Warning: The following reveals a minor plot point in the new Star Wars movie. If you want to go see Solo: A Star Wars Story completely spoiler-free, this is not the article you’re looking for.
Buried amongst the intergalactic hijinks in Solo: A Star Wars Story is an obscure video game reference, but one that gamers of a certain age will pick up on immediately. It’s notable because not only was it a video game, but a bad video game — one of the worst ever released bearing the Star Wars name.
In one scene Qi’ra (Emelia Clark), Han Solo’s former flame, dispatches a bad guy with a slick martial arts move. She then reveals that another crime lord had taught her a fighting style known as “Teräs Käsi.”
Old-school PlayStation gamers may recognize the name from the 1997 game Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi by LucasArts. It was a ponderous fighting game derivative of franchises like Tekken, and it featured such Star Wars luminaries as Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader stringing together combos by punching and kicking each other across a variety of environments, including the ice-swept plains of Hoth. There was even an unlockable bikini-clad “Slave Leia” character in the game.
It was especially memorable because it was bad. Really bad. IGN gave Masters of Teräs Käsi a 4/10, saying that “watching the fighters move is almost like watching animated versions of the Kenner toys.” The controls were sluggish and the special moves underwhelming.
Kotaku profiled the game in a 2015 feature, noting that the martial arts discipline had first appeared in the Steve Perry Star Wars novel Shadows of the Empire. Perry coined the term from the Finnish words for “steel” and “hands.”
In addition to the multimedia cross-platform push for Star Wars properties by LucasArts in the late ‘90s (Shadows of the Empire was also a well-received N64 game), Teräs Käsi was an attempt to add more women warriors to the lore, as production manager Camela Boswell explained to Star Wars Insider in 1998. “With this game, aside from Leia there was definitely a drive to get another strong female character,” Boswell said. “That was part of getting Arden Lyn off the ground.”
Arden stayed grounded, and the game has developed its own dubious distinction in video game lore. It won’t make anyone’s top-ten Star Wars games list, but it’s never too late for a reboot. Perhaps a virtual reality adaptation can finally give Teräs Käsi its due?
Solo: A Star Wars Story opened galaxy-wide on May 25, 2018.
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