Shadows of the Empire was the first multimedia event. Everything was tied in but an actual movie.
The story takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The mission: to find and rescue Han Solo before Boba Fett gets him to Jabba the Hutt. The complication: someone has put a hit out on Luke Skywalker. The puzzle: The Black Sun crime cartel may have the answers. But they also might be the problem.
The Shadows of the Empire video game for Nintendo 64 and the PC focused on Dash Rendar, a rogue like Han who is hired to help out. As yet it has not had a rerelease anywhere. It was created by LucasArts.
The comic books and graphic novel by Dark Horse focuses more on the Boba Fett who is trying to get Han to Jabba, while fellow bounty hunters and the rebels try and stop him. John Wagner was the author and Kilian Plunkett illustrated.
The novel Shadows of the Empire focuses on the criminal mastermind Prince Xixor and his competition with Vader and our heroes. Steve Perry was the author
There was also a junior novelization by Christopher Golden.
The story answers several questions brought up by Return of the Jedi. Where did Luke get a new lightsaber? Where did they get the idea for Leia to infiltrate the palace as the bounty hunter Boussh? What was Luke doing if he didn’t go back to Yoda before Return of the Jedi? The story of the bothans who stole the Death Star plans is here too.
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Dash Rendar: Smuggler and sometimes bodyguard who occasionally helps out the Rebel Alliance. Dash has a grudge against the Empire. He receives his own novel, Shadow Games, set right before A New Hope. Dash shows up in Galaxy of Fear series and some of the other video games as well. He has his own novel, Shadow Games, set right before A New Hope.
Prince Xixor: Criminal kingpin and rival of Darth Vader, Xixor appears in the Han Solo Trilogy novels by Ann Crispin, manipulating the Hutt Besadii clan. He also appears in Coruscant Nights I and The Last Jedi. (pronounced /shē’zōr/) according to the audio book Shadows of the Empire and the game Empire at War, Forces of Corruption.
Guri: A human replica droid owned by Prince Xixor. She has a follow up story by Dark Horse Comics ‘Shadows of the Empire: Evolutions.’
Wrenga Jixton: A human agent who works for Darth Vader, sent to protect Luke Skywalker from Jabba the Hutt and capture him if possible.. Jix gets his own single issue Dark Horse comic, Shadow Stalker. Jix’s story ties into the events in Classic Star Wars comic strips.
Luke Skywalker: In this he is building his new lightsaber and practicing his skills. But he has put off returning to Yoda in order to rescue Han. He is also wrestling with Vader’s revelation and what to believe.
Darth Vader: Is torn between his desire to find Luke and his concerns that Prince Xixor is up to something. On top of that, Palpatine has ordered him to work with Xixor.
We actually see some comparison moments of Luke and Vader in this, for instance, in their love of flying.
Princess Leia: She’s stepped aside from her Alliance duties for Han, and for her this is a very big thing. She’s also dealing with Black Sun to investigate who is out to get Luke killed, and misleading them into thinking it’s the Alliance who wants dealings.
Lando: He’s out to redeem himself but it’s clear Leia and the others finally understand his reasons. Without Han available, he is now the only link they have to the underworld connections.
Chewbacca: We see here how seriously how he takes Han’s request to take care of Leia.
R2 and C3PO: They get to fly the Falcon. No kidding. Really. And since C3PO had a memory wipe long ago and doesn’t recall learning to help Padme fly…well, it’s messy.
The Emperor: Not a big part for him, but given Heir to the Empire and Mara were long ago introduced, one has to wonder what his goal was in letting Xixor hear some of his conversations with Vader.
Dash Rendar’s ship the Outrider can be seen added into A New Hope Special Edition, Mos Eisley Tatooine scenes.
Events from Shadows of the Empire are mentioned in the Return of the Jedi radio drama.
A mini figure of Prince Xixor is helping populate the crowd in The Phantom Menace podrace arena.
The Star Wars miniatures game still includes the Outrider in it’s addons.
Xixor’s ship, The Virago had a model kit made by AMT. Xixor himself was also available, as was the Emperor.
Micro Machines also made a set of the ships with mini figures.
The Falleen species introduced by Xixor go on to appear in stories all the way from the Old Republic era (books, comics, game) to the prequel era (Jedi Quest and Clone Wars comics) to New Jedi Order and Fate of the Jedi (decades after Return of the Jedi.)
The Black Sun Criminal Organization was apparently founded sometime in The Old Republic era as it appears in the Old Republic era novel Fatal Alliance. It was partially dismantled by Darth Maul in the Dark Horse Comic of the same name. It goes on to have characters involved in the X-Wing novels and tries to resurrect itself in the Young Jedi Knights series. Black Sun is also mentioned in The Clone Wars TV series. In the Bounty Hunter Wars books, Prince Xixor is described as building, it presumably due to the events in Darth Maul and the clone wars that nearly destroyed it. How Durga the Hutt ends up working for Xixor is detailed in the Han Solo Trilogy by Ann Crispin.
A complete set of action figures plus ships was released to go with this, as well as trading cards with art by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt and a soundtrack by Joel McNeely.
Action figures included:
Luke in Imperial Guard Disguise.
Chewbacca as Snoova the Bounty Hunter
Leia as Boussh (she gets the outfit in this)
Comic Packs with figures:
Boba Fett VS IG 88
Xixor VS Vader
Outrider (Dash Rendar’s ship)
Slave I (Fett’s ship)
There is a sequel series: Shadows of the Empire: Evolution starring Guri and a one shot, Shadow Stalker starring Jix, Vader’s Agent. Big Gizz and Spiker, members of Jabba the Hutt’s gang, see more action in The Jabba Tapes.
There is also a non fiction book, The Secrets of Shadows of the Empire by Mark Cotta Vaz on the creation of the entire project.
Rogue Squadron, the video game, was born of the popularity of flying with Rogue Squadron in Shadows of the Empire.