Saturday, 11 March 2006 04:11

Lunar: The Silver Star (Sega CD, 1992)

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Overview

I'm going to start this review off by pointing out something very simple, but easy to miss: There's no bloody 'Story', and no bloody 'Complete' on the end of this version's title. I'm not talking about the Sega Saturn version, or the really, really BAD Sony Playstation (If you had played the original, that is - I'll come back to this later) here. No, I'm referring to the original classic, the SegaCD version. Now, I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of readers here will never have played that version - in fact, I'm going to guess that a fair number of you didn't even know that it existed. That's alright, though - after all, the SegaCD's major downfall was that, while it was a great little system, it was barely supported by Sega. So it should come as no surprise that Lunar: Silver Star and its sequel, Eternal Blue, is a gem that was missed by most people.

Review

In terms of originality, Lunar didn't really cross any major new grounds. In fact, it's even fair to say that the story, good as it is, was actually pretty generic. Boy has a heroic adventurer as an idol. Boy wants adventures of his own. Boy's friend convinces him to come along in search of treasure. Boy's girlfriend comes along. It's a fairly simple premise, and one that's certainly been tested over and over again in time. What set Lunar apart from the Final Fantasies and Dragon Warrior/Quests and Legends of Zelda was that Lunar: Silver Star was one of the first games to feature full voice acting and even anime-styled cut scenes, something made possible because it was a CD based game. So while the premise wasn't all that original, the delivery was entirely new, and the bright, nearly cartoony world was certainly a considerable shift from the sometimes bland and uninspiring tile-based RPG's as well.

Our seemingly mute hero in Lunar is a young boy named Alex and his flying cat pal - yeah, of course there's more to him than appears - Nall. Alex lives on a world with a single, huge blue-green marble visible in daylight in its skies - and right about now you should be understanding where the series name comes from. Lunar is a world of magic and music, protected and sheltered by the Goddess Althena, her four dragons, and the Dragonmaster. The last Dragonmaster, Dyne, was born and grew up in the very same village as young Alex, so is it really any surprise that Alex holds him as an idol? But a heroic idol and fantasy world is nothing without a good adventure to take place in it, so when Alex's pudgy friend Ramus hears a rumor that there's a huge diamond to be found in the monster filled caves to the south, of course he talks Alex into going with. And since somebody has to come along to keep an eye on them, we meet Alex's girlfriend Luna, an orphaned girl raised by Alex's parents along with him.

The party travels to the cave, but what they find is not just a diamond, but a fully grown dragon. Incidentally, Lunar has (at least the WD translated version) one of the most original explanations of dragon hordes and the origin of precious gems I've ever seen - or at least one of the most humorous. Anyway, Quark sets Alex off on a real adventure - to try and become the next Dragonmaster, and so the little party is off to the port city of Meribia.

Like I've said, the storyline in Lunar: Silver Star was pretty basic, so while it's enjoyable, it's not really anything particularly incredible, either. You're not going to be seeing awesome new ideas - though I'll admit that the concept of Lunar and how it was created (something that is further and better explored in Lunar: Eternal Blue) is interesting. The graphics are right on par with games of the day too - sprite based, they're about average for a sixteen bit system. The anime styled cut scenes are similar to .gif movies in color and motion - they are animated, but not an incredible amount so. That having been said, they are a first try, and so novelty alone scores points, to say nothing of the fact that the major cut scenes really do advance the story and help to give you a real feel for the characters. They're nothing compared to today's full CGI masterpieces and FMVs, but give Studio Alex points for a damned nice trial run!

The battle system used in Lunar: Silver Star is probably one of the most original I've ever seen. While it is turn based, characters also have move distances, and are able to strike multiple times. This applies to using magic as well as standard attacks - a character with three attacks will cast the magic on the first strike, and then run forward to do normal hits on the second and third strike, assuming they're in range. Another great addition is the 'AI' option, which allows you to tell your characters to fight their own battles. A worthwhile option if you're just leveling, as it saves you from a thousand button presses. On the other hand, the AI is very simplistic - it just attacks the creature closest to the characters, meaning that your party might waste a turn on weaker MoBs while the big one wails on you.

Music is alright. There's a fair share of very enjoyable, and even memorable music, such as the opening theme 'Take Heed', but offsetting them is the fact that Lunar: Silver Star has a number of very repetitive, semi-ambient songs that are used, unfortunately, extensively through dungeons. Since Silver Star is a Sega CD game, by the way, all the audio tracks - and that includes the voice acting - can be played in a normal CD player. A nice little added bonus, and something that I wish more games would do, though I grant it's rather impossible on DVD based games. Still, I like game soundtracks - so when I see something like that I'm glad to make use of them. The voice acting is... well, let's be honest. The voice acting is kinda fudgy. It's not horrible, and the VA's were having fun, but it'd never pass muster by today's standards, low as they are. Note that that's on the English dub. As an interesting side note, Alex and Luna both were voiced in the Japanese version by the immortal Kikuko Inoue, whom you'll likely recognize from Ah! My Goddess!, among other titles.

I mentioned earlier a specific distinction on the title that I'd like to elaborate on here, before I close this review. This particular review is on the original, SegaCD game - many of you may well have played the Playstation remake, titled Silver Star Story Complete. You might be wondering why I've gone to such lengths to separate the two - and why I called it a bad remake. Well, the truth is, if you haven't played the original game, it's not a bad remake. In fact it even improves upon the original in some ways, something that's always to be enjoyed. However, what you have to understand is that the remake and the original are all but two completely different games, sharing in common only premise and some of the opening. You see, when Alex and company head on to Meribia in the PS version, Luna goes with them - but in the original, she stays behind in Burg, protesting that she'd just be in the way. That's right - well over three quarters of the game is completely different from the PS version, in no small part because of that change alone, which throws most of the plot after it into disarray. So yes, I say that the PS version is bad, because I'd played the original... and what WD did on the remake was a slap in the face to anybody that had played the original version. Obviously you're welcome to disagree with me - but for me, the remake was horridly bad.

Overall

So overall, we have a pretty good game. The story isn't breaking any new ground, but its well written and well executed. The graphics aren't anything special, but they're solid and the first foray into anime-style cut scenes is a great bonus. The music is ok, but loses points because of repetitive 'dread' music played in dungeons. So what is it about Lunar: Silver Star that keeps its fans coming back, time and again? I got to thinking about that a lot, recently, as I played through my copy. It's not the story, or the graphics, or even the anime-style scenes. I think it's because Lunar does something that most RPG's don't manage to do - it has the potential to be realistic. Anybody that doesn't realize that the Blue Star is Earth shouldn't be playing this game, which means that quite possibly, we could be one day looking up at the Earth from Lunar's surface. There might not be dragons, or magic, or even flying cats - but then again, there just might... Lunar: Silver Star is an exceedingly well crafted world that, despite its somewhat mediocre qualities otherwise, manages to draw the players in. And that, I have to think, is reason enough to want to play it again. The Lunar series never quite managed to replace Final Fantasy as my favorite RPG series, but it's the only series that's come close to it.

Additional Info

  • Title: Lunar: The Silver Star
  • Genre: RPG, Fantasy
  • Artist: Toshiyuki Kubooka
  • Composer: Noriyuki Iwadare, Hiroshi Fujioka, Isao Mizoguchi, Yoshiaki Kubodera
  • Platform: Sega CD
  • Developer: Game Arts, Studio Alex
  • Publisher: Game Arts, Working Designs
  • Writing: Good (+2)
  • Pacing: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Graphics: Very Good (+3)
  • Controls: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Voice Acting: Average (0)
  • Soundtrack: Very Good (+3)
  • Replay Value: TOASTY! (+4)
Last modified on Tuesday, 24 January 2012 23:24
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