It may look like any other anime-based RPG that’s a few years old, but Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete for the Playstation is an extraordinary game, with a huge story and classic role playing fun.
Opening the two-disc case reveals not only two game CD’s, but a bonus soundtrack disc and a cloth map of the game’s world. While these extras pushed the game’s price tag up in its heyday, they make it feel like something more than just another RPG; with the captivating and varied music playing and a physical map in hand, it’s more like setting off on an actual journey than just popping in a game disc.
And while the story is standard anime RPG fare at first, it quickly opens into a huge, if linear, piece of interactive fiction that feels like more like a novel than a video game.
The opening scene is a short monologue from Alex, the ocarina-playing main protagonist, admiring his hero, the Dragonmaster Dyne. Ramus, Alex’s rotund companion, approaches him and talks about journeying to a nearby cave and finding valuable treasure. As Alex heads off to meet another friend, an earthquake (how many anime RPG’s have an earthquake in the exposition?) draws concern from Nall, a sort of flying cat.
Alex comes upon Luna, his enchanting blue-haired friend, in the middle of a song. Her voice does more than create pretty tunes; Luna’s singing can heal wounds, as female characters in anime RPG’s almost always have the ability to do.
The trio head off in search of wealth, but through a series of circumstances, end up saving the world too.
Like any good story, there is a fair amount of comic relief, an element many anime RPG’s seem to neglect. Nall is full of clever lines, and the humor can often be slightly risque; the description for leather armor calls it “kinky yet comfortable.”
As with many RPG’s of Lunar’s time, the characters are super-deformed 2D sprites. The anime cut scenes are wonderfully drawn and perhaps too infrequent. As it was originally a Sega Saturn game, Lunar has some graphical quirks: trees sway in a ridiculously cheesy manner, and no spells or effects are terribly flashy.
Environments are essentially standard fantasy settings, with huge mountains and green plains, though some dungeons are impressive and atmospheric.
Second only to the story is Lunar’s audio. Attention was clearly paid to the voices; every character sounds like the gamer would expect them to. While battle music can grow tiresome, all other scores are brilliantly moving and varied, adding to the atmosphere of Lunar’s world.
And what would a classic RPG be without lots of battles? While turn-based, Lunar avoids the laughable Final Fantasy-style lining up, attacking, and scurrying back in line to be attacked; characters need to move and pursue targets while fleeing when badly wounded. Combat is kept challenging, and bosses can be especially tough to defeat; enemies are hardly the pushovers of Wild Arms 2, for instance.
Characters in the player’s party can be given autonomy, but to best coordinate efforts against powerful enemies, the gamer will want to control the entire party.
And like most other anime RPG’s, Lunar has a solid, varied cast of recruit-able characters. The player’s party is often evolving, with some characters temporarily departing while others join, and all characters finally come together at the game’s climax. Supporting party members can be somewhat one-dimensional, but generally play their respective roles well.
While its story can feel too familiar at the beginning, Lunar quickly expands into a massive, absorbing adventure no other RPG can compete with.