the place where I had twice before failed so miserably… With no time to slow down, I pushed ahead… Suddenly I was rocked again by that unseen force, sending me plummeting to the bottom of the passage. Bouncing violently off the ground, I was left with no shields, hurtling towards certain death. I slammed on the brakes, and turned sharply, screaming things at the TV that no amount of flowers and candy will ever make up for. Aiming towards the opening, with flames surrounding me, I slammed on the accelerator… and the screen went blank.

A pause

A whir from the Gamecube…

We were then greeted with a beautiful clip from the movie, as an X-Wing and the Millennium Falcon fly out of the second Death Star just as it explodes out in a fantastic flurry of light. The Empire has been defeated, and peace can once again return to the Galaxy.

To call this victory satisfying would be so pitiful an understatement that I dare not even try to think of what to call it. After we had celebrated, we decided to head back to some old levels with some new ships we acquired (including the very slick Jedi Starfighter and Slave I) Both of these vehicles sported those snazzy seismic charges that Jango Fett used in Episode 2. Turns out those things completely rule, and Sven and I used them to destroy the Star Destroyer in Razor Rendezvous, completing the mission in 22 seconds. It was freaking awesome.

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