When I was reading about classic RPG’s I kept hearing people refer warmly to the Lunar games as a landmark series. Now that I’ve finished both of them I can see why. Here are my final thoughts on Lunar 2.

Story

Lunar 1 was characterized by a strong story and Lunar 2 follows suit. A good RPG needs engaging characters and the creators of Lunar have again done a great job bringing these animated sprites to life and making them seem like people. The main story centers around Hiro (okay it’s a stupid name – no question) and Lucia, a mysterious girl he finds one day. She initially is detached and weird and hard to like but as the game progresses we see her become more “human” and begin to develop feelings for Hiro. Other characters go through similar transformations: Jean comes to terms with her past as a secret assassin and looks forward to her future as a dancer (!), Ronfar deals with his guilt and becomes less of a randy goat and Leo changes from an adversary to a friend. Even Ghaleon is redeemed at the end of the game.

The plot wasn’t as strong as the characters however. It basically boiled down to “save the world from the evil being” and often involved a lot of annoying side quests and filler. I think the long initial journey to Pentagulia and the later quest for the four dragons could have been shortened without losing much and it would have resulted in a more focused story.

But the fun of a game like Lunar 2 isn’t in the grand, sweeping plot but more in the small, individual moments. And Lunar 2 was filled with a lot of these. Yes some of the dialog is cheesy and that does detract from the story. While Working Designs did a great overall job bringing the game to us, I really could have done without some of the jarring humor and references to 1990’s current events.

The other exceptional thing about Lunar 2 is the way it follows its prequel and maintains some of the same settings and characters. This really is a game that is good by itself but becomes great when you are aware of the many connections between the two games. I especially enjoyed seeing what happened to Luna, meeting Ramus’ descendants and finding Nall again. It was also fun to travel to many of the same locations and see how they’d changed over the years. I wish more RPGs found a way to continue the story from earlier games in the series.

Overall, Lunar 2’s story was great. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Presentation

One of the first things I noticed about Lunar 2 are the animated cutscenes that are sprinkled throughout the game. They really are well done and serve to flesh out the characters and important story points. As I moved through the game and would approach an important plot point, I knew there was going to be an anime cutscene and I found myself looking forward to them. I actually wouldn’t mind watching an anime series with expanded animation from Lunar 2. It’s really top-notch and adds a lot to the game.

The other thing that I noticed about the game are the 2D graphics and sprites. The visuals are warm and bright with lots of vibrant color. The character sprites are well-modeled and animated. I always knew which character I was looking at from a quick glance at the screen. Other aspects of the graphics were equally well-done. Towns were busy and filled with people who all had something to say. Dungeons were intricate and appropriately creepy and the overworld was filled with lots of interesting things that made me want to investigate more. I do wish the game gave you an option of a large overview map with town names as it could be difficult to find a particular place you needed to visit.

Music, as always, was exceptional. Noriyuki Iwadare has again created a soundtrack that I wanted to listen to and the fact that it was available on CD as part of the game was outstanding. At no point did any of the music become irritating, though I never mind a change of battle music halfway through the game. Any song become irritating after you’ve heard it a hundred or more times. Many of the songs were catchy and I’d find myself humming them at times during the day. Lunar 1 did include a “music video” during the game with Luna singing on the ship about her life and her future. I found myself waiting for something similar in the sequel but its absence is far from a deal-breaker.

Voice acting remains questionable. While many of the actors did a fine job during important scenes, the constant “I’ll take care of this” or “You need a spanking” during battles got old really quickly. I wish there was a way to turn them off or at least make them happen only occasionally as they did become quite irritating after awhile.

Game Arts and Working Designs have again created a game that is beautiful to look at and listen to. I give Lunar 2’s presentation 9 out of 10.

Gameplay

Gameplay in Lunar 2 is a mixed bag. There are some elements that are a lot of fun and others that could be improved. In general, I liked the combat in Lunar 2. The ability to see enemies before you battle them is always welcome and means that there are no random battles. This is one area where Lunar was ahead of its time as the developers could balance the game, knowing you’d be at or near a certain level for some of the major fights. Well most of the time anyway. The combat system is good and I liked the ability to position your characters and how they and the enemies moved around the battlefield. This is the precursor to the combat system in Grandia which was refined to near-perfection.

Lunar 2 is not an easy game. Many of the dungeons are quite difficult and some of the bosses are brutal. I did find I had to spend a play session or two just grinding to make sure I could handle some of the tough fights. I do think the difficulty was more consistent than in the first game which would often surprise me with an out-of-the-blue nasty fight I was completely unprepared for. I would have liked the ability to customize my characters more. I did like equipping rings and crests which gave them new abilities but some way to directly influence the characters’ growth would have also been nice.

The game had some problems with pacing. My total playtime was around 33 hours which isn’t bad but there were some parts that seemed to drag, particularly the initial journey to Pentagulia and the quest to find the four dragons. I would have appreciated a shorter, better-paced game. Minigames were almost entirely absent which was fine with me and would have felt like padding. I think Lunar 1 was better-paced though I suppose some complained that it was too short.

I like the fact that there is an Epilogue to play after the game is finished and I looked forward to resolving the story but I really had my fill of Lunar 2’s gameplay by that point. I might return to it sometime but I didn’t feel compelled to spend more time grinding.

Overall I give Lunar 2’s gameplay a slightly above-average 6 out of 10.

Conclusion

I’m happy that I played the Lunar games. While I liked the first Lunar better than the second in some ways, Lunar 2 seemed to refine and improve many of the first game’s weaknesses. They are both extremely well-done games that are lovely to look at, listen to and a lot of fun to play. They also create very memorable characters that you want to spend time with.

Final score: 7.3

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