Home > Games I Don't Like, Video Games > Lunar: Yes, Again, Edition | Lunar: Silver Star Harmony Review

Lunar: Yes, Again, Edition | Lunar: Silver Star Harmony Review

GungHo via XSeed; PSP; NTSC-U; Trailer

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

Now, during this seemingly rudderless time in Lunar’s history, one who proclaims himself the Magic Emperor has set about to bring all of Lunar’s inhabitants under his control, and only a single boy who dreams of becoming a Dragonmaster remains to challenge him.

Yes, that’s right: the triune gods of the JRPG—Cliché , Deja-Vu and Deus Ex Machina–are back, treating us to yet another remake of the ‘classic’ console RPG Lunar: The Silver Star Silver Star Story Complete Legend Silver Star Harmony a.k.a. Lunar: We’re Never Getting Part 3 So Please Enjoy This Installment of the Same Game…Again. (And If You’re Really Lucky We’ll Remake Eternal Blue. Maybe.)

You are Alex, fifteen year old virtuoso ocarina player who, on a whim, decides one fine summer day that he’ll embark on a quest that will, ultimately, change the face of the world he inhabits—a quest for the ages that will take him to the farthest-flung regions of the planet Lunar, all without the benefit of a single minute of training in the martial arts. (And, somewhat bewilderingly, with the full blessing of his father and mother.) In many ways, this is a lot like how I was once going to be He-Man, Master of the Universe, determined to end the monstrous reign of Skeletor and lay claim to Castle Grayskull, except that would have violated my bed-time, a limitation Alex apparently does not suffer. (Plus, I couldn’t play the ocarina worth a damn, though I was pretty good on the clarinet, but, trust me: nobody gets the girl—even your pseudo-sister—based on your skill with the clarinet.)

Accompanied by the flying ‘cat’, Nall, his sister-cum-girlfriend-cum-diva, Luna, and Ramus, the town lay-about, rich kid clown whom his own father treats like the town lay-about rich kid clown, they crisscross the world—stumbling, really—from plot point to plot point, engaging in adventures that routinely see them up against insurmountable odds. Thankfully, though, with the help of the JRPG designer’s greatest weapon, far mightier than any boss or, indeed, any designed-into-a-corner mishap, Deus ex machina, they usually pull through with nary a scratch on their heads and almost never a full wipe.

That the story of Lunar is clichéd isn’t really in dispute. It’s pretty much been the standard template for the JRPG almost since its inception and it’s hard to fault a game that debuted in 1993 for adhering so slavishly to the conventions of the form. The problem, of course, is that it’s 2010 and things like this, which were barely tolerable during the time of the first remake, have become desiccated and hollow, causing the whole, laughable, mess to crumble under even the slightest probing. It’s even worse when you consider that the PSP remakes of Final Fantasy I & II—which long pre-dated the original Lunar—are both much better games, even with much less focus on, well, everything.

But fine, you’re nonplussed by the same tired, clichéd, story and you’re thinking: “oh hell, I’m a Lunartic1, dude: I still love the story, even if its clichés have clichés—is that the worst you can say about it?” Alas, I’m only getting warmed up…

See, it’s not bad enough that the story would likely repel just about anyone that hadn’t grown up with it in its Sega CD or PSOne incarnations, but GameArts and co. has also seen fit to perform some serious renovations to how the game is actually played and displayed, re-cutting/re-arranging/re-imagining elements that, in many cases, probably should have been left as-is. Even worse, even when some of these changes appear to be for the best, just as you’re tucking into this seemingly delightful turkey feast, you soon discover the bird, like Ramus, is stuffed with sh*t.

First, the seemingly good news: the graphics have been given a meticulous, beautiful, loving overhaul. The color palette has been expanded to encompass the richest blues and deepest reds, and everything fairly pops off the PSP screen in scintillating detail, from the way sunlight dances across pools of water, to the staggering detail found within even the most inconsequential home.

The animation, on the whole, is glorious, especially during combat, even with the slightly-heavy reliance on Flash-style distortion and stretching rather than traditional, cel-styled, animation. The movement of Alex and company, however, is just fantastic and meticulously-animated—while it never reaches the screaming heights of Muramasa, it’s still stunning stuff, particularly for a portable game.

Even more astounding yet, it’s virtually all 2D! Though the perspective has shifted to isometric and away from the standard-issue top-down of previous outings, it’s a change for the better as it really allows the backdrops to come alive with stunning shading and an excellent feeling of depth despite being flat, 2D, paintings. (There are a few, minor, 3D elements scattered here and there—principally on magic effects and the like—but it all blends fairly seamlessly.)

Really, there aren’t too many bad things at all to say about the graphics (and music, which is about as good as you’d expect…the voice work, not so much) but there is, sadly, one horrific, ‘oh man this so isn’t worth it’, price to pay for all this 2D glory: absolutely dire load times that are pretty much enough, on their own, to undo the entire game, even without the other, niggling, issues.

To give you some idea, imagine that every time you enter a building, a battle, exit to the world map or transition to another floor in a dungeon, the game fades to black, the music fades out, pause, music fades in, screen fades in and, 5-7 seconds later, you’re back in action. In fact, it’s even longer than that since, after each loading event, there’s another second or so where you can’t do anything as the game doesn’t hand over control immediately, either in battles or in towns/dungeons. It’s something, initially, you deal with because, ‘wow, I really dig these graphics’, but, after a couple of hours, you actually begin to overtly dread pretty much anything that will incur a load like and that’s when the tedium of the whole project comes crashing down like Ramus’ fat ass on your gaming parade. (Sorry, I’m all out of sensical metaphors because even writing about the loading makes me insane!) But wait, there’s more!

There’s also the nagging sense that the game wasn’t completely finished. Why do I say this? Well, for one, they completely cut the entire overworld map (that’s right: it’s gone! All of it! You now simply ‘warp’ from dungeon to dungeon and town to town with no map-crawling in sight.) Allegedly, this was down on purpose (and perhaps it was) but it really destroys the sense of pacing and character progression. Case in point: Luna reminisces about the great hardships they’ve gone through since leaving home, while boarding a ship to head across the sea but, since the map-crawling is gone, you actually get there rather quickly, so though she speaks as if it’s taken you quite a while to get there—and, upon a time, it did—it now makes no sense at all. (It makes about as much sense as your friend saying to you: “wow, we’ve really gotten to know each other well on this journey, haven’t we?” and you respond “Uh, dude: we’ve been walking for fifteen minutes and we only talked about your love of dated JRPGs.”)

Continuing along the notion that this has to be a ‘finished’ work-in-progress, the towns and cities you’ll visit are disturbingly vacant. In many cases, entire homes and buildings are completely empty! It’s like they started to populate the town with NPCs with which to interact, ran out of time or money, and said, “OK, good enough!” But what makes this much, much less tolerable (other than it being a virtual ghost town) is that, when coupled with the load times, it gets very, very irritating to venture three rooms deep into a building and find…nothing! Just a mirror, dresser and a bed (none of which you can interact with!) with the occupant (and there has to be one—nobody keeps a room this immaculate without someone living there!) probably off on an amazing adventure of self-discovery with his talking badger, clarinet and step-brother in tow…

The final blow comes with the combat system, something that JRPGs live and die by since, generally, they require so much fighting and here, again, Lunar falls flat on its face: Imagine fights where the enemies are never strong enough to wipe out your party—even bosses; there’s no need to use buffs or de-buffs; there’s no need to grind; the only point of using magic is to speed battles up, not necessarily because survival hinges on it; and, to top it off, thanks to all the glorious animation, they tend to take forever to play out. (In fact, every time a foe casts a spell, you’ll start grinding your teeth because another 5-10 seconds is being added to an already tedious process.) Basically, it’s almost entirely possible to beat the entire game by repeatedly pressing ‘X’ in every battle as long as you keep upgrading your gear as it becomes available. Money is never a problem, under-leveling isn’t even a remote issue (thank God!) and, in the end, it is the battles, more than anything, that takes the tedium to 11!

There are a few other, minor, issues here and there including vastly simplified dungeon layouts (in a way, this is a blessing due to the load times) and bosses that act more like regular mobs with extra HP rather than, well bosses but, in the scheme of things, these are the least of your worries–sort of like someone suffering from leprosy getting worked up over the sniffles.

In the end Lunar: SSH is a lot like a woman mangled in a severe car crash with a less than scrupulous husband: he decides, while she’s under to make her more lush, more beautiful and, oh yeah, restore pre-accident functionality but ran out of money after going top-heavy (minimum DDs, plus extra-Jolie lips) on the more trivial, outward, eye-pleasing, aspects, while leaving the more functional parts in the ‘expert’ hands of a recent graduate of U of Caribbean Medical School. The result: a mangled, malformed, tragic and, oftentimes, tedious, wreck that still manages to look mighty fine in a slinky dress. Here’s hoping, however, when she does finally succumb to her wounds, that GameArts and co. leave her to, finally, rest in peace.

1 Lunartic: obsessive, otaku-like, gamer that venerated (before His Fall) the schizophrenic god, Vireland, He who now cavorts w/ the revenant Sun god.

  1. 03/25/2010 at 03:46

    Was there really a need for another Lunar remake/port?

  2. 06/14/2010 at 01:04

    I know I’m late on this, but thanks for the review. Based on your description, this sounds like a brainless RPG, a.k.a. “soundtrack where you press X”. Personally I’d prefer to just buy the soundtrack and skip the whole pressing-X bit. But I won’t, because I know it wouldn’t be the real Lunar music anyway. You’ve saved me 30 bucks.

    Seemingly random question, but if you’ve played the PSX version of Thunder Force 5, did you ever discover a secret boss? The schizophrenic god Vireland said they added one, but I think he’s lying (or crazy). When questioned, he said he forgot how to access it.

    • ECM
      06/14/2010 at 15:20

      Yeah, I have no idea what the Dark Lord is talking about re: TFV extra boss and, until you just mentioned it, had never heard of it. (And I was at GF when that game came out, and I don’t recall a peep of it being said at the time, so I’m calling shenanigans on that claim.)

  1. 03/24/2010 at 23:41
  2. 04/26/2010 at 17:24
  3. 06/25/2010 at 16:17

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