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Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete - Retroview

Not for the lactose intolerant

By: Phillipe Richer


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 3
   Plot 4
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

25-35 hours

 
Overall
5
Criteria

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete
 

   Lunar: Silver Star Story was first released in 1993 on the Sega CD. After a mild success and low recognition, Working Designs strangely decided to bring the game back in 1999 along with the biggest assortment of goodies. I give huge kudos to the marketing department; really, how else could you have charged $69.99 for Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete and gotten away without a couple murders on your hand? That doesn't make any sense? Keep reading - it will all be clear soon enough.

   Alex, a young boy from the country-side village of Burg, has the biggest of aspiration; he wants to become a Dragonmaster like his hero, Dyne. On a fateful day, along with his childhood sweetheart Luna and his buddy Ramus, Alex goes off on an exploration to the White Dragon Cave. Something happens within the cave which changes Alex forever, and which makes him realize that his dream is closer to fulfillment than he ever thought possible. Lunar has, without a doubt, the sentimental lump of your brain covered with a cast of highly intriguing and dynamic characters. However, as Game Arts has proven many times in the past, having appealing characters in an uninteresting, cliched, basic and sickeningly cheesy adventure means nothing.

   Battles are a huge part of Lunar. The game follows a consistent pattern throughout its entirety: after some quirky dialogues and a few laughs (or tears) in a town, your party of adventurers will quickly be thrown in yet another dungeon. In battle, your four characters have the usual arsenal to choose from. You can either attack, use items which you've assigned to each character previously, defend, cast magic, run for their life or follow an A.I. pattern (more on that later). When attacking, characters must first cover the ground distance between them and their adversary. If an enemy is out of reach for an attack, you've just lost your turn. Magic consumes MP and is gained at set levels for set characters.


I'd rather see my party devoured by a pack of wolves than enter another dungeon.
I'd rather see my party devoured by a pack of wolves than enter another dungeon.  

   I usually talk about the battle/magic system for a few paragraphs, but Lunar's is so basic, so unoriginal and linear that I have no choice but to cut things short. I'll add a few things right away though. One, if you do not fight every enemy you encounter (in non-random encounters), boss battles will quickly become impossible to win. As so, having the option to see and evade confrontation as you please is... not an option. That's really the best way for developers to set the difficulty: fight everything we throw at you, or else you're screwed. I don't like that. I'm supposed to have a choice, not this. After every encounter, I would already anticipate in disgust the next one coming, as I knew all too well what I had to do, yet again.

   Second, battles wouldn't be so annoying were they more action-oriented or strategic in any way. What they are, are puzzles. Fighting in Lunar consists of finding the best way to clear a group of enemy using the least MP possible. In every dungeon, there are about 30 encounters consisting of at most three different groups of enemies. Once you find a good attack pattern for each three, simply set your character AI settings and let all the non-existing fun be sapped out of dungeon exploration. It's boring, repetitive, and a torture in itself to go through that process dungeon-in and dungeon-out.

   And thank God for that sweet character A.I. system. You can assign each character up to three different commands, anything from normal attacks to a specific spell. Then simply choose one of the three patterns and let the battles play out for themselves. Outside of battles, equipping armor and items, checking your status or re-arranging your formation is done without breaking a sweet. Shop menus are also very simple and efficient. With the colorful layouts and huge white letters, even a mole could find its way through the interface. It's the least they could do to prepare you for the nauseating upcoming cave exploration.

   Lunar features some very gorgeous anime cut-scenes; nearly an hour of it, in fact. Those cut-scenes are accompanied by good English voice-acting, something of a rare breed. Everything from expression to lip-synch is done impressively well, although the script keeps the whole package from attaining greater heights of accomplishment.


Even Kyle has to get drunk to forget that he's part of that recipe.
Even Kyle has to get drunk to forget that he's part of that recipe.  

   However, the music in Lunar is appropriate. Songs range from mediocre to splendid, with most falling in-between. Once again, composer Noriyuki Iwadare returns to his mixing table and comes out with what you'd expect for a game like this: light-hearted and sappy tracks. It's still some very nice music for what it tries to accomplish. The atmosphere of the game restrains Iwadare greatly from diversifying his repertoire, as a punk-techno or dance remix track would have been severely inappropriate. A music CD is also including in the game set, and makes a great listen as the tracks have all been re-arranged for the better.

Sound effects are extremely dated. That footstep sounds in battle is beyond annoying and is anything but appropriate. Even spells aren't very intimidating, mostly due to the sounds that accompany them. Not much effort was put on that aspect, and it's just too cartoony all-around.

Plot = cheese. That's the short way of phrasing it, but I know you demand more details after such an unthoughtful assessment. Yes, I recognize that Game Arts games always have good, well-defined characters. But then again, would you watch Tony Hawk sit around in his underwear watching TV? Why not? He's clearly a cool guy. Maybe you'd just prefer seeing him do board tricks or something interesting instead, right?

That's exactly how I feel about the Grandia and Lunar series. No matter how "cool" the characters are, they just aren't part of something very interesting! The plot in Lunar is the most basic and unimaginative thing this side of FFI and DWI. Aside from one or two plot twists, you know or can already predict exactly what's going to happen. If that wasn't bad enough, you're subjected to some very cheesy sequences and dialogues more often than not. It's just too cutesy! I was actually embarrassed to play at times. This type of game is exactly what gave RPGs their reputation of childish love story, evil bad guy vanquishing crap to the eyes of the population. Game Arts certainly doesn't do its part to change things for the better, and for that reason, they'll always have a hard time getting my personal vote of approval.


Another kid wanting to be an adventurer? How original, Game Arts!
Another kid wanting to be an adventurer? How original, Game Arts!  

Besides the bromides and the two bath scenes, there's nothing that makes Lunar:SSSC original or even worth playing twice. After fighting through all those dungeons, sticking with the so-called "plot", and hiding under the blankets during many cut-scenes, it will be a new age altogether before I replay Lunar. I even got so bored of those puzzle-like battle strategies, that near the end I simply set all of my most powerful attacks and watched my guys trounce the enemies while I kept feeding my party millions of Star Lights (MP restorative items). If I got bored during my first playthrough, I don't even want to imagine what it would be like during my second. I'd prefer seeing a high re-sale value for my game, but apparently that is not to happen.

The dialogues are good. They are perfect grammar-wise, funny when they need to be and expressive at will. But again, there is just so much a guy can do with such a game. A script doesn't have to contain curses, sex words, or obscenities to be "mature". It's not forbidden though to include some deeper thoughts, psychological tidbits or profound ideas when writing something. It's very good anyway, and I realize that it's unfair of me to compare everything to Vagrant Story, Xenogears or Metal Gear Solid. I simply could never recuperate from the story in Lunar, which left some unfavorable scars in my subconscious. It was a great translation job...relatively speaking.

Since it dates back to 1993, nothing can be expected from the graphic engine. As far as 2D graphics go, it's acceptable, sharp and colorful enough to let you know what the hell's going on. The main dish once again resides in the beautiful anime scenes and the always engaging character portraits.

I do not like Game Arts' style, and I probably never will. The dungeons are much too frequent, the battles much too aggravating, and the plot is, once again, much too cheesy for my health. Many people disagree with my feelings however, and if lactose is your bag then jump on the bandwagon baby. As for me, after 30 hours of Lunar, I had more than my cup filled ... which begs the question of why I bought the second one anyway.





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