The transient Star Wars Celebration docked at the convention center in Anaheim, California this year and I just had to be there – for some of it at least. And while the Battlefront gameplay and new trailer may not have headlined the event’s opening day yesterday, I was in the presence of director J. J. Abrams, producer Kathleen Kennedy, iconic sets and props – and don’t forget the countless fans donning impressive and creative cosplay. Plus, I clocked some hands on time in Bandai Namco’s Star Wars: Battle Pod that recently made its arcade debut in January, and will do my best to detail this snapshot of my immersive experience in a galaxy far, far away.
Walking through the crowds of people, I found myself sucked into the gravitational pull of the Star Wars Battlefront signage. As I approached it, I was only reminded that nothing spectacular related to Battlefront was scheduled for the day. Then, another glowing sign and some semblance of a crowd caught my attention. I stepped into the then barely-formed queue, and while waiting couldn’t help but anticipate the Force that surged from the transformative pods before me. I watched as others in front of me stepped into the cockpit portal and piloted X-wings, the Millenium Falcon, snowspeeders and speederbikes through classic film battles. And you know it’s good when a guy, who is old enough to have been a kid during the in-theater release of the original trilogy, steps out grinning from ear to ear even though “Mission Failed” spanned his screen.
When it was finally my turn, I opted for the mission on Endor. The iconic musical score combined with the arcade eye candy in my field-of-view instantly threw me into the forested world as I sat down and grasped the throttle control and joystick. I sped around and between trees, fired at Scout Troopers, and felled AT-STs like a boss. The evasive maneuvers and slow-mo takedowns after firing missiles at a walker were by far my favorite parts of the mission, and the synced rumbles and blasts of air added to the ambiance and experience that was over all too soon. If the line hadn’t grown exponentially since initially discovering this gem, I would’ve hopped back in and tried all of the vehicles and missions (X-wing/Yavin, Millenium Falcon/Death Star II, Snowspeeder/Hoth, Speederbike/Endor, and TIE Advanced/Vader’s Revenge). But alas, I’ll just have to visit Dave & Buster’s in Orange or Irvine someday for another immersive taste of the Star Wars galaxy. Or if the post-experience survey I took is any indication, you and I could own one of these for upwards of $10,000 (but I think I’ll stick to the more easily accessible and budget-friendly Star Wars games instead).
For those who are more visually-oriented – or if you skipped my short narrative even though it’s really cool, check out the short clip below that was shown outside the booth for some in-game footage and descriptions from the developers of Star Wars: Battle Pod.