Wednesday, August 31, 2011

200th RPG Review Special part 6: Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete for the PS1 review




Welcome to the 200th review and the final part of the Game Arts Tribute. I knew that I wanted the 200th review was going to be special, and  I wanted it to be a very special review for an RPG that I found to just be one of my favorites. It is also one of the games made by the recently passed co-founder of Game Arts. The sad thing about this RPG is that it only had a direct sequel, a spin-off title only for Japan for the Sega Saturn, and a very very terrible DS game. This game didn’t get the kind of respect that the Final Fantasy series received here in America. Due to this fact, these games are very hard to find and are almost near triple digits in price. Lucky for me, I got my hands on one of these games in the mid-double digits in price, and it’s a game that has aged pretty well. This game is called Lunar: Silver Star Story. Now, the original game came out in the U.S.A on the Sega CD with generally favorable praise, but the one I am reviewing is the Playstation update with animated cut scenes, redone voice acting, updated music, and just an overall charm that a lot of RPGs have lost in today’s gaming. It’s one of the hardest RPG’s to find, but it is one of the best old-time RPG’s that you could play. Let us begin this very special 200th review of Lunar: Silver Star Story.


The story tells us of a young man named Alex. Alex lives in a small town where he, just like Justin from Grandia, yearns for adventure and to become like his idol Dyne, a Dragonmaster. One day his friend Ramus wants to go to the Dragon Cave to find a diamond that will make them a lot of money. They are joined by a girl named Luna who has the best singing voice in the village, and Alex’s flying pet thing, Nall. When they get back from the cave, Alex is told by the dragon of the cave that he is destined for great things, and must go on an adventure to stop a looming evil that is slowly starting to spread across the world. Along the quest, the three kids are joined by Nash, a hotheaded mage, Jessica, a headstrong white mage, Mia, the princess of a floating city, and Kyle, a womanizing swordsman. They do get help from other characters like Tempest, an archer, and Laike Bogard, another Dragonmaster. The story is great, with a lot more stuff being put into the PS1 version of this game to add more development and story to the entire package. A lot of the characters are more fleshed out, there are more scenes and it’s just a much longer adventure. Game Arts did a great job with the original story by Kei Shigema, enlisting novelist Keisuke Shigematsu to add on to the parts of the story that needed some expansion. Now, granted, some of the jokes and gags that were put into the American version will probably make you shake your head, but they are not that bad. It might come off as a typical Japanese anime-style RPG, but back in the day this was great! And it surprisingly holds up in a lot of areas.
The gameplay is a traditional Japanese-style RPG. This means you will have to fight groups of monsters in traditional turn-based styles you see in games, well, like a lot of games I have reviewed. Sometimes, it is tricky for me to explain a game that has similar gameplay styles, like the Yakuza games (second game review coming soon), and RPG’s have the same issues here. Lunar, however, mixes things up a bit. While the battles might take place on a flat plain and you take turns attacking enemies, just like Grandia, you can move around the battlefield, which is required at times to get out of harm’s way or else get your butt handed to you. The rest of the game is pretty typical of RPG standards, like you buy new equipment, learn new spells and techniques as you level up, and level grind. The enemies are once again visible in the dungeon areas, and will come at you if they see you. This is a good thing that your character can run fast, since the enemies run at a speed like the Roadrunner when they see you. This makes random battles a little more frequent, but you can still evade the enemies, just not as well as you could in Grandia. Spells are learned by basically leveling up, unless you’re Alex, who later in the game learns his abilities from the Dragons he meets. The good thing about this is that most of the characters have a lot of their spells already learned, so when you level up, you only need to get about 2-3 more spells for some of the characters. Having your characters in different parts of the battle screen is required, since to use standard close range melee attacks, you need to move your character right up to the enemy. In games like Final Fantasy 4 and Lost Odyssey however, you can make a formation with your characters, like the offensive characters being up front and the spell casters, long-range fighters, and healers be in the back. It’s not played like Lost Odyssey’s wall system, but it still requires strategy to place your fighters in the right position, since this game will actually be kind of tough in some areas if you don’t grind or bring enough items with you. Items are bought normally at stores in towns, so there isn’t much to speak of here. About midway through the game, you will be able to gain a special item to teleport to different areas of the map, like if you need to grind, you can go to a specific area to grind in and what not, since some parts of the story require you to go back to certain areas. Like I said, this mostly plays out like a very traditional RPG, like Lufia 2 and others like it.
The graphics are stuck in the 16-bit area and a lot of critics have badmouthed that section of the game, but if you grew up in the 16-bit era, I think you can forgive it. If you look past that the graphics are 16-bit, then they are brightly colorful and well animated. They did some updates to the Sega-CD version and it looks nice. The animated cut scenes, while some look grainy by today’s standards, still hold up. The animation is good, and the character designs from Toshiyuki Kubooka who worked on anime classics like Nadia: Secret of Blue Water and Giant Robo, look amazing in this game. The scenes in the game using the animation just add more emotion than simply looking at animated pixels. I think one of my favorite moments in the game using the anime cut scenes is Luna’s boat song, which is probably the most famous scene out of the entire game, where Luna sings a song about the unsure future of their adventure and wondering if her destiny will show itself to her. This made a lot of the gamers who played this cry since, well, it’s a touching scene with a beautiful albeit cheesy song that just makes you feel a bit emotional. If you look at the bonus disc that comes with the PS1 version of this game, one of the designers talks about how happy they feel when fans tell them that their game made them cry because of the story and characters, and that’s what I love about Lunar: Silver Star Story. I haven’t felt emotion from an RPG in awhile, since Final Fantasy 9 when Vivi learned about his creation and inescapable death. The music is by the same guy who did the Grandia music, Noriyuki Iwadare. The voice acting is a mixed bag, with Game Arts using family and friends of the people who worked there to voice the characters, and they do their jobs pretty well most of the time. I like it even though sometimes it’s a bit, um, bad. In the PSP remake however, the main character Alex who was voiced by Ashley Angel is replaced by voice actor, Yuri Lowenthal. While a lot of the cast is replaced in the PSP version, it loses its charm and silly nature, since if you have played any of Twisted Pixel’s games you will get what I mean. For those people who don’t know what I mean, Twisted Pixel likes to use their own staff members, family members, their testers, and local people in the city for some of their scenes in their games. You can have some of the biggest talent in the world like every Metal artist in Brutal Legend, but Lunar: Silver Star Story has such a charm because family and friends of the American Game Arts company were used. Plus there is a bit of laughter when you read the cat dragon character Nall talk about how she ate her Wheaties in a very early part of the game. I also enjoy the little things about this game, like how you see all your teammates follow you, and how enemy encounters are held only in the dungeon unless specific parts of the story call for them to take place elsewhere.
Just like Grandia, I would like to give this game a perfect 10, but this game has its faults also. The enemies, while visible on the screen, if they see you, they will run at you like shark to a drop of blood. It’s almost hard not to run from them when they can chase you down in like a second if you don’t move fast enough. While I enjoy the graphics, I’ll agree with the critics that the battleground is flat and it doesn’t age well in some areas, even though this is just a remake. That is just a minor gripe though, since I love the chibi-style-looking form of the characters.
I cannot recommend this game enough, but I do have good news and bad news. The good news is that you can find this game in the PSP remake called Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, and can download it off the PSN store for your PSP or I guess your PS Vita next year. The bad news is if you want to find the PS1 version, get ready to lay down about 70 to 100 dollars for this game. I was fortunate to pick up my copy for 48 bucks in a sale at a local used game store. This is just a great traditional Japanese-style RPG that if you can find, I would instantly pick up. It might not be the easiest or cheapest RPG to find, but like I said, it’s an amazing journey and a wonderful experience. Just a little note, while I would love to do a review of the other PS1 remake of the sequel, Lunar: Eternal Blue Complete, I don’t think I will be able to get my hands on it unless someone gives it to me or I find a good deal on it, due to how rare it is. This is has been the 6-Part RPG special and tribute to Game Arts. Thank you all for reading my reviews for 200 reviews straight. I hope I can see you guys for another 200 reviews, and to those at Game Arts, thank you for making such great games.
This game gets a 9 out of 10

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