Starhawk for PS3 Wasn’t the First Game Called Starhawk to Plagiarize Star Wars

Starhawk's New Planet Is a Lot Like Endor, But Without All Those Stupid EwoksI really enjoyed the PS3-exclusive Starhawk, though I was grumpy enough about the game’s later microtransactions that I sort of gave up on it. This, however, wasn’t until after I was able to point out that its planet Cypress was basically Endor from Return of the Jedi.

Recently, it’s come to my attention that the PS3 game wasn’t the first game to ever be called Starhawk; there was an arcade game of the same title made by Tim Skelly for Cinematronics back in the 1970s. While it wasn’t an official Star Wars game, it replicated the Death Star trench run of A New Hope, going so far as to include TIE fighters.

I’ve written a more extensive description of the arcade game over at GeekParty’s sister site Retrovolve, but let’s just say that Starhawk was an unscrupulous game that came out in the pre-crash era of game development, and it seems to be mostly forgotten at this point in time. In fact, I’m wondering if the folks over at LightBox Interactive were even aware of it when they were coming up with a title for their own online sci-fi shooter.

Either way, I’ve been getting the urge to return to Starhawk (the PS3 version, not the late-1970s version), though I’m almost certain that could only end in disappointment.

  • Godmars

    Plagiarize is an excessively strong word to be using in cases where a single element out of the entirety of something draws similarities to a far more known and iconic work. As is unscrupulous.

    • Josh Wirtanen

      “Plagiarize” is admittedly a hyperbolic word for the PS3 Starhawk, but the 1970s version was literally the Death Star trench run. “Unscrupulous” was referring to Cinematronic, who released the original Starhawk, and if you read up on them, I think the word is fairly accurate. Especially after reading Tim Skelly’s account of his employment there, which is available here:

      • Godmars

        Nineteen out of twenty 70s arcade games “borrowed” from Star Wars at the time. Likewise since its the pre-crash game you’re actually talking about,
        it comes off as both inaccurate and disingenuous to be making a connection to the latter game while using the words that you are.

        The guy who made a quarter munching Star Wars clone did so under bad conditions. That has as much to do with what people actually thought of the game at the time as it does with a title release decades later having a forest level. You may as well blame jungle levels from Halo for being responsible for forty year old working conditions.

        • Josh Wirtanen

          I was defending my use of two words, and I was agreeing with you that applying the word plagiarism to the PS3 Starhawk was hyperbolic. If you don’t like hyperbole, that’s fine. I agree that using a forest planet with speeder bikes and military outposts very reminiscent of Endor’s isn’t technically plagiarism, and I’m fine with Starhawk’s use of that stuff. It felt very reminiscent of Endor from Star Wars Battlefront II, minus the Ewoks, which was awesome. The point of the article wasn’t “Starhawk is evil and you should feel bad for playing it and LightBox should repent for making it.” I’m just saying they pulled something straight out of the original Star Wars trilogy, and they weren’t the first game called Starhawk to do that.

          And by referencing the Cinematronics article, I was talking about things like the conversation where they would, for example, take a Mattel handheld game and say, “Let’s make this,” and Skelly would say, “I don’t think we’re allowed to do that.” Then Cinematronics would make it anyway. “Unscrupulous” applies in that situation, as does “plagiarism.” Again, I’m not saying Cinematronics is evil for making Starhawk; the industry was very different back then and it was really common to see companies making licensed games without acquiring the license for them, then changing one or two tiny things, like swapping a color palate in the case of Sunman:

          I’m just saying it was a thing that happened. I’m not passing judgment.

        • Josh Wirtanen

          If your entire concern is the word “plagiarism,” I’ll think about changing the title. It was intended to be an obvious hyperbole, but if that’s not clear, I’ll change it.