Game Review: Lunar – Silver Star Story
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete is a somewhat nostalgic game for me. I never had the chance to play the original on the Sega CD or Saturn or whatever else it was on. I say that it is nostalgic because I acquired the Working Designs release for Playstation when I was in high school. During the later years of high school my best friend officially became my adopted-brother and moved in with me, actually, into ‘my’ room. Around this time we were a little beguiled with what I was still calling Japanimation, or as is commonly known now, anime.
You can’t buy this game new anymore, but you can find it used and in other states on amazon. If you’re interested in purchasing it on Amazon, click the image to the left to be taken directly to the page.
This was seventeen-eighteen years ago, so you have to understand the cultural landscape was a bit different. Not only was anime still a new thing and not ‘mainstreamed’ to the point it is now, but I was also living in a semi-rural area. There were no book stores or video stores, even really game stores, though they tried.
My adopted-brother became entranced one day, as I remember, with drawing. We used to stay up all night every friday night (that was the last day of the school week), or at least I would stay up all night because I was cuckoo, and spend all our time dreaming in the library. We’d play games, read stories, talk, hang out, chat on the computer, do whatever. One of the first things he drew in a new found pursuit of drawing was a magical anime girl. We had a scanner and uploaded it to someplace on the internet, probably some guys’ geocities site, and there it remained for quite a while.
The thing about Lunar is that it is mainly a story, but told through the medium of a very classic JRPG. There’s nothing particularly dynamite about the game mechanics, pretty much all the stock actions are there. Game wise, I actually felt it was a bit weak… sometimes seeming as if the game mechanics were dreamt up only to be able to deliver the rest of the material.
But it’s made up for. The game has beautiful fully animated cut-sequences and a character driven story. It’s one of those RPG’s that takes the traditional RPG roles, healer, fighter, etc. and fits it into the story so that you are playing in the intimate confines of the character’s realities. You’re not just a level 2 thief named Bill. I have always appreciated RPGs that actually try to do something to make you part of their world, and not make the world seem as if it was placed on top of whatever the designer wanted.
The story focuses on Alex, a boy in the isolated village of Burg. He dreams of adventuring and someday becoming like his idol, Dragonmaster Dyne. As you can already tell, the story isn’t cutting edge either. Its par for its time, and this is one of the games that really helped found the tropes. But, like I wrote in my Grandia review, there’s something romantic about the dreams and aspirations of a young boy just looking out into the world for adventure. Alex sets out with his friends to figure out the mystery of the dragon, and it all goes downhill, or uphill, from there.
The game is character driven. The animated cut-sequences mostly focus on developing a given character so you have a feel for his or her immediacy in the story, which is nice. I kind of felt like I was playing a super long anime episode where I had the chance to fight and kill the enemies. I guess that was the idea.
The thing about the gameplay however, is that it isn’t necessarily that great. The combat lays out like the side view of Final Fantasy, but with a bit of a change. You can move the characters around the screen from left to right to attack the enemies, and when you attack a particular enemy your character will move there (unless it’s projectile based). The graphics are superb, nicely drawn and inputted into the system so they come across quite well on the screen. But, it’s generally magic spell, attack, run, magic spell, attack, run, heal, and that’s kind of it. Which isn’t bad, but as a testament to this, I used to be super sleep deprived when I was in high school and when I’d play this game I’d invariably fall asleep during the battles because it was well, boring.
In a way, I felt like I was playing what I might conceive or compare to a ‘kinetic novel’. In a kinetic novel you click and so on to advance the story through narrative, sound, and graphics. I felt most of the time playing the game that I was engaging a combat system and moving around a screen so that I could get to the next step in the story rather than necessarily engaged in particular decisions or strategies.
This works for me honestly, but it’s something to admit to. I like to JRPG grind and gain levels, there’s something quite satisfying in seeing your time invested paid off in greater ability and stature.
As I understand it, the ending was re-written for this release? I wonder what it was like before? I thought the story didn’t disappoint when rounding out its characters, and offering a few twists along the way. I don’t want to give much, but each of the characters does have a definite personality (except of course Alex, because that’s the guy you play).
The nice thing about this collection was the package that came with it. My copy came with an ornate box with a cover flip lid, and a hard cover instruction book with a sample of the official strategy guide. Inside the hard cover instruction book were small interviews with the people who helped make Lunar the game it is. This was one of Working Design’s first ‘historic’ releases, so it didn’t have as much as Lunar 2 had (which I also own).
My only complaint isn’t really a complaint. Just make sure that you level well, I had to actually level several levels at the end tower itself because I just wasn’t quite strong enough to defeat the final boss. This was a bit tricky as my physical resources (items) were dwindling, although there was a place to heal up and save. I had to fight the last boss like six times before I was able to just barely defeat him, and I was pretty high level. So make sure you level up throughout the game!
All in all this game was a pleasant diversion. I liked the story, I liked the characters, and I enjoyed that, at least to me, it didn’t try super hard to be ‘anime’. It just was a good story and setting that was given life through the mechanics of a JRPG. If you like character driven RPG’s then I would recommend this one, but if you’re looking for hardcore strategy, I would look elsewhere.
This review is part of a larger list of Games Asher’s Played
This is also part of a Let’s Play Classics series
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