Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Review
Even though the Sega CD was nothing more than a disappointing failure, the console, or should I say 'add-on', actually had two incredibly good titles for it, the first being Lunar Silver Star Story, and the second being its sequel Lunar 2: Eternal Blue. Both published by Working Designs and developed by Game Arts, the Lunar series was already being compared by some to Square's ever lasting Final Fantasy franchise in terms of storyline and characters. The Lunar RPG games play out as anime cartoons, with anime-cutscenes here and there on top of voice acting. Working Designs thought it would a great idea to bring these classics back to life starting with the very first Lunar. Giving it the title Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, Working Designs has added a little more polish to the game by fixing up some details. Of course the first thing the people who purchased the title noticed was the packaging of the game. Lunar was a three CD game, on top of that the package included a soundtrack CD, a "the making of Lunar" CD, map of the Lunar world, hardcover manual and a few other pleasant extras to make the $60 price tag seem reasonable. The game sold for roughly 6 months until Working Designs decided to stop production and turn the game into a collectors item. The sequel, which was announced shortly after the original's release for the PSOne, didn't suffer from many delays like the first, and thankfully it has arrived.
Clearly visuals are not of concern in this game, after all it is pretty much a direct port of the Sega CD original, with a few extra storyline adjustments. The pixilated graphics aren't really something that will get on your nerves, but those looking for Final Fantasy-esque eye-candy need to look elsewhere, it certainly won't be found in Lunar. Everything on screen is composed of pixels and not one polygon, but everything is smooth looking, at the same time generic and plain. This game features pretty repetitive structures, and as you explore dungeons and areas you will eventually feel like you are playing through a Looney Tunes cartoon. That shouldn't really discourage you much, you will still know where to go, I'm just pointing out the fact. The anime scenes look pretty good, they feature 3D backgrounds, but the characters are pure anime looking, with pointy noses, big eyes and big mouths. It isn't fair to say that the visuals suck, the only word that I can use is 'dated'.
Here's an area where Lunar 2 shines like no other. Back in the day RPGs had a ton of challenge in them, enemies showed no mercy and they actually made you use your noodle to the fullest, some would even make you pull your hair. Lunar 2 is one of those games, challenging, great, and requires thinking. First off, let's talk about the fighting. The battles are not random, you see an enemy before you encounter, but if the enemy sees you he will give a chase. Unlike today's' RPGs where the enemies are always within walking distance reach, the enemies in Lunar are spread out. So if you want to hit an enemy that is to the very left of the screen, and you are to the right, your character will just run for a few steps and stop at a certain spot, leaving him vulnerable to other attacks from other enemies. So here is where your noodle comes in, since you can not attack a distant enemy, you must try to get close to him by attacking other enemies and not just wasting a turn, because remember the characters do not retreat back to their original line-up spots like they do in today's RPG titles. Now that we have strategic attacking covered, let's move on to the battling system overall. When you start off, you will be given four options, Control, AI, Tactics and Run. Choosing 'Control' will let you do everything yourself such as attacking, choosing spells, using items and defending. 'AI' will let the artificial intelligence do the work instead of you. 'Tactics' will let you choose how you want to play out the battle, the manual explains it very well. And 'Run' is pretty much self-explanatory. In the Lunar games, up to four characters can fight at once, like Final Fantasy IX.
Now that we have gotten battle out of the way, what about the story-line, after all it is the single most important aspect in an RPG game, right? Well this game stars quite a hefty amount of characters, Hiro and Lucia being the two most important though. Hiro is a young adventurous kid who enjoys exploring ruins without his grandfather Gwyn's consent. His influence of doing so comes from his grandfather's stories, as a child Gwyn would tell Hiro that Althena, the goddess of Lunar, used to be a human and that it is possible that the people of Lunar all came from the Blue Star. Hiro believes these stories could actually be real and so he decides to begin searching for some kind of evidence to back up what his grandfather has been telling him throughout his boyhood. Lunar 2 takes place 1000 years after the first Lunar and there is indeed a connection between both titles, which I will leave for the gamer to find out. Throughout the game's adventure Hiro and his cat-bat friend Ruby will encounter over a dozen of controllable characters such as Gwyn, Lucia, Jean, Ronfar, Althena, and Nall. All of these characters are well developed, a lot like those found in Final Fantasy IV, they've got their own personality, so unique you'd swear that they are real.
Lunar 2 spans a healthy 3 disk game set that will keep you going for roughly 45-50 hours, maybe less, depending on how experienced you are in RPG gaming. Throughout this journey there will tons of dialogue all of which is extremely comprehensible and basically a smooth and easy read. Like any other RPG, this one is filled with magic spells, such as fire, wind, healing and other basic spells that we have grown accustomed to in the past decade or so of RPG gaming. Yet again this being an RPG, you've got your typical upgrades such as swords, armor, bracelets and a variety of other objects that will upgrade your skills and keep you going strong throughout the game, but you need a brain as well. My one drawback with Lunar is that at times it may be too hard for the casual gamer, who enjoys playing today's less challenging RPGs such as Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX. If you prefer today's RPGs over yesterday's then Lunar 2 is not a game that you may enjoy very much, but true RPG gamers will find this a delight.
What do you really expect from a 16-bit based soundtrack, you'd think not much right? I actually thought the soundtrack was lively, cheery and added a good assortment of atmosphere. Different towns have different music that almost paint a picture in a way, creating the image of the town, but still they are MIDI based songs [that are enjoyable to listen to]. Thankfully you can take that music with you on road, a soundtrack CD is packaged a long with a ton of other things, so that's pretty cool. When I first played Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete I was surprised to find voice acting present. Thankfully the voice acting has returned to this sequel, it is done incredibly well, at times it is in the dialogue but mostly in the anime/CG cut-scenes, the voices are well fit for their individual character.
The control is fairly easy to manipulate, you should have absolutely no problems controlling a basic game such as this. Since the moving structures are 2D and the view is top-down there is pretty much no way you will struggle. There is no sensitivity in the analog, but the stick can still be used to move around. The controls are rather too basic, and I prefer not to discuss them, there is pretty much nothing to discuss really.
Before I head off into the conclusion, let me say that the extras that Lunar 2 offers you are well worth spending the extra bucks on. First of all, the manual is hardcovered, the 100 pages are tipped with a hologram blue like color around the outlining, and when they are all together it looks really cool. There is a map of Lunar that will help get around easier. Then there is the soundtrack CD, that even has an extra CD slot for the Lunar 2 demo disk. 17 character standees are included showing off all of the game's main characters, that was a sweet addition. After that comes a CD called "the making of Lunar 2", something that was done for the first game as well. And finally saved last, because it is the best, is a gold plated, roughly 1/4 pound pendant of Lucia called "Lucia's Pendant", and by golly this thing looks awesome. It comes with black string that lets you wear it on your neck and black pouch. I hung my Lucia's Pendant on my second back-up PS2 unit, hehe!
In the end for $60 Lunar 2 is not only worth every penny as a gaming experience, but all of the extras are a great addition to an already outstanding game. Taking a trip back to memory lane with Lunar 2 felt great and it makes me realize just how much I miss the more challenging RPGs of yester-years. Lunar 2 is well worth a try, especially those who enjoy playing 16-bit RPGs, its got a great story, strategic battle system that indeed requires thinking, inspired soundtrack, voice acting and good anime cutscenes. If you are a common RPG gamer who has been with the genre ever since the SNES (or earlier) days, I highly recommend a purchase of Lunar 2, before Working Designs halts production of the game like they did with the first in January 2000.