Is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Canon?
In 2008 and 2010, LucasArts released two games under the title Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. The initial game and its sequel were supposed to be big hits for LucasArts but as it turned out, The Force Unleashed received lightly positive comments, while its sequel was heavily criticized for a lot of its gameplay aspects. So after reading the review you might wonder is The Force Unleashed canon?
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was, before Disney’s acquisition, part of the so-called “C-Canon”, along with most of the comic books and other derivative materials. This meant that it was only canon in those aspects that did not contradict the books and the movies. After Disney’s acquisition, it became part of the Legends universe and completely lost its canon status.
In the rest of the article, we are going to discuss the role of The Force Unleashed video games within the Star Wars canon. You are going to find out whether the games ever were part of the canon and whether they still are, as well as some information on the games’ synopses and endings. Enjoy!
Are The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed II canon?
We’ve already said something about the circumstances surrounding the games’ publication in the introduction, so we are going to give you some details about their plot here. The games are actually set in the unexplored time period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, focusing on Darth Vader’s endeavors to rid the Galaxy of the remaining Jedi. This is how the first game was officially summarized:
“The expansive story, created under direction from George Lucas, is set during the largely unexplored era between Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. In it, players will assist the iconic villain in his quest to rid the universe of Jedi – and face decisions that could change the course of their destiny. (…) Meanwhile, as a revolutionary behavioral-simulation engine, euphoria enables interactive characters to move, act and even think like actual human beings, adapting their behavior on the fly and resulting in a different payoff every single time.”(Amazon)
The sequel follows up on the ending of The Force Unleashed and is set roughly six months after the first game, with its plot being summarized as follows:
“As ruthless apprentice to Darth Vader, Starkiller was mercilessly schooled in the ways of the dark side, commanded to exterminate the last of the purged Jedi Order, and groomed for the ultimate Sith power play: assassination of the emperor. He served without question, killed without remorse, and lost his heart without warning to beautiful Imperial fighter pilot Juno Eclipse, never suspecting that he was just a tool in the schemes of his masters – until it was too late to escape their lethal betrayal.
Juno mourned Starkiller as dead…but now he is back, purged of all memories and programmed to kill. As fate brings Juno and Starkiller closer to reuniting, with Darth Vader determined not to lose his assassin a second time, they will both have to make a stand. The prize is freedom. The punishment for failing will be eternal enslavement to the dark side of the Force….”(Amazon)
As said, the games, despite their visual superiority and their narrative complexity, never became massive hits. The first game was described as mostly good, but the character development as well as the interventions in the canon were not that well received by fans and critics. The sequel was criticized for complicating the plot even more and for being overly short and inconclusive. All of this led to the cancellation of a planned third installment.
As far as the current canon status of the games is concerned, The Force Unleashed is, as of Disney’s acquisition, not part of the Star Wars canon. Disney significantly reduced the Star Wars canon, following, more or less, Lucas’ initial idea on what the canon should be. This is what we know:
“While Lucasfilm always strived to keep the stories created for the EU consistent with our film and television content as well as internally consistent, Lucas always made it clear that he was not beholden to the EU. He set the films he created as the canon. This includes the six Star Wars episodes, and the many hours of content he developed and produced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These stories are the immovable objects of Star Wars history, the characters and events to which all other tales must align.”– “The Legendary Star Wars Expanded Universe Turns a New Page”, April 25th, 2014
Now, Disney did exactly this, reducing the large canon to only the movies, the television series and one unfinished script. This means that The Force Unleashed became part of the Legends universe, which is part of the larger Expanded Universe, but is more of an alternative take on the canon than anything else. Were the games ever canon? We’ll tell you more about that topic in the last section of this article.
Which The Force Unleashed ending is canon?
As for the in-universe canon, those who have played the games will know that both The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed II have two alternative endings, depending on which side of the Force the player choses. For the first game, the choices are as follows:
- If the player chooses the Light Side, Starkiller defeats the Emperor, but spares him at Kota’s urging. The Emperor unleashes more Force lightning, but Starkiller absorbs it, sacrificing himself to allow Kota and the senators escape on the Rogue Shadow.
Later, the Emperor and Vader look over Starkiller’s corpse, concerned that he has become a martyr to inspire the newly formed Rebel Alliance. On Kashyyyk, the senators decide to proceed with the rebellion and Leia chooses Starkiller’s family crest as their symbol.
Outside, Juno talks to Kota, who tells her that among Starkiller’s dark thoughts, Juno herself was one bright spot that he held onto right until his death.
- If the player chooses the Dark Side, Starkiller finishes off Vader and is congratulated by the Emperor, who commands him to kill Kota to sever his ties to the Jedi and become a Sith Lord.
Instead, Starkiller attacks the Emperor, who blocks the attack and crushes him with the Rogue Shadow, severely injuring Starkiller and killing Juno, Kota, and the senators.
Starkiller later awakens to find his broken body being grafted with armor so that he could continue serving the Emperor, though he assures Starkiller that he, like Vader, will be replaced once he finds a new, more promising apprentice.
As you can see, the endings aren’t that optimistic. The sequel continues on the first ending and offers the players these two choices:
- If the player chooses to the Light Side, Starkiler spares Vader, who is arrested by the Rebel Alliance. Starkiller holds Juno and mourns, but she unexpectedly revives and kisses him. Later, Princess Leia Organa arrives to congratulate Starkiller and Kota for their actions, claiming that Vader’s capture marks an important victory for the Alliance.
While imprisoned aboard the Rogue Shadow, Vader is confronted by Starkiller, who tells him that by making a choice of his own free will to spare him, he is finally free of the Dark Lord’s influence. Vader responds that as long as Juno lives, he will always have control over Starkiller, but he ignores him and leaves.
The game ends with Starkiller and Juno preparing to travel into hyperspace to transport Vader to Dantooine, unaware of Fett following them.
- If the player chooses the Dark Side, Starkiller attempts to kill Vader, but is impaled from behind by a shrouded figure. Kota attacks the figure, but is swiftly defeated.
After pushing Kota and his men into the ocean with the Force, the figure reveals itself as a dark Starkiller clone, while Vader explains to the dying Starkiller that he lied about not being able to perfect the cloning process and that he has finally achieved his goal of creating the perfect apprentice. After taking one last look at Juno’s corpse, Starkiller succumbs to his wounds and dies.
Vader orders his apprentice to take Starkiller’s ship and hunt down the leaders of the Rebel Alliance. The dark apprentice looks at Juno’s corpse and moves on, not caring about her.
The game ends with the dark apprentice using the Rogue Shadow to enter hyperspace to follow his orders. In the novelization, this scenario briefly appears in a Force vision Starkiller has on the Salvation while contemplating revenge on Vader.
The second game offers one positive outcome and one negative one. So, which of these are canon? As per the games’ official novelizations, the canon endings of both games are the ones where the player choses the Light Side of the Force, and the sequel is based on that option.
Were The Force Unleashed games ever canon?
As far as the games’ pre-Disney canon status is concerned, they both were and were not canon. Namely, these two games were part of the so-called “C-Canon”, the least important canon. The movies were, of course, the primary source for the canon, the books came second, while the “C-Canon” consisted of comic books, video games and the likes. What does this mean?
Well, this means that the games actually were canon but only if they did not contradict the books and the movies. So, if you picked up all the information from the movies and the books and found something that happened in the games that did not contradict these information, you could be sure that it was canon. Everything else? Non-canon from the very start.