There’s something to be said about a video
game that makes you CARE about the characters and become invested in not just the overall
plot, but the little things that happen to the main heroes friends and allies. In all
honesty, few games really manage to pull that off consistently. A character might feel important
for a while, then just fade into the background all of the sudden, and is hardly brought up
again. However some games sink their claws into you
with a brilliant narrative and convincing characters that players can really connect
with. I can only name a few games that truely accomplish this….One that may very well
be the most important game I have ever played. I’m speaking of course, of the first Lunar
game from Game Arts and Studio Alex. Lunar: The Silver Star was originally released
in 1993 for the Sega CD, and was remade for the Japanese Saturn in 1996 as Silver Star
Story with that version ported to the Playstation in 1998. That Playstation version eventually
made its way to the States as Silver Star Story Complete in 1999. The Silver Star was
remade twice more, with Lunar Legend on the GBA in 2002, and Silver Star Harmony in 2009.
With a plethora of remakes and versions to choose from, Silver Star is the most accessible
game in the Lunar Catalog. In 1995, a direct sequal to Silver Star was released on the
Sega CD. Lunar Eternal Blue saw the same remakes on the Saturn and Playstation. There’s also
a spin off game and a less than stellar DS sequel that most fans would love to forget
about. So what’s the appeal behind Lunar? Maybe you’ve
heard about it but you’re not sure why people maybe ramble on about how good it is. For
me, Lunar is the first RPG….no, the first video game, that made me feel something for
the characters. It was the first game that made me get invested in the success, and sorrow,
of each of the characters. With all the different versions out there to pick from, I want to
talk the most about the first remake we got here in the States: Lunar: Silver Star Story
Complete, localized by Working Designs in 1999. Alex Noah is a young man from the remote village
of Burg, one of two villages on Caldor Isle, and the birthplace of DragonMaster Dyne. The
DragonMaster is the sworn protector and hero of the Goddess Althena, the loving deity of
the people of Lunar. Burg holds a festival in her honor, and the cities of the world
are littered with statues of her for the people pray for her blessings. Burg, being Dynes
birthplace, also has a momenumt in his honor that Alex stares at day.
Alex has been enthralled with the stories of the DragonMaster since he was a child,
and dreams of one day following in his hero Dyne’s footsteps….But he knows that adventure
doesn’t just fall out of the sky. Alex has several friends in the village of
Burg. Nall, a flying white cat-like creature who is obsessed with fish and is constantly
hanging off Alex’s shoulder. Ramus, the son of the mayor of Burg who dreams of hitting
it rich through various plans and schemes, and Luna, who lives with Alex and his parents
after being brought to them, along with Nall, from a friend of Alex’s father many years
ago. Luna and Alex have a special bond, being more than just friends or foster siblings.
They play music in the festivals honorign the Goddess Althena together, and have a connection
the people of Burg can’t help but admire. Luna’s singing voice has captured the hearts
of the townsfolk, and it is only complimented by Alex’s instrument playing.
The game begins when Ramus finds Alex’s at dynes moment and has a proposal that sets
off their adventure. Alex and Nall agree to help Ramus venture
of the White Dragon Cave near Burg to collect a priceless Diamond from the cave. Luna is
not to happy when Nall spills the beans about their adventure. She agrees to come along,
if for no other reason than to keep the boys out of trouble.
Inside the cave, the group fights monsters and make their way to white dragon. After
passing the Dragon Trial, test an aspiring DragonMaster must undergo in order to prove
their worth Quark gives the group a hunk of….uh….smelly, priceless rock. Quark is impressed with Alex’s
resolve and allows him to keep the Dragon Ring he found in the cave, proving he passed
the Trial and is on his way to becoming a Dragon Master like his hero, Dyne. The diamond the group collected is worth more
than the shop in Burg can pay for it, so Ramus and Alex attempt to sneak away from Luna and
make their way to the port to catch a ride to the biggest city in the world, Meribia.
Meribia has shops that can probably pay for the diamond, and would bring alex just another
step closer to the other Dragons. Only problem is the fog is too dense to get through the
woods and the group turns back, and Nall spills the beans to Luna yet again…..This cat just
can’t keep it in the bag! Luna eventually calms down and agrees to journey to Meribia
with the boys, and the stage is set for an adventure than will change their lives forever. Along their journey they meet the arrogant
magician, Nash, a magacian from the city of Vane’s Magic Guild, who serves under one of
the 4 Heroes who protected the Goddess Althena and Dragonmaster Dyne’s best friend, Ghaleon. Jessica, the daughter of Mel de Alkirk, another
of the 4 Heroes. Mia,daughter of Lemia, another of the heroes who traveled with Dyne and served
to protect the goddess. And Kyle, Jessica’s brutish on-again-off-again boyfriend. Each character in Lunar is fleshed out an
amazing amount. They have certain stereotypes they may fall into, but they each have their
passions and goals and things that drive them. Nash may be a prick of a spell slinger, but
he loves the magic city Vane more than anything, citing its purpose for eternally protecting
the Goddess Althena. He is proud of his work at the Guild and the good that he believes
Magic can do for people. Mia is softhearted and unsure of herself as a leader, but cares
for the people she works with more than anything, and when pushed, can achieve great things.
Jessica and Kyle, while fighting and acting like they hate each other, prove time and
time again that they care more about each other than they let on, and to see a big brute
like Kyle do what he does to protect Jessica can be really moving, even if it brings a
grin to your face listening to this barbarian talk. The battle system in Lunar is rather unique,
and is one of the many things that separate the game from the competition. Battles are
held on a side view plane, and are turn based, just like you’ve come to expect from traditional
RPGs of the era. What is different about Lunar is that battles are area and range based.
That mean’s characters have to walk up to the enemy, attack, and stay there. Magic users
can stay put and cast spells from afar, meaning they are less likely to be attacked since
they’re further back. If a target is outside a characters range, that person will have
to use one of their attacks just to move closer to it. Some attacks also hit in certain areas,
and picking the right target is essential to do the most damage. For example, Nash’s
Thumber Bomb can attack a large group of enemies, just like Alex’s Explosion Staff. While the
battle system is nowhere near as complex as a Final Fantasy Tactics system or similar,
Lunar’s unique take the traditional turn based battle system adds a layer of depth and strategy
not found in many other games. It becomes crucial to adjust your party’s formation at
certain times to give your characters the advantage in a heated battle. Do you spread
them out or shove them all in the back, out of range for a few turns? It’s a fun, new
take on a system we’ve been used to for years. Enemies are such are typical. Larger groups
can be harder to take down sometimes just because they outnumber your party in the early
portions of the game. Each enemy telegraphs their moves with a different animation before
attacking. This helps you plan your next actions for the turn. Do you take out the one ready
for a big attack, or play it safe and fall back and heal.This allows for few surprises
in the game for enemies you’ve encountered a few times in a dungeon. Again, it’s nothing
groundbreaking or revolutionary, but it made battles that much more fun. Boss battles are were Lunar: Silver Star Story,
takes another step away from the traditional styles of other games. Each boss has a set
of base stats. Those stats are then multiplied by Alex’s level. So if you have a boss with
a base HP value of 100, and Alex’s level was 15, the boss would have 1,500 HP. This prevents
the boss fights from being too overly challenging or too easy, and actually helps make each
fight feel cinematic…at least later into the game. The first boss on the ship to Meribia
is actually fairly challenging if you don’t grind a little bit in the woods around the
town. The reason is because it’s one of the few bosses that recover HP during the fight,
and if you never do more damage than it recovers, you’ll never win. Luna learns a buff song
that raises your character’s strength, and it is basically essential for defeating this
giant blue drip. The journey from Burg to Meribia is only a
small first step in this life changing journey. Ramus stays behind in Meribia to run a store
he takes over from a guy who tried to steal the parties diamond,Nash takes Alex and Luna
to meet his master, Ghaleon, and Luna is questioning her purpose in life and why she keeps having
the same dreams every night. The characters hear rumors about a magic emperor and how
singers the world over are disappearing, and everything seems to be getting rather serious
all of the sudden. Ghaleon offers Alex a chance to help him with a problem; there’s someone
claiming to be a dragon master harassing a fishing village, and Ghaleon asks the group
to investigate the claims, and maybe then Alex may be able to learn the locations of
the other Dragons he must meet. After defeating the false dragon master, Alex
and Luna are separated and everything goes downhill. Luna is made to sing for Ghaleon,
Mia’s mother and a group of witches from the Vile Tribe, who Althena banished to the Frontier
ages ago, and Mia’s mother is revealed to have been under a spell that trapped her memory
and impersonated by one of the witches. They taunt the group about the coming of the
Magic Emperor’s rule over the world. Ghaleon asks Alex to take him to Quark under the pretense
that Ghaleon would become a Dragonmaster himself in order to combat the Vile tribe….However,
once they arrive, Ghaleon asks Quark a question about Luna’s past, and things go a little
crazy once more. This betrayal, from Alex’s idol’s best friend,
and a man Alex had just seen fight by his side, shocked me as a kid playing this game.
Ghaleon reveals himself to be the magic emporer, kidnaps Quark and Luna, and sends fiends from
the Vile Tribe to Meribia and Vane, and proceeds to have his witches, Xenobia, Royce, and Phacia,
kidnap other singers like Luna. Jessica’s father is turned to stone, and Vane’s leadership
is in shambles. Knowing just how powerful Ghaleon is, the party needs to try and stay
one step ahead of him by finding the other dragons passing their trials, therefore allowing
Alex to become a dragonmaster himself. Becoming a dragonmaster stops being Alex’s lifelong
dream, and instead a hurdle he has to overcome to save the woman he loves. The way Alex fights
for Luna is heartwarming, because at its core, Lunar is a love story. Lunar’s presentation, as you can no doubt
tell, is interesting. With animated cutscenes inserted into a 16-bit style game, Lunar is
a title that still looks good to this day. The original Sega Cd version, though considered
by many to be the real definitive version of the game, does suffer from a, in my mind,
not so good color palette and..i don’t know, there’s something about all the text being
in uppercase the whole time that I don’t care for. It’s hard to think Luna is this sweet
charming character when reading her text is like reading an email from my grandmother.
And yeah, even the playstation version gets a little bit of criticism for its cutesy,
16 bit graphics. But it’s aged much better than some other games of the era, and it’s
an art style I’ve always enjoyed…but it isn’t for everyone, I’m sure. And even though
Sega Cd games like Snatcher have TONS of voice acted scenes, The original Silver Star only
has about 10 minutes of voice acted scene. The same actors came back to reprise their
roles for the english Playstation version and the voice cast was expanded to allow for
even more cutscenes and voice acting. That’s amazing, because it’s pretty decent voice
acting. I mean, who doesn’t love Ghaleon savoring every letter that comes out
of his mouth? The Saturn version of the Lunar Silver Star
Story was released twice, one adding support for the saturns video card addon, which allowed
mpeg versions of full motion video to play in certain games. Saturn games could play
video files before this addon, but they were typically in more compressed formats like
Cinapak instead. The Saturn version was then ported to the Playstation, and that version
was localized by the same team who localized the Sega Cd original. To talk about Lunar’s english release and
not mention the localization job by Working Designs would be a criminal act. Working Designs
handled the Sega Cd originals of both Silver Star and Eternal Blue, as well as the Playstation
“Complete” versions that were released in the west. Working Designs was well known for
their elaborate packing for games like the Lunar remakes. Sadly, though I’ve owned Silver
Star Story Complete since I was 11 in 2001, and got Eternal Blue for my birthday the following
year….I only still have the game, the special “making of discs” and the hardback manual.
I don’t have the cool map or the soundtrack, or even the cool box it all came in anymore.
But as a kid this was all neat stuff to get. I used to listen to the soundtrack on the
bus to band trips back in 6th and 7th grade. Getting all this extra stuff was never something
that made me want the game, in fact I had no idea the games came with all this extra
stuff when I decided I wanted to buy them, but for a collector, these things are great
extras…and honestly, I’m not really a collector….. Working Designs is also known for their translations
and localizations of the games they brought over. Since CD games were cheaper to produce,
plus having more room than their cartridge contemporaries, Working Designs was able include
things like voice acting, almost unheard of at the time in the west, into games. They
also enjoyed changing things around with the script, adding pop culture references, hamming
up the jokes a little bit more than the source material, etc. While the localization is pretty
funny for the most part, some of the references are lost even to me,but it’s not like the
games script is required reading for a pop culture class. There’s enough there to help
make players laugh without taking them out of the world. Almost every NPC has something to say, and
Working Design’s unique presentation of the script helps make the villages and events
feel just that more fleshed out and original. It’s charm I’ve really yet to see replicated
in another series. From silly little quips to hidden jokes, references and some crazy
sexual comments for the time, Lunar gives the player a reason to WANT to talk to everyone
they come across. In 2005, Working Designs closed their doors,
and a discussion about that would be a video on it’s own. But prior to that, in 2002, the
company turned down the rights to localize the Game Boy Advance retelling of The Silver
Star in the game Lunar Legend, instead letting Ubisoft have at it.
This version is one of the better, light hearted games on the GBA, but it is pretty different
than it’s Sega Cd or Playstation older brothers. For example, in the Playstation version, you
find nash trapped in a silly doohicky outside the Old Hag’s house. In Lunar Legend, Nash
visits Burg to pass the trial of the White Dragon himself and Alex provides his escort.
Since full motion video is a little hard on the GBA, stills from Silver Star Story are
used, and bigger scenes are presented with large, well detailed and animated sprites.
I actually really like how they went with this and some of these changes. It’s the same
story, but told just different enough to be interesting. The battle system is much more
traditional, as it ditches the range based style of the Sega CD and playstation version,
and frankly, this version is amazingly easy. The latest release of the game comes in the
form of Silver Star Harmony on the PSP. A really modern upgrade with a different camera
perspective, a new scenario that tells part of Dyne’s story with the other characters,
including Ghaleon, and a other new scenario elements. This version was handled by Xseed
Games, who did a good job of keeping “the funny” parts of the script around with their
own little twist on it while remaining true to the source material and without encroaching
on working design’s jokes. The battle system returns to the range based system from the
original and Playstion versions, which is awesome, and the sprite work and backgrounds
are just gorgeous. This is an excellent version of the game and worth looking into. My main
gripe with it is that the game uses the exact same cutscenes from the Saturn and Playstation
versions, with new voice actors. These scenes are 4×3, and while gorgeous, it does feel
like a bit of a copout. Granted, animation is expensive to produce, and the extra content
makes up for this, such as extra voice acted scenes not present in the other versions,
but I would love to see some new, modern animation. I think the voice acting is pretty good, too,
but John Truitt not being there as Ghaleon makes me a sad Duke. His replacement doesn’t
feel right. There’s not too many secrets to find in the
game, other than a collection of saucy pictures and a few hidden events, but you’ll easily
discover everything because Lunar does such a good job of inviting you into its world
and making you want to explore every nook and cranny. Like I said before, this game makes you care
about the characters. When you realize what Ghaleon’s plans are and what he intends to
do with Luna, how he, Luna, and Dragon Master Dyne were all connected, and see Alex’s resolve
for saving the woman he loves, it’s hard not to care…. You can’t help but cheer Alex
on as he gets closer to Luna, only to have her snatched away by the bad guy once again…..
Ghaleon is a vile man, sure, but when you see his reasons for his actions, it’s hard
not to feel sorry for the man who’s best friend took a different path than he wanted, and
stripped the world of something Ghaleon held dear. With a main and supporting cast as strong
as this, Lunar is more than a video game; it’s a story telling experience that simply
needs to be beheld by more people. Lunar is an amazing title for it’s time, and
I honestly believe it holds up well today. The Sega CD original game can be a little
hard to look at in places, but the charm and joy is still there, and many, many players
claim it to be the best version. The Playstation remake was my first visit to the enchanting
world of Lunar, and will probably always remain my favorite. But there’s a lot of ways to
get into this game, though they can be very, very pricey. But I would honestly tell you
that if you have the means, you need to experience this game. While I think I enjoy the sequals
gameplay and story a little bit more, Lunar: Silver Star Story, will always have a place
in my heart as the game that made me experience true emotional ups and downs with a fantastic
plot and the perfect characters to help flesh it all out. This is simply the most important
game I have ever played, and if nothing else, I hope more people get to experience it soon.