Lunar: Retroview

Lunar: Now without the confusion!

By: castomel

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 8
   Plot 9
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

25-30 hours

,Lucky 7

Title Screen

   When I was younger, my friends and I used to argue back and forth over which video game system was better. Each of us stubbornly clung to whatever system we happened to have, regardless of its actual quality(which may in at least some measure excuse my stubborn clinging to NES over Genesis for a couple of years. I was too young to have been on crack, so I'll chalk it up to someone slipping mildly addictive Ritalin in my soup or something). At any rate, this particular argument eventually extended to RPGs and we were more or less forced to drop it, since at that point, most RPGs that did happen to surface were of reasonable quality. This was the case with Lunar. My friend owned a Sega CD(sad, really) and so eventually he managed to talk me into a trade. Unfortunately, this just so happened to last a couple of months, so while I was left stewing minus all my beloved Squaresoft games, I had to put up with Lunar. This may in part explain why I have a somewhat... middling... attitude towards the game. While there were some aspects I definitely enjoyed, other parts left me wishing the prospect of Sonic, Sonic II, Sonic III, Sonic and Knuckles, and Sonic Pinball hadn't been so darned enticing at the time. Looking back, I now see they were all the same game, so having successfully edited that portion of my memory into oblivion, I'm left with just my screwy jaw- which inexplicably ceased to open all the way forever thereafter without making a clicking sound(I think the Genesis games somehow managed to encourage wisdom tooth growth)- and this review of Lunar, one of two decent games I received in this ill-fated trade.

  "A-a-a-a-alex! Oh, A-a-a-a-lex!" This is how the game starts off, and having played it through twice and near to completion at least five or six times, this inane soundbit is forever lodged in my memory, along with the subsequent speech Nall, your flying cat/comic relief gives. Nall isn't particularly handy at all, except when he occasionally resurrects your fallen party members in battle. He usually just sticks to giving you useless advice before battle, such as the classic "Easy pickin's!". Usually the advice is largely irrelevant to your situation, but that's okay. The battles are acceptable, so you don't notice your flying cat too much. The emphasis is definitely on mobility, and either physical or magic attacks, depending on the strength of your character. In this respect, the game stays true to the archetypal RPG- your white mage Jessica generally hangs back and lends support in the back row, while your knights-in-shining armour, such as Alex and Kyle, run amok up front. This movement is literal; you actually have to take the steps to reach the monsters in order to fight them. The system tends to be rather time-consuming, which is the main problem I find with it. It is well orchestrated- things move fluidly; but on the whole, it just takes too long to finish up a fight. Additionally, the interface is somewhat clunky, as pictures are used to depict some possible actions. While this works for some games, I just don't like it here. Still, aside from monotony, the fighting is decent.

I really like the vest!
See my hat, 'twas my cat...  

   Picture-based clunkiness is my chief complaint with the battle system, and it's my main bone of contention with the interface as well. Everything save for the status screen is pictures, and manouvering about the pixellated beauty can sometimes be a bit of a pain. Item storage is a real irritant because you can store very limited numbers of items with your characters, and are forced to keep the bulk with... Nall. That's right. A little white cat has hundreds of times the storage capacity of people many times his size. Logical inconsistency aside, this inconvenient arrangement plagues the flow of the game. Some might argue that having limited numbers of items for characters to carry adds an element of strategy; I just argue that it's tedious and time-consuming. And another thing... Everything's just so cutesy! All right, then, moving along...

   The music in Lunar varies from memorable to repetitive. On the whole, it is enjoyable; the composer has remarkable variety in the scope and breadth of the pieces in the game. The sound effects here are run-of-the-mill, and the voice acting, as in any game, is horrible. I guess I just hate voice acting, so any game that uses it automatically loses a couple of points in my books. That might be slightly unfair, but I think it's a valid complaint, since no 'cool' white cat would really alternate between raucous jokes and spouting off drivel about 'fantastic adventures'. Did I mention I hate Nall?   

Eat that, you mangy cat!
Nall gets the fate he so richly deserves.  

Lunar was fairly original at the time of its release, and even today it is fairly novel in the concepts it is based around. Though some standard elements were used in its construction, there is enough about it that sets it apart and makes it a truly distinct gaming experience. Specifically, the great attention paid to characterization gives it a flavour not present in other RPGs. It generates a feel to the story that is distinct and not easily duplicated. The plot is another element that sets the game apart; the storyline is, quite simply, one of the best I've ever encountered. The character development, as stated, is stellar, and the relationships between the characters seem realistic and are built upon masterfully as the story progresses. This is what makes this game worth playing, in short.

Part and parcel with the characterization comes the excellent translation, a hallmark of any Working Designs game. The localization of this game is absolutely top-notch, as is to be expected from a company that frequently delays its games months in order to get these sorts of details done properly. Then again, localization is pretty much the extent of the company's involvement in the original Lunar, so they'd better have done a good job of it.

 The actual replay value of Lunar is somewhat low, given the linear nature of the plot. While experiencing the story again and again might thrill some, I can only sit through it so many times, twice, in this case. It's an engaging love story, to be sure, but I'm just not sentimental enough for that sort of thing.

The graphics in Lunar, for their time, were actually fairly decent, if not great. The inclusion of cutscenes was a definite advantage over many of its contemporaries, although admittedly, most of these cutscenes were rudimentary by today's standards. Still, it was a reasonable effort, if not outstanding.

Wonder what kind of gel he uses...
Nash: because it's the first picture I clicked on.  

The difficulty of this game is actually quite considerable. While this usually does not extend to dungeon crawling- either there's a single, easily located path, or all ways lead the right way in the majority of dungeons- the strict limitations on MP and item carriage can cause some difficulty in battle. Your characters are often revived if they die in battle, but it doesn't do you much good to be wandering around with five characters, each with 1 HP remaining. Still, this resurrection feature does make the game somewhat easier, and sufficiently moderates the difficulty to a more agreeable level. Generally, in terms of completion time, 25-30 hours should be enough to go through the game. If you want to be very thorough, build your characters up to obscene levels, and such, then I suppose it might take a bit longer, but really, 25-30 hours is sufficient.

Lunar, then, is and was much what I expected it to be- a game that was adequate, but mostly overhyped by my friend(who was so fanatical about it he waited anxiously 2 months for it to arrive at our local gaming store.) Certainly, there are worse games, but equally as certain is the existence of better games. Nonetheless, I did enjoy it, and that's about all that counts in the end.

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