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Lunar: Dragon Song (DS) artwork

Lunar: Dragon Song (DS) review

"Without any real depth to the characters aside from the obligatory teenage spunkiness and sugary-sweet sense of justice in their battle for racial tolerance, and their efforts to prove themselves worthy, just about everything that the Lunar franchise had been previously built upon has been thrown to the side to make room for ideas that I can only assume Game Arts discovered while rooting around in other developerís trash for discarded gimmicks they knew would never work."

Iím British and, as such, I crave disappointment. Iíll actively seek it out just to have something new to grumble about while sheltering from the inclement rains beneath leaking bus shelters, waiting for a foul-smelling double-decker which is inevitably late, only for the cranky driver to belittle me for not having the exact change when he finally arrives. Perhaps it goes some way towards explaining my weird obsession with rooting through second hand shops in the frantic hope that Iíll unearth a game no oneís ever heard of bar the three Lithuanian goat herders/developers that released it onto the market. Iíve absolutely no doubt it was the motivation behind buying Lunar: Genesis off Ebay for 99p.

The gameís been out for a good while now, and Iím well aware of the bad press its received. I know itís Game Artís first foray into taking the series on alone after bankrupting the real creative genius behind the original outings via a string of petty lawsuits. Iíve read the reviews, Iíve heard the put-downs about how making your character run will decrease their HP, forcing you to navigate the game at a pace that would shame a sloth. But now Iíve also played it and can tell you that when -- not if-- you get tired of plodding around the game world like youíre drowning in a quagmire of custard and give in to HP-sapping running, even this is limited. Soon, anime sweat drops will flow from your pixellated avatar and heíll become too tired to run until his next heal or reststop.

Itís meant to tie in with the much-touted dual battle systems which, despite its adventuresome name, only offers one mode of combat but only gives you half the expected spoils depending on which you choose. Picking the Virtue mode will allow you to slay horrors such as sentient mushrooms and oversized houseflies for the experience needed to power up, but also give you a time limit to kill everything in a given area. Of course, this is made all the harder when your choices are to sacrifice HP to conserve time or creep slowly and waste it. Clearing a section will often lead to the unlocking of a magical chest which oft contains slightly better equipment than that youíre currently wearing. Combat Mode is the only real way to obtain the cash needed to upgrade your armour and (odd) weapons, but instead of simply dropping gold, you need to farm items to sell on from these battles. Worthwhile items such as whiskers or lumps of clay that sell for a complete pittance.

The only way to make these items hold any value is to take jobs with local guilds where their collection suddenly has merit. This becomes vital as the game wears on, as pricier equipment becomes a must to protect your crushingly useless cast from the endless slew of sloppy fights. In a shot against conventional RPG battle systems who have the nerve to actually work, Game Arts decided they were above such shenanigans like functionality and made a brave new path towards the unknown pastures of impotence overkill. You canít select your targets. At all. You can chose to attack, but any attack you make will make you wonder if the game actively hates you. When your attacks donít go for the most inopportune target (ignoring house-sized ninja yeti to instead take on obligatory piles of weakling slime) itís instead being scathingly moronic and doing its level best to spit in the face of Game Artís claim that their patented method makes RPG fighting a streamlined and effortless function.

Your starting party of generic clumsy hero, Jian, and dangerously overused anime cutie with pink pigtails, Lucia, share expected typecasts in even the smallest detail of their characters. Lucia is a bossy magic user whose inaptitude with physical attacks match her inability to notice that her partner has a huge crush on her. Unlike other games, however, her lack of physical prowess isnít balanced with a worthwhile spell set. All she has at her disposal are healing buffs and status effects -- and even these are out of bounds until you power level like crazy to get your mana count up. This leaves Jian to be the partyís only real source of offence, even when you start to rack up more party members as the game crawls onwards. HOWEVER! While Jian can cause mass damage and often one-hit kills with his ability to kick things really hard, Lucia is forced to chip slowly away at her intended target.

This makes her effectively useless. She canít finish off targets weakened by Jian; you canít pick who she ineffectively prods with her umbrella, and you canít even tell how much remaining HP the monsters have left. Her only use lies in being an alternative target to be attacked instead of Jian (and the game doesnít offer a defend option, so sheís not stellar at that, either) or to spam healing items or monster cards. You can obtain monster cards when fighting in Combat mode, each offering the same buffs and heals as Luciaís magic, but without the hugely expensive MP costs it demands. However, still unable to directly affect offence, most of these cards remain utterly worthless.

So all thatís left is a game you have to stroll through in order to conserve HP for derogatory battles you have no real control of and thus no real interest in. The underlying plot is a hackneyed tale of a lesser race fighting for equality in the face of oppressive incoherence, so the same substandard plot youíve seen a hundred times before. More damning is that itís a substandard plot youíve seen done better a hundred times before. Without any real depth to the characters aside from the obligatory teenage spunkiness and sugary-sweet sense of justice in their battle for racial tolerance, and their efforts to prove themselves worthy, just about everything that the Lunar franchise had been previously built upon has been thrown to the side to make room for ideas that I can only assume Game Arts discovered while rooting around in other developerís trash for discarded gimmicks they knew would never work.

Someone out there is looking at the £1 coin I spent on this game and laughing their arse off. But I'm content. If I was expecting to find a game that comes even close to the benchmark previous outings had set the Lunar franchise, my cravings for disappointment would be thoroughly and unquestionably met.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 27, 2009)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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If you enjoyed this Lunar: Dragon Song review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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honestgamer posted December 27, 2009:

A new EmP review, and for a game worth covering that no one on staff had yet covered with a staff review! I am exceedingly pleased.

In your text, you convincingly retread some valid points against this game here, points that you acknowledge that others have made (complaints I myself voiced at the time of the game's release, in a review for a different publication that I suspect almost no one actually read). You also explain why all of those issues matter, something that newer RPG gamers and sloppy developers should probably pay attention to when considering the value of JRPG staples. Some things are the way they are for a reason, folks!

Your "getting to know the uncompromisingly curmudgeonly EmP" bit at the beginning wasn't as entertaining for me as it might have been in the past because you've used something similar numerous times now, particularly when savaging a string of recent DS titles that you didn't fancy, but that's going to happen with anyone who reviews as often as you do. I find myself fighting to avoid falling into familiar bits, as well.

New readers won't notice the repetition, at least. Besides, it did feel appropriate in this case because of course the first question on my mind (honestly) as I started reading the review was: Why in the world would EmP hate himself enough to spend anything on such a horrible game? Now I know. And hey, you got a good review out of it. Bonus! Now sell the game to some unfortunate sucker who hasn't read your words of wisdom. >8D

What's next in your reviewing plans, anyway? Hopefully something that you'll actually enjoy playing. I know you like to seek out disappointment and such, but even curmudgeonly British men deserve gaming bliss on occasion!
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EmP posted December 27, 2009:

Thanks for the feedback, Jason. This has been a half finished review sitting on my harddrive for a long, long time now (it was initially set to be a TT entry) and I'm currently making an effort to clear these unfinished reviews off my laptop so I can move on to my shiny new PC.

I think I went with the introduction because when I often review retrospectivly, the unanswered question seems to be "Why are you interested in reviewing this?" and expecting a bad game to be bad was the honest answer. I think we're all guilty of it: we hear a game is awful and we want to see for ourselves just how bad it is.

As for what's next, I don't know. There's a few things I want to finish off because having half finished things floating around annoys me, but I've enjoyed not writing anything for a month or so and playing games just because I want to play them. I intend to show for the alphas but past that, I hope taking a bit of time off will help me want to continue reviewing further.
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overdrive posted December 27, 2009:

That's kinda where I'm at right now, myself, Emp. I have an assigned game that will be reviewed either Tuesday or Wednesday and my Alpha game, but when it comes to less-crucial reviews, I'm struggling with writer's block. I played through the NES' Wacky Races about two weeks ago. I still haven't finished my review of it and what I have, while good enough to put up, isn't necessarily something that's up to my personal standards. I'm in one of those temporary modes where I'm finding it hard to motivate myself to write about random games I play on a whim. I can see my assigned game's review writing itself in my head....with this one, I can't see anything.

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