Lunar: Silver Star Story Review
by Jason Venter
When I was younger, there was never enough money to buy every game that caught my eye. Usually, those games were RPG's. And back in the good old days, you had to buy one right away or kiss the chance of owning it goodbye forever. Well, one of the games I missed was Lunar: Silver Star Story, a game that came out for the Sega CD, an add-on to a system I didn't own (that right there's the reason I missed out). I wanted the game for the longest time but never got it, until the remake was released on the Playstation.
I'm told there were several major changes from the original to the remake. The most obvious ones are typically for the better, and include about 70 minutes of animation that I consider high-quality. Also, there's new music (something a lot of older fans dislike).
Because I never played the original, I'm not qualified to say how this version stacks up to that. What I can say is this: Lunar really is a great game that's right at home in the huge library of Playstation RPG's.
The first thing you'll notice when you actually play is that everything takes place in 2D. If you've played Tales of Destiny, think of that but remove about a third of the detail. You'll be left with the graphical quality in Lunar. Battles look downright pathetic, I'll admit, like something from the mid-life SNES. Except for the occasional spell, you're not going to blink. But the sprites get the job done, and they're cheerful, a quality that is carried throughout most of the game. Also, the animation scenes really do a great mob of giving the game depth. You get a solid introduction to each new, major character. Then when they talk after that, you see a picture of them in a window above the text. There are several portraits for each character, which tells you a lot about that one's mood.
Graphics aren't the only part of a game, though. There's also sound, which is quite strong here. And if you bought the game, you get a free soundtrack. In-game, there are plenty of voices and such in the animation, and sometimes even when you're just looking at the game screen. None of those voices strike me as stunning, but they do a good job of upholding the game's overall cheerfulness.
Then there's gameplay, the heart of any game. And let me tell you this: gameplay is what makes Lunar shine.
Mostly, this is like the traditional RPG. You wander through villages for clues about where to go next. Sometimes these are cryptic and you'll get lost, which can be really, really frustrating. More often, though, the hints are downright obvious. Something like, "Boy, I wish I could find that red dragon, but he disappeared into the mountains to the east. Duh, I wonder where he could be." And while obviously the characters won't say that in as many words, there's a definite humor throughout. Then you have the fact that you can walk around on the world map unmolested. Enter dungeons and it's a different story, but you can see the enemies on-screen and avoid a fair percentage of the battles. So that's cool, too. And then there are the actual battles, where you can choose AI and watch your team members needlessly waste their magic, or you can attack on your own. The menu system makes the whole affair relatively painless, I'm glad to report.
Bosses are perhaps the biggest problem. If you're like some players, you expect to get past bosses simply by leveling up until you're tougher. In Lunar, that doesn't work. The bosses level up as you do, to keep things even. On the fortunate side (and the disappointing side, once you've mastered the general battles), you can pretty much use the same strategy on each boss for assured success.
In the end, then, Lunar is hardly the greatest RPG of all time. But it's a fun romp through a bright, cheerful world that shouldn't turn anyone away from the genre. Graphics can be pushed aside as you lose yourself to the experience, and the few flaws are easily overweighed by the game's numerous virtues. Get it now, if you can find it.
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