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SummaryA poetic fairy tale in a nutshell of an old-school console RPG
The GoodThis game comes with a "Making Of" CD. That was the first of this kind I ever saw, and the first time I actually watched how games are being made. I was really fascinated any maybe this fact also influenced my judgment, but I think even without watching this CD you can sense how much love and attention has been put into this game.
I've never played the original "Lunar", and it's hard for me to imagine how the game would look without the newly-added animé sequences. I must say, however, that even the original, now clearly outdated graphics, look very nice, especially the locations (except the silly clouds floating above - who needs them? They don't look real, anyway). As for the character graphics... well, I'll talk about them later.
The animé sequences, which were made especially for this Playstation release and which occupy a great deal of the game's space, are wonderfully made. And what's more - they come with voices! Voice acting in a Playstation RPG is a rare thing - even such recent releases as Final Fantasy IX are completely mute. And the voice acting in "Lunar: SSSC" is very good. Alex sounds just like I imagined him to sound, after seeing him in the intro animation. Luna's voice is also very good. My personal favorite was Ghaleon - the guy who did his voice really succeeded to reflect his personality. The graphics in the animé sequences are marvelous, and those sequences somehow impressed me more than those of the sequel (except the bathing animation of Lucia... mmmm. ;D) Some of them are true works of art, especially those that feature Luna, because in this case they usually combine fine visuals with beautiful music. Already the animation where we first see Luna is of rare beauty, while the scene where she sings on the ship is simply breathtaking. And the ending animation makes you want to fight the final boss just to see it again. Then again, you can save the game right after beating the boss to see the wonderful ending as many times as you want. Pity other game designers didn't think of this. I don't want to fight Ultimecia again to see the final scene of Final Fantasy VIII...
The dialogues are exceptionally well-written: Working Designs have made for themselves a name by doing americanized, but witty and lively translations of Japanese RPGs. It is a pleasure to reed the natural dialogues of the game and to think how they bring the characters to life. By the way, I liked the game's humor. I'm not sure whether this scene was also in the original version or whether Working Designs have added it, but be sure to check out all the books in the library in Vane. One of them really made me laugh out loud. To be sure, there are also plenty of other places in the game that can bring smile onto your lips.
Much has been said about the character cast of "Lunar". Every character in Lunar is portrayed in such a way that you can't help admire the creators of the game: they achieved the best effect while using the most humble means. There is nothing "cool" about those characters. No, they are very simple. But it's precisely this simplicity that makes them surpass in the eyes of many the most extravagant casts of modern Final Fantasy or Xenosaga games. They are simple, but they are not simplistic; and most importantly, their designers never lost their sense of proportions when creating them. Yes, Kyle is a drinking bear-like light-headed berserker, but he never becomes the personification of this character type: he is Kyle, a whole and complete person, whom you like or dislike because he is Kyle, and not because he is a drinking bear-like light-headed berserker. Do you follow me?.. The characters in "Lunar" are people, and not schematic representatives of various human emotions. But as I said, this effect is not achieved by making them very complex - just on the contrary, they are simple, they just seem to be taken directly out of real life. How they did this is another question. This is the chief appeal of "Lunar" - you can't just analyze every detail and understand how it was done. I guess this is what you call a game with a soul.
The gameplay of Lunar is traditional old-school console-style RPG, nothing more. And you know what? I like that. Today's RPGs seem to concentrate too much on super-duper-mega spells that do 999999 damage to all enemies, on dungeons that are no more dangerous than the corridor in my apartment, and on gameplay that requires you to hit the X button until all enemies on screen are eliminated. The gameplay system of "Lunar" is simple. Every character belongs to a certain class and therefore is strong in certain areas and weak in others. Only by combining forces you can overcome the hordes of crazy baboons and spitting gargoyles that protect the dungeons of the game. And the bosses can just grind you to flour if you don't pay attention. Of course, this is no Devil Summoner, but it is a game that takes gameplay seriously and offers you some challenge instead of a bunch of fancy gimmicks.
"Lunar" has no random battles. I don't hate random battles, but it's nice to be able to clear out a dungeon. I enjoyed fighting my way through the dungeons in "Lunar" and then simple running around for a while, knowing that nobody was going to attack me.
The story of "Lunar" is just like its gameplay (and its everything else, as a matter of fact) - it is simple, it is not pretentious, and it is wonderfully deep in a way that wouldn't think of saying: "Wow! That's deep!" after completing the game - you would just feel it. There are enough plot twists thrown into the game to make the story interesting even on the paper - but it's not about plot twists that we're talking here, it's about the feeling of immersion into a world where every character behaves according to his own logic, and doesn't just blindly follows a cleverly written, complex script.
What makes "Lunar" really special is the overall feeling of innocence that is so hard to find in video games. I'm not sure I can properly explain what I mean by "innocence", but I often have a feeling I'm tired of all those weirdos who play the roles of main protagonists in video games, especially in console RPGs. The ideal portrait of a Japanese "RPG-hero" is a conflicted, hysterical, scarred, and uncombed young man who has to "find himself" or to "defeat the evil within"... Yes, yes, I know - I myself am a sucker for such kind of stories. But it is a relief and also a refreshing change to meet people like Alex and Luna with their pure love in a video game. People who are not torn apart, people who are just normal guys like you or me. There's something naive and simple in "Lunar", something that warms the heart... Okay, let's not get too sentimental here :)
The BadWell, the character graphics... The "top-down people", like a friend of mine called them, look especially funny when you compare them to the vivid cartoon figures from the animations. The background graphics in this game are really lovely and give some personality to the game, but those characters always look the same, whether in this game or in Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy IV. I had to move around a silly-looking, deformed Luna, with her eyes bigger than her entire body, just after I saw her coquettely talking to Alex in her slightly hoarse, sexy voice, moving her animated lips and smiling in all her cartoony beauty. And to see a mighty, fire-spitting dragon talking with a thundering bass like an opera hero, and after this to fight him when he looks like a homeless dog of unidentified breed, in best case... The heroes of Phantasy Star games looked less ridiculous.
The game starts pretty slowly. The really interesting events occur when you already meet your opponents (and your party members), but there is nothing to attract your attention immediately and to say: "This is going to be a very, very special game". You'll have to discover it by playing it until the end.