may the triforce be with you —
Game Boy Color pixel art mashes up Star Wars and Zelda into a faux game we wish was real.
Just in time for Star Wars Day, Irish pixel artist and indie game developer Shoehead debuted nine delightful mock-up images of a non-existent Game Boy Color game called Star Wars: Luke’s Awakening. It’s a fan tribute that melds the design sensibilities of the 1993 Game Boy classic Zelda: Link’s Awakening with the storyline of the original Star Wars trilogy.
In the pixel art, Shoehead depicts a title screen and eight key scenes that reflect important events in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. The scenes include watching the “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi” sequence with the Jedi master, an encounter with a Wampa on Hoth, a Darth Vader boss battle, evading the Rancor monster, getting zapped by the Emperor, and seeing the Force ghosts of Anakin, Yoda, and Obi-Wan at the end of Return of the Jedi.
The images abound with delightful details, such as choices of weapons appropriate for each scene and how Shoehead perfectly adapted the “chibi” style of Zelda’s Game Boy adventures to Star Wars.
Shoehead’s artwork borrows the palette restrictions of Nintendo’s 1998 Game Boy Color handheld, which hosted a color-upgraded version of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, as well as Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons.
“Link’s Awakening DX was the first game I ever bought with my own money,” Shoehead told Ars. “I got it the year it came out so I could finally play a Zelda game by myself instead of at a friend’s house. So I have a lot of nostalgia for that, as well as the Oracle games.”
Shoehead’s love for the Game Boy Color’s visual aesthetic runs deep. In 2022, he created several “demake” scenes inspired by Elden Ring. “The way a lot of sprites will share a light tone and black and usually only one unique color makes everything mesh together so well. It’s a really unique style, and I think it might only exist because of the jump from the original Game Boy’s palette to the Game Boy Color’s.”
Tools of the trade
Shoehead says he learned to edit sprites in RPG Maker 2003 as a kid around 20 years ago. Today, he uses Aseprite to draw pixel-art images. “I grabbed it back when it was super cheap in the early days because I couldn’t find a program that clicked with me and I was trying everything,” he says. “I usually use both a mouse and an XPPen tablet to pixel, but this one was 100 percent drawn with a mouse.”
Shoehead says he started working on the Luke’s Awakening artwork on April 6, so the nine-image set took less than a month to complete. “I was originally going to reskin a Zelda-like game I’m working on and try to cut a trailer from some scenes for fun,” he says. “But I got some bad news like immediately after planning it out, so I settled for pixelling some screenshots and taking it easy.”
While Luke’s Awakening exists only in the artist’s mind (and these nine images), surely Shoehead, an indie game developer, has been tempted to turn it into a real game? “Oh, no way, I don’t want to deal with Nintendo lawyers AND Disney lawyers,” he said. “I have my own Western Zelda-like I’m working on, so this is more like practice for making more of that.”