The year was 1999. A plucky young lad fresh out of the 8th grade, I had just finished reading Timothy Zahn's fantastic Thrawn trilogy a year earlier, which began my immersion into the Star Wars expanded universe. There's a lot of good stuff to be found in said universe-the aforementioned Zahn books, the Rogue Squadron series, the Crimson Empire comics and so forth. So you can imagine my anticipation of The Phantom Menace, the long awaited beginning of the prequel trilogy.
The aftermath was...disheartening.
At first I tried to convince myself that it was still good, that it was just different. I tried to unsee what I has seen. Alas, I eventually succumbed to the realization that the excrement George Lucas wanted to call a film was the signal of the downfall of what I held dear. Combined with the collective crappiness of the Black Fleet books and the Dark Empire comics, I was ready to officially declare Star Wars dead to me. But then, something happened. You see, having had my Jedi fill with Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, I was now harboring a desire for some sort of Command and Conquer-type of Star Wars experience, where I could literally dominate the massive galaxy depicted in so many media. And on a trip through the game section of K-Mart, a little game by the name of Star Wars: Rebellion caught my eye...
"What is this?" I thought. Was this some part of the great universe far, far away that was somehow untainted by Phantom Menace's sin? I looked at the box, emblazoned with the underside of a massive Star Destroyer. Fleets of Rebel and Imperial starships raced towards each other preparing to do battle above a blood-red planet. I was hooked. I happened to have enough cash on hand for the purchase, but wait! PC-only, the box said. I would not have a computer of my own until two years later, and since an RTS requires many, many hours of constant play, simply using my school's computers wasn't an option. This presented a very serious problem.
My grandfather is a sucker for gadgets, even if he doesn't really know how to use them or what they're even for. The 50-inch plasma TV that is used mainly to watch golf in standard definition speaks volumes to this fact. As luck would have it, the day I bought Rebellion he had just gotten a brand new PC for "world webbing", which proceeded to only be used for golf sims and my grandmother's custom holiday greeting cards. I would spend the night at their house every now and then, and my grandfather's toy became the vessel for my galactic conquests.
I fired up the game and instantly liked what I saw. Here was the universe I was so attached to, not the garbage currently being spewed forth by LucasArts. Massive fleets of ships under my control, worlds to conquer, and all sorts of characters from the films, books, and beyond ready to perform their tasks. This was what I wanted. Naturally, I started as the Imperial side first. Honestly, what's a Star Wars 4X game if you can't build a damn Death Star? I took a look through the large Prima guide that came with the game and the ships and troops I would have at my disposal. Good memories came back. Star Destroyers, Mon Calamari Cruisers, X-Wings, TIE Defenders. These were mighty vessels, not the silly toys in the new films.
Big. Menacing. Lethal. Nobody who isn't named Arvel Crynd is going to screw with that.
What the hell? Are we supposed to fear the evil space Cheerios?
Things went well at first. I went, I saw, and I conquered. Planet after planet fell to me, and my armies grew ever stronger. I mean, I had legions of Dark Troopers at my disposal-those are like Stormtroopers but robots, which means they're ten times as awesome. The Rebels were on the run, and my new Death Star (!!!) was well on its way to completion. Hours upon hours went into the game, and my grandparents were satisfied enough that I wasn't on "the marijuana" or listening to "the rap music" that they let me be.
But then, disaster struck. Quite literally.
A completely unanticipated natural disaster wiped out almost all of my primary shipyards, and my new death star was now slated for completion in about 1100 days. What. The. Fuck. And not an hour later, the same damn thing happened to my secondary shipyards, and my brand new Super Star Destroyer (which was to be aptly named the Boon Doggle) was now cared for by only one shipyard instead of the thirteen that had been there until the game decided to cross-check me face first into a concrete wall for no goddamn reason! The Rebel scum started getting more aggressive shortly after that, slowly encroaching upon my hard-conquered worlds. It was as if they were conspiring with the game against me. Cursed Rebels-is there no manner of devilry to which you will not stoop?
The management & ruling side of things, the game's saving grace, was now wrecked and adrift in space. Ship-to-ship combat was a dud, with its clunky interface and extremely unintuitive controls causing me to go straight for the option to auto fight the battles. I was dumbstruck. Never had I been so into a game only to see my enthusiasm completely dashed by one broken mechanic. What could I have possibly done to deserve this? I had plenty of maintenance points. I hadn't angered any gods recently that I was aware of. And so, with the threat of completely fucking random natural disasters always over my head, I turned away. Star Wars had betrayed me once again, and my disillusion with the franchise was now even greater than before I had picked up the game.
So fuck you Star Wars: Rebellion. You're a dick.
The coming months proceeded to dash all hopes I had that LucasArts was somehow not going to succumb to the deluge of prequel-related crap that was now being shoved down fans' collective throats. I never picked up another book, read another comic, or expended currency on another game. The Star Wars from the original films, from the likes of TIE Fighter and Dark Forces, was gone. Gone forever.
Fast forward five years. I hadn't touched anything even remotely related to Star Wars since the Rebellion incident aside from the token viewing of Attack of the Clones. Then one day, my next-door neighbor in my college dorm told me about a new Star Wars game he was playing, and how it was "pretty good" so far. I scoffed a scoffing scoff and said I'd maybe try it later, when I in fact had no intention of doing so. However, it's difficult to ignore what your friend is playing when he lives literally twenty feet from you and has his door open all the time, and I had to admit, this Knights of the Old Republic business did look rather interesting...