Which Star Wars game would you have preferred: a Dark side Rogue Squadron, called Dark Squadron, or a Chewbacca action adventure?
That’s exactly the dilemma publisher LucasArts faced in late 2003, according to a new video by DidYouKnowGaming?. On the one hand there was Factor 5, developer of the Rogue Squadron series, and on the other, LucasArts’ internal development studio. The latter prevailed but never saw the light of day, because George Lucas himself canned it, apparently not keen on the idea of Chewbacca leading a game.
The Chewbacca game concept followed his life as a bounty hunter between Star Wars films 3 and 4 – his journey from a warrior on homeworld Kashyyk to co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon and best bud of Han Solo.
The team making the Chewbacca game went on to make what would become Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
It’s Factor 5’s Dark Squadron game, however, that has a more interesting tale to tell.
Dark Squadron was conceived in 2003 to fully realise an Imperial campaign that was teased in the brilliant Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader, which had two bonus levels that let you play as Darth Vader and prevent Luke Skywalker from blowing up the Death Star, and then lay waste to the rebels on Yavin.
Dark Squadron would apparently feature expanded tactical options that let you call in (via game currency) land or ground reinforcements ranging from AT-ATs to giant Star Destroyer capital ships. The on-foot sections of Rogue Squadron 3: Rebel Strike, which were pants, would not return and there would be a stronger focus on vehicle missions.
Alas, LucasArts favoured the Chewbacca game – a political decision according to some – but that wasn’t the end for Rogue Squadron.
Factor 5 bounced back with idea of a remastered Rogue Squadron Collection featuring major improvements, and the idea was green-lighted Factor 5 agreed to make it for Xbox – enabling online play for the first time.
The Rogue Squadron Collection was in development for Xbox until April 2004, at which point a new boss took over the struggling LucasArts and canned the game. But that still wasn’t the end for Rogue Squadron.
After Factor 5 finished early PS3 game Lair, also pants, it came up with the idea of remastering the Rogue Squadron Collection for Nintendo’s Wii. Crucially the Wii remaster would include a motion-sensing Lightsaber fighting mode and a speeder bike racing mode.
Moreover, the Wii Rogue Squadron Collection would run at 60 frames-per-second, support even the Wii Balance Board accessory (press down to accelerate), and have an entire local co-op campaign (as well as other exclusively local multiplayer options). There’s footage in the embedded video – it looks great.
Development of the Wii Rogue Squadron Collection went smoothly until late 2008 when Factor 5 faced – and ultimately closed because of – bankruptcy. Factor 5 was also making an open-world Superman game. A new studio, Whiteharvest (briefly Bluharvest), was formed from the ashes, taking over the IP and even finishing the Wii Rogue Squadron game, but lawsuits about unpaid Factor 5 employees, which included accusations of fraud, prevented LucasArts from releasing it – due to the perceived negative connotations of doing so.
The Factor 5 lawsuits weren’t settled until 2015 (fraud was thrown out but employees were reimbursed) by which time the Wii generation had passed. The Wii Rogue Squadron Collection was finished but was never released.
Incidentally, while we’re on the topic of Chewbacca, Star Wars Battlefront’s upcoming Death Star paid downloadable content will add Chewbacca as a hero character. It’s due September.