Lunar is done and it’s time to wrap up my thoughts and move on to the next game. Here’s my final take on Lunar: Silver Star Story

Story

The story is definitely the strength of Lunar. Game Arts was able to take the typical “young man discovers his true destiny and saves the world” plotline and imbue it with an emotional connection to great characters and a sense of warmth and playfulness. It says a lot about Lunar that I can remember even minor characters very well, even a couple of days after finishing the game. Ultimately Lunar is a story about love and friendship and the importance of connection to others.

Being able to finish Lunar in 25 hours worked to its advantage. It kept things from feeling padded and superfluous. The story was able to develop and move along at a nice clip. I never like being kept in the dark and at times the lack of really gripping developments early on can make it hard to keep playing. But once the story does kick in the developers maintained a sense of tension and built on it until the end of the game.

Overall I give Lunar’s story an 8.

Gameplay

While Lunar’s story is its strength, gameplay is definitely its weakness. My complaints fall into three areas.

First is Lunar’s uneven difficulty level. There were times when Lunar was just brutal, particularly earlier on. I dreaded the boss battles with a passion until I figured out the secret (more on that later). Lunar maintained an average to above average difficulty level but there were always the occasional monsters or areas that would just frustrate me to no end.

Second is character development. Or lack of development. Lunar provides you with no way to customize or have control over improving your characters. Jessica will always be a white magic user, Kyle a tank. Nash was always a mediocre magic-user and there was no substantial way to make any character stronger apart from just grinding them to level up. I wanted to have a better sense of involvement in building the characters but instead felt like I was pushing them along rails to a predetermined outcome.

Last are the odd things. All my magic-users had spells that were worthless and that I never used. Boss battle strategies all boiled down to buff Kyle and Alex and let them unleash their 1E (or one-enemy) attack while the others healed or provided spell support. Every boss battle required this approach. The interface was clunky and I hated managing inventory and trying on different weapons and armor. Just a lot of little annoyances.

Overall I give Lunar’s gameplay a 5.

Presentation

When discussing Lunar’s presentation we immediately have to deal with the graphics. Lunar was essentially a Sega CD game so we’re talking Genesis-era bitmaps and sprites. That’s not a problem for me but I understand it might be for some. I think the graphics are great – colorful and detailed and contribute to a sense of atmosphere in the game. If that were all then I’d still score Lunar’s graphics high but Working Designs has also included a lot of animated full-motion videos. Those really helped to flesh out the different characters and plot developments.

The music is very good as well which should come as no surprise as Noriyuki Iwadare scored both Lunar games as well as Grandia. The tunes are suitably catchy, light or menacing as the story requires. I don’t think any of the songs will be bouncing around in my head in 3 months but for the game they were well-done. Voice acting was also refreshingly good and I can’t think of any particular voices that grated on my nerves, unlike other games.

My one quibble with Lunar’s presentation would have to be the translation. While it was strong in general and blissfully free of typos, it was also very jarring to frequently run into 90’s pop-culture references and fart jokes. It’s as though Working Designs couldn’t decide if they were aiming this game at adults or grade-schoolers.

Overall I give Lunar’s presentation an 8.

Summary

Lunar: Silver Star Story is a great game. It is widely regarded as a classic and this seems justified. This game was made with love and attention. Obviously the designers worked hard to create a good story and compelling characters and it shows in both the broad strokes and small details. While I found the gameplay mechanics lacking, that was easily balanced by its other strengths. I’m glad I played Lunar and it’s exciting to know that there’s a sequel waiting for me in Lunar 2: Eternal Blue.

Final Score: 6.5

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