By Tyler Campobasso
Continuing with the classic games of the EU, Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy is up next. The final game in the Dark Forces Saga, Jedi Academy is just as much a classic Expanded Universe game as any others from the series. This is the second installment in the series that does not focus on Kyle Katarn as the player character, although he does appear throughout the entire storyline.
Like Jedi Outcast, Academy was also developed by Raven Software and published by Lucasarts. Academy released one year later than its predecessor, with a 2003 release. It has since been added to next-gen consoles through the company Aspyr (also ported Outcast, Republic Commando, The Force Unleashed and KotOR). This is the first game in the series to feature a fully customizable player character. The player can pick either male or female, then a number of species which include Kel Dor, Rodians, Twi’lek and Zabrak. In-universe the player character is Jaden Korr, who is a prospective student at Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Praxeum. The male Korr is voiced by Philip Tanzini, while the female Korr is voiced by Star Wars legend Jennifer Hale (Bastila Shan, Satele Shan, Aayla Secura).
The game picks up two years after Outcast, Desann and his followers have been defeated and the Empire Reborn is mostly defeated (yes, the Empire Reborn from Crystal Star). Jaden Korr is a prospective Jedi student traveling to Yavin. Korr meets Rosh Penin on his journey, another young hopeful student (Rosh sucks hard, he’s a very whiny guy). The shuttle ferrying them to Yavin is damaged and the two crash land on the planet below and have to trek to the Praxeum. A group of Imperials attacked the Praxeum and stole Luke Skywalker’s private journal (and his love letters to Callista-just kidding). Jaden noticed the cult using an ancient scepter around the temple, most likely to drain Force energy. Korr meets the Jedi Master and is assigned to Kyle Katarn to train as his student. Rosh is also assigned to Katarn due to the shortage of qualified Jedi Masters. The Imperials on Yavin were backed by an ancient cult: the Disciples of Ragnos. Their goal was to resurrect the long-dead Sith Lord Marka Ragnos and vie for galactic domination, which the Jedi will discover later on. After a bit of training Korr is sent to a number of planets to investigate the cult’s activities. Korr visits Tatooine where he meets Chewbacca and takes a trip to the Dune Sea, Bakura, Blenjeel and Corellia. After this first set of missions Jaden is sent back to Yavin for his next assignment.
Luke learns that the cult has been attempting to siphon Force energy from places rich in it. Jaden is next sent to Hoth, where Ben Kenobi gave Luke the vision from The Empire Strikes Back. Korrr discovers that the Imperial Remnant has set up camp inside the remains of Echo Base after searching it for any clues about where Skywalker went after his encounter with Ben Kenobi. The Remnant deduces Skywalker went to Yavin and alerted Tavion, their leader. Tavion was Desann’s apprentice from Jedi Outcast whom Kyle Katarn spared on Bespin after their duel. Tavion had taken the remnants of Desann and Hethrir’s forces and assumed command. Jaden finds Tavion’s own apprentice, Alora, and duels her until she escapes. Applauded by both Luke and Kyle for his brave actions, he is promoted to apprentice. The group learns that fellow padawan Rosh has gone missing, with no trace to be found. The next five missions send Jaden to Nar Kreeta, Zonju V, Kril’Dor, Coruscant and Dosuun. After completion Luke sends both Jaden and Kyle to Vjun, the site of Darth Vader’s castle. It is on Vjun that the two Jedi discover Rosh had succumbed to the dark side and is in Tavion’s service. After a duel with Rosh then one with Tavion the Imperials are able to escape.
Upon returning to Yavin Jaden is promoted to Jedi Knight for his part in defeating Dark Jedi and Imperials. As his lightsaber was destroyed on Vjun, Jaden creates a new one. Here the player has the option to create a single-bladed lightsaber- a dual-bladed lightsaber, or choose to wield two sabers. Another five missions are presented to Jaden, taking him to Chandrila, Byss, Ord Mantell, Yalara and Tanaab. The Jedi finally learn the full plan of the Disciples of Ragnos: use the Force energy collected in the scepter to resurrect Marka Ragnos on korriban. While planning an assault on Korriban, Kyle receives a distress call from Rosh saying he needs help and he is being held at an Imperial base on the planet Taspir III. Katarn and Jaden rush to the planet while Luke alerts the New Republic for their assault on Korriban. Jaden found Rosh first, and accused him of dragging them into a trap, while threatening to kill Rosh. Rosh pleaded that he was wrong and sorry, but Jaden couldn’t believe him. Katarn telepathically conversed with Jaden, defending Rosh’s innocence. Korr knew he was making a mistake and turned off his saber blade. With his guard down, Alora revealed herself and attacked Rosh, cutting his arm off. Standing over his wounded friend, Jaden dueled Alora. Jaden killed Alora after a prolonged duel, and Katarn arrived to get Rosh medical assistance immediately. Jaden rushed off to Korribam to assist the Jedi and Republic forces there in their assault.
Korr joined the rest of the Jedi on the Korriban grounds near the Valley of the Dark Lords. Fighting through Imperial Stormtroopers and Dark Jedi, Korr made his way to Ragnos’s tomb to confront Tavion. Initially defeating Tavion, she then used the scepter to bring ragnos back to life. Summoning his spirit, Ragnos inherited Tavion’s body as his own. Far weaker than he was during his reign during the Golden Age of the Sith, Korr is able to defeat him. Burned out by the spirit of ragnos, Tavion’s body could not handle the long-dead Sith Lord. Ragnos’s spirit fled back into his tomb and the Republic was able to defeat the Imperial forces on Korriban.
There is a dark side option in this game. On Taspir, you can choose to kill Rosh and escape to Korriban. On Korriban you fight both Jedi and cultists alike before defeating Tavion and taking the scepter for yourself. Katarn vows to find and defeat you before the credits roll.
Now for the best parts, the connections. There are plenty here. To start, this game continues Jedi Outcast’s usage of the Empire Reborn, started by Lord Hethrir from The Crystal Star. Good stuff here. Marka Ragnos from Tales of the Jedi appears as a spirit and the player gets to visit his tomb. His tomb is featured in numerous other works, such as its first appearance in Tales of the Jedi and its later appearances in Knights of the Old Republic (I and II), The Old Republic and Empire at War. For some of my favorite cameos, Corran Horn and Streen are mentioned in this game. Horn takes the Jedi Raltharan as his apprentice, who then goes on to get a mention in Dark Nest: The Unseen Queen (some real good stuff here!). Locations are plenty here as well. Korriban, along with Bakura (The Truce at Bakura), Byss (Dark Empire) and Vjun (Dark Empire) all appear. Noghri also appear in this game on the planet Yalara fighting the Imperials. Dreadnought-class cruisers (Dark Force Rising) and Z-95 Headhunters (Star’s End) are some EU starships that appear. Again some real good stuff in here. Some may remember Jaden Korr not from this game, but from his own duology (Crosscurrent and Riptide). Author Paul S. Kemp wanted to expand on Jaden’s backstory and write more stories featuring the Jedi. Korr also makes brief appearances in Legacy of the Force: Fury, Fate of the Jedi: Abyss and Fate of the Jedi: Backlash.
Like Outcast, Academy is not only a fantastic entry in the Dark Forces Saga, but in the entirety of the Expanded Universe. This game, in my opinion, still has the best lightsaber combat of any Star Wars game ever released. I still play this on my own PS5 every now and again because damn, it still holds up today and is a joy to play. Another classic from the EU.