Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi
|Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi|
Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi is a fighting game developed and published by LucasArts, which released for the PlayStation in 1997. Set in Star Wars universe, the Emperor seeks retaliation for the destruction of the Death Star and recruits the mysterious Arden Lyn to battle in the art of Teräs Käsi, an unarmed combat discipline, against leaders of the Rebel Alliance. The game features Star Wars Legends characters, including the Emperor's hand-turned Jedi Mara Jade.
Development for Masters of Teräs Käsi was handled internally at LucasArts. It was the first PlayStation title for the company, which presented challenges. Industrial Light & Magic assisted with motion capture, used for character animations. While spirits were high during the development and promotion of Masters of Teräs Käsi, the game was met with widespread criticism since its release. Criticisms range from a flimsy story to poor fighting mechanics.
Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi is a fighting game with a 3D gameplay element. The player is able to move their character not only forwards and back using the left and right, but can sidestep by using the up and down on the controller. There are three ways to achieve a win: knocking out the opponent, forcing the opponent out of the ring, or having the most health when time runs out. Rounds are timed, and the player must win two of three rounds to be declared the winner of the match.
Characters have an array of melee moves and also a few ranged attacks. The Force does not make an appearance in the game in the traditional sense. Instead, each character builds up a meter as they fight. The player can execute special moves related to the strength of the meter, which can unleash increasingly devastating attacks. In the game's story mode the player selects a character and then fights through a series of opponents in a tournament setting. Upon victory in the tournament players receive a full motion video (FMV) ending for that particular character.
Masters of Teräs Käsi features a simple story for a Star Wars title. The events take place between the Star Wars movies A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. The destruction of the Death Star at the hands of Luke Skywalker has severely crippled the Galactic Empire. The Emperor seeks retaliation against Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance. He recruits the services of the mysterious assassin Arden Lyn to eliminate the Alliance's key members. Luke and the others discover the Empire's plot and challenge Arden, face to face, in the art of Teräs Käsi, an unarmed combat discipline. This pits the rebels in one-on-one fights against the Empire's elite warriors.
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The game was first announced at E3 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia. Internal company hopes were high during the development cycle. Tony Hsieh, project lead on Masters of Teräs Käsi, felt that it "[would] be hard to go wrong." While promoting the game in an issue of Star Wars Insider, writer Jack Lyon stated "Short attention span Star Wars freaks will surely dig Masters of Teräs Käsi, LucasArts' first fighting game." A backstory was developed in which Darth Vader uses a mysterious master of Teräs Käsi, Arden Lyn, to eliminate high-ranking members of the rebellion in hand-to-hand combat. Development of the game took approximately 19 months according to Lead Artist Craig Rundels. Softimage was used for character creation. It was the first LucasArts title developed for the PlayStation. "No one had programmed a game on the PlayStation [...] We were learning the hardware, how to make art on it, how to program on it while we were developing Teräs Käsi." A demo was released on disc in the third issue of Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine.
Motion capture was used to capture the character animations in the game. LucasFilm partner Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) generated the animation. The size of each character presented issues during development and developers had to find ways to adjust the moves, based on the opponent. For example: Chewbacca will throw lower punches when fighting Princess Leia. Each character averaged around 1,200 polygons, roughly twice the count of similar fighting games. In developing the button combo system the staff wanted buttons to have context with the character's movements. "We want to make it so that when you hit the left button, you really hit with your left arm combo."
Multiple minor Star Wars characters were given additional treatment within the game, and one was entirely new to the franchise. Arden Lyn and Jodo Kast both had only minor roles in the then Expanded Universe. Lyn was given a primary role in the game, while Kast began life as an alternate costume for Boba Fett before later becoming a unique character. Gammorean guard Thok had previously had a film appearance within Jabba's palace in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Hoar was an entirely new character created for the game. He was later given additional backstory, including ties to characters in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and the video game Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. In an interview with Destructoid, Capcom's Seth Killian mentioned that Star Gladiator was originally pitched as a Star Wars fighting game. Ultimately the pitch did not succeed and LucasArts instead developed Masters of Teräs Käsi. To promote the game, Star Wars: The Official Magazine ran a contest in June 1998 in which a black PlayStation console with the Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi logo on the top was given out. "Teräs Käsi" refers to a martial art used in the game; both words have been borrowed from Finnish (incidentally, also Estonian) and they literally mean "steel hand".
Reception and legacy
Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi received mixed to negative reviews from critics. It ranked 10th in ScrewAttack's Top 10 Worst Fighting Games. In the book Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts, author Rob Smith said the game served as a reminder that "simply attaching the Star Wars name to a game wasn't enough." Smith did note that despite this Teräs Käsi did have successful sales during the 1997 holiday season. In March 2004, GMR placed Masters of Teräs Käsi in its top five Star Wars game of all time. GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann felt that the game played like it was "stuck in slow motion". He cited sluggish movement, uninteresting combos and unbalanced characters as weak points within the game. Adam Douglas of IGN also responded similarly. Of the controls he said "I ended up mashing the buttons more than one time hoping the harder I pressed the quicker they’d respond. No such luck." Kotaku's Patrick Klepek echoed these statements and further added that the game lacked depth. His colleague Luke Plunket called Masters of Teräs Käsi "possibly the worst Star Wars game ever made." Plunkett felt that it was a wasted opportunity. It was "something that could have been worthwhile" he said.
Matt Skorupa of Gamezilla in a more positive review scored the game an 84 out of 100. He stated that the game's character roster and varied environments were selling points for the game. Unlike some of the negative reviews, Skorupa found the button combos simple and "easy to pull off." He did note that non-Star Wars fans could be put off by the game. IGN's Adam Douglas felt the game had solid graphics, and that the characters match their film and comic counterparts. He also praised the fact that the game's hidden characters were "cool as well."
Since the release of Masters of Teräs Käsi some attempts have been made to re-introduce Star Wars within in the fighting game genre. An untitled prototype Star Wars fighter was under development at Studio Gigante in 2005, but ultimately was rejected. The idea of using Star Wars characters in a fighting game would resurface when Yoda, Starkiller and Darth Vader became playable characters in Soulcalibur IV. Another Star Wars fighting game, this time based on the 2008 television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, was released in 2008. Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Lightsaber Duels was released exclusively for the Wii. Like Masters of Teräs Käsi it received mixed to average reviews.
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