Pros: Amazing entertainment value for the RPG aficionado.
Cons: Replayability leaves something to be desired.
I screwed up in 1999. Back during the fine summer of that year, I made the horrible mistake of renting Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, playing a meek amount of the game before switching to using the Gameshark, and then considered the game defunct. That was it. After playing the game for less than 2 or 3 hours, I considered the game broke and returned it (which I regret partially due to placing the blame on the video store's owner). And that was it. I never really thought much of it, thought the store owner was insane for keeping the game on the shelf after that, and went about my business. The only thing that I really remembered about the game was the catchy opening theme, which I went back this past year to get, and the fact that the game could no longer be bought normally after 1999 due to Working Designs officially proclaiming it a "Collector's Item" and stopping production of more copies. It didn't really matter to me, though.
And then, on one fine day this past summer of 2001, I decided I should give it one more chance.
After having a unique experience with Ghost in the Shell (the game, not the anime), I learned that various Gameshark codes can cause some serious graphic glitch-ups during video sequences. Taking a chance, I decided to test the theory on Lunar: SSC. No gameshark. Just the way I should have played it.
The game worked fine. The only problems that occured were far later on, when my Playstation reached temperatures that made me wonder at what point I could fry an egg on it. And finally, I played through Lunar: The Silver Star Story. Entirely.
The object is simple, yet elegent. You play as young Alex, a boy who wishes to fill in the shoes of the great Dragonmaster Dyne. Following you is your comic relief "cat-thing" (any name other than that can be considered a spoiler, folks), flying at your shoulder and actually assisting in battle from time to time. From beginning to end, the story itself starts as a simple quest, and it ends as that, as well. Yet, in it's simplicity lies a masterpiece.
How many RPGs have you fight monsters, gain levels, fight bosses, save the girl and the day is saved? Too many. Does Lunar follow this formula? Yes. But somehow, it works.
It's as if the designers looked at every traditional role-playing game up until that time and said to themselves, "We want to take everything that was right from these games, improve upon that, and make one huge game of genius ideas". Alot of developers go into projects with at least similar ideas in mind. Alot of those ideas never pan out the way they were planned. But Lunar works, and though the idea remains to be a tradional RPG where you kill monsters on an obligatory quest, gain experience levels and save the day, somehow, they did it right. Combined with the music, the game creates an emotional response with the player, to the point that players in Japan sent letters to Lunar's composer telling him his music made them cry for the first time playing a video game.
When Lunar was remade for the PlayStation, the characters were "aged", in accordance with what the creator's said befitted the aging of the players who first enjoyed the game on their Sega CD years ago. This, in effect, works, too. The gameplay remains practically unchanged (aside from the addition of a few new bosses, to add to the challenge) and as we quest, we become attached to the characters regardless of the knowledge of the characters being-- or looking-- different before. Previous players find themselves enraptured in a new way. New players will find an attachment all their own. At the root of a basic quest, a standard plot, and some tough fights (which are, by the way, occasionally determined by how strong you are, for the bosses, that is), we have something that touches deeper. Emotional response. Entertaining. Somehow, this all seems to come to light through a run of Lunar: the Silver Star Story.
Not exactly the most "super" graphics by Playstation standards for a RPG, but that's why I love it. It's 2D! Thank god the guys at Working Designs decided it'd be best to leave the style of RPG untouched that was in the Sega Saturn and Sega CD versions. Instead of making some almost-human 3D polygonal characters and more graphical wonders/blunders Squaresoft has made their calling now, WD decided it'd be best to leave the overall game the same, but improve upon the cinematics by making them more animeish. The result is a game that looks like it came out in 1992 (wait, it originally did...) with impressive anime sequences.
Yes, this hooked me as well. When the creators at Working Designs said you get "attached to the characters" on the Making of Lunar CD that came with the game (which, strangely, I don't recall getting the first time I rented it), I didn't believe it would actually happen to me. But, I suppose it did to a certain extent. You know it's good when I walk around during my everyday routine(when I'm stuck, of course) contemplating what could happen next.
Working Designs went all-out this time around to make sure things were perfect, and they succeeded quite well. First off, the soundtrack. Great. Nothing really more to say there... the two english vocal tracks (as sung by Jenny Stigle), Wind's Nocturne and Wings(the opening theme), were actually BETTER than their Japanese alternatives.
This thing made my Grandpa Playstation wonder how many years he still has ahead of him. The only thing that ever made me stop playing was A) the Playstation overheating, causing the game to lockup and do many things I'm sure weren't supposed to happen(at one point all the vocal tracks on Disc 1 started playing during battle), and B) lack of cash. Of course, I did finish it though. To sum it up, Lunar ranks up there as one of the best RPGs of all time.