on April 23, 2010
For summary and pros/cons, skip to the bottom.
Put the pitchfork down. This is not a bash against LUNAR "the game". This is a solid review of this version of LUNAR. But before I get into any of that, let me lay everything out in case you've never played (or heard of) LUNAR before.
LUNAR is a game designed by Game Arts. As you can easily see, it has origins in Japan, and is considered as close to JRPG as you can get. Game Arts has released many such games, and almost all of them eventually died off; LUNAR is really the only one that lasted past a first episode. It started wayyyyyy back on the Sega CD with a game called LUNAR: The Silver Star. Since then, LUNAR has seen one true sequel (LUNAR: Eternal Blue), a couple of offshoots, most of which we never saw in the US (i.e. LUNAR: Dragon Song, Magic School LUNAR!, LUNAR: Walking School, and LUNAR: Genesis), and more remakes than I care to mention in this review (four!). Silver Star in particular has been released on Sega CD, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and now PSP, not including LUNAR Legend which was a horrible handheld version that didn't do the main series justice. A company called Working Delays...err...Designs, was most notable in bringing some of the LUNAR games stateside, but their biggest problem was the extreme delay in releasing games. Regarding LUNAR: Silver Star Story Complete (the PlayStation version of this game), it took nearly 2 years from the first announcement before the game was released.
It wasn't all a wash, because for that delay you ended up with a complete package that no game publisher has ever managed to even come close to. Silver Star Story Complete came with a cloth map, a hardcover color book, a soundtrack CD, and color foil packaging - you really felt as though a lot of care and consideration went into making the game. Additionally, Working Designs went out of its way to perfect its craft for translation and vocal arrangements, including comedy straight out of the here and now. Bill Clinton jokes were all over the place, campy humor abound, and even some borderline inappropriate statements made to the female characters. It was an amazing experience from beginning to end, and at the time, the ultimate gaming experience for RPG fans. Before all of the various remakes got released, Silver Star Story Complete garnered prices hovering near $200, because people really wanted the game after experiencing it for the first time.
In Silver Star, you play out the story of Alex, a young boy who dreams of becoming the next Dragonmaster and going on epic adventures like Dyne, the previous Dragonmaster. Luna, the young girl your parents adopted and who has been with Alex's entire life, is an expert singer, mesmerizing the townsfolk with her songs. Along the way, you'll meet various friends who help you in your cause, and experience the loss of others as the story pans out. Speaking candidly, the game itself is solid: You relate very well to the characters, as their development was done perfectly. There's never an instance where you wonder what a character is about or why they're doing what they're doing. Additionally, various cutscenes pepper the game, allowing you to experience more of the story without interaction as you play the game. The battle engine was basic, but enthralling, because it allowed you to control just how badly you got taxed by certain bosses by way of the skills and defending/moving around the field. There were strategic elements that set it apart from other RPGs in the same time period.
All of that sounds great, doesn't it? I went on forever about how great it is, so why did I ding it a star? Well, you need to understand that I'm not reviewing this as a standalone game, because it's effectively the same game as the previous remakes, and therein lies the problem. This isn't Working Designs anymore, and it shows. A lot of content was either changed, cut or just plain done wrong in this release, and while I personally was not satisfied with what I got, I can't ding it any more than a star, because at its core it is the same basic gameplay. It's more storyline where the drastic changes got made, with some slight aesthetic butcherings. Rather than go on any longer than I did above, I'll just bullet it out for you.
*/* What LUNAR: Silver Star Harmony Does RIGHT (compared to Silver Star Story Complete) */*
- SSSC was three discs; this is just one UMD/download. That alone is impressive.
- No need to track down the hidden bromides; if you get the Limited Edition they're all there in card form.
- The town music remixes were actually quite well done.
- Hmm...how to say this without spoiling..."you don't need the Ocarina this time". A BIG plus.
- No more Nall side inventory. There was a SSSC demo that gamers could use to then carry over to the actual game, but it had a glitch. If you moved Alex's Ocarina to Nall and forgot to move it back when you played the actual game, you couldn't finish the game. BIG problems with that one.
- I can't help but deny that the majority of the graphics were improved signfiicantly, especially for the dragons. Also, sprite animations are excellent, especially the characters when attacking.
- Portable. Quite possibly the most well rounded of the portable games and seemingly a perfect fit for the PSP.
- New Arts attacks give your characters an edge that you never had before.
- They fixed Myght's Tower, where on SSSC they gave you that sun/moon/star/planet puzzle but didn't actually give you the clue you needed.
*/* What LUNAR: Silver Star Harmony Does WRONG (compared to Silver Star Story Complete) */*
- They sectioned off the towns, and it has to load as you access each section. Very annoying.
- There's a load every time you enter or exit battle.
- There's a load every time a cutscene begins.
- Did I mention load times???
- There is a slow fade effect when beginning or ending battles, in addition to the load time. This results in a VERY slow experience to something that used to be lightning quick.
- Alex and friends no longer walk as fast as they used to, even with the run button.
- Extremely stingy with the experience. I beat the game at level 37 and that's with grinding. On SSSC you could easily get to at least 45 without breaking a sweat.
- The full 3D really causes issues with navigation sometimes, because it's hard to tell where a wall begins and a floor ends on some areas.
- Every town, cave, dungeon, and castle has been redrawn, so even if you memorized exactly where the bar is in a town, it's likely in a totally different location now. Same goes for chests where you distinctly remember where it was on SSSC.
- Bromide locations and requirements changed; not all, but some. Still annoying. Essentially you're buying half of them. That defeats the challenge of finding them.
- Dialogue is more tame. A LOT more tame. None of it is really edgy anymore like it used to be. I can understand killing the Clinton jokes, but at least a Bush joke would have been nice.
- Some cutscenes were removed. This REALLY annoyed me, especially since the back of the game claimed that there was "more" to the story. Notable mention: Quark lifting his head slowly, blinking, and saying "My friends...."
- Loading/Saving glitches; every now and then I would save the game, sleep the PSP, wake it up later only to find the game literally frozen. It happened at least four times, after which I stopped using the sleep mode.
- Some of the voice actors are terrible compared to the SSSC counterparts. Notable mentions: Ghaleon, Nall, Ramus, Mel. IMO, Ghaleon is inexcusable.
- This "Limited Edition" Packaging is pathetic. Bromide cards and a soundtrack CD that looks like it was printed on someone's Lexmark is not a true limited edition. These guys need to go back and study Working Designs' early works.
So....do I recommend it? Yes. Even though I have those negatives, they really don't impact how great the game is at its core. The only thing that would really affect you if you've never played LUNAR are the load times and the save glitch. Beyond that you will probably not think twice on what I said. LUNAR is a must-play game, and honestly, I say that you should track down Silver Star Story Complete as it's absolutely the superior version. But if all you care about is playing the game, albeit portably, this is definitely worth the money. If you played the older remake then you know what to expect going into this.