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Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (PlayStation) artwork

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (PlayStation) review

"Modern day RPGs could stand to learn something from Lunar, though it's not immediately obvious why. It's a PSX remake of a game with graphics that would be embarrassing on the Super Nintendo, and a battle system that was already standard fare when it originally launched on the Sega CD. What could such an old fashioned title possibly show our modern huge budgeted masterpiece? Well, all that pizzazz aside Lunar is a game that's good for the soul. "

Modern day RPGs could stand to learn something from Lunar, though it's not immediately obvious why. It's a PSX remake of a game with graphics that would be embarrassing on the Super Nintendo, and a battle system that was already standard fare when it originally launched on the Sega CD. What could such an old fashioned title possibly show our modern huge budgeted masterpiece? Well, all that pizzazz aside Lunar is a game that's good for the soul.

At a glance Lunar's plot isn't anything to write home about either. The very basics of the story are that an average joe living a boring life wants to go on an adventure. That joe is Alex, and he lives in a town called Burg, a place as backwater and uninteresting as its name implies. His dream is to leave the town on a journey reminiscent of his hero, the late Dragonmaster Dyne, a man who has ascended to legend for his world saving exploits. In some way, Alex is all of us, looking for a little adventure in our everyday doldrums.

Early in the game it becomes clear that he's meant for something more than his meager existence. After that there's a scene where Alex bids farewell to both of his living parents in order to leave and discover his destiny. In your average RPG it's a 50/50 shot that the hero even has one living parent, but you show me another RPG where he has two and I'll show you one of the other versions of Lunar. This is significant because the average person doesn't have amnesia, and they weren't raised in a military orphanage because their parents were slaughtered in a tragic massacre years ago. By doing something so small as giving the main character a family to leave behind, the game makes your first steps out into the wild rather melancholy. That moment actually resonates quite a bit because it's something we can all relate to.

As is commonplace in the genre, more people join your group as your adventure continues, and your party becomes your friends in an almost disturbingly real way. Your companions are all likable, interesting, people, with as much emphasis on 'people' as anything else. They all have their ups and downs, and do a pretty good job filling in the gaps. One person's strengths coincide with another's weaknesses, and they have tremendous chemistry as a result. Your white mage Jessica is a free spirited priestess who ran away from her cathedral after a fight with her boyfriend. You meet her while going to confront a bandit terrorizing a small fishing town, and she joins you because kicking his butt is just what she needs to get over the bad taste in her mouth. She's probably the most gung-ho person in your party, which is remarkable given that she's your healer.

She spends a lot of time clashing with probably the greatest among the party, a bandit leader named Kyle. He's an alcoholic womanizer who joins because the bad guys are kidnapping women around the world while searching for the key to their plans. That's something he just cannot abide, to the point that he actually dresses up as a woman to draw them out of hiding. It works, which is impressive because he looks horrifying in drag, and then he invites himself into your party. Kyle's carefree nature visibly grates on Jessica's nerves, and the two of them fight constantly.

There are a few other names in your party, Mia, and Nash. They have their demons to overcome as well, and because there are so few people in the group, no one is forgotten. Every one of them has a perfect shining moment where they put to rest everything from their past and do what they have to do for the future. A lot of games have those pointless extra cast members who basically fill a combat role and that's it, but in Lunar everyone is actually important. Even the fluffy mascot character gets their time to step up and save the party from certain doom. And it's awesome even when they do it.

It's not all world shattering moments that make the cast memorable, though. There's approximately a million things in every town you can examine, most of which lead to hilarious, or at least interesting dialogue. Basically you can wander around at random mashing X and find something worth smiling about within minutes every time. It could be a child who mentions that he's eating his Wheaties every day to prepare for his part in an upcoming festival, or the drunken patron of a local bar lamenting the place as a wretched hive of scum and villainy because their beer is watered down. The sprinkling of pop culture jokes bring you into the world. Even though it's foreign, it's still familiar.

And then sometimes you get Kyle giggling at the phrase 'strong wood' when you examine a dresser undamaged by a recent disaster.

All of this is amusing, but beyond that it helps strengthen the development of the characters more than what you get by just progressing through the plot. It's kind of telling how by about the third town you'll seek out these discussions just because it's fun to listen to the party talk. You look for this extra conversation in the same way you seek out conversation with good friends.

This closeness that the game fosters with the cast gives the story real weight in its sad moments. There are plenty of times where the game will tug at your heartstrings while the characters struggle through their individual problems. There are plenty of happy times as well, and when they come you'll feel real joy. The scene where Alex becomes the Dragonmaster is one of the most triumphant moments in all of gaming. It's when all of your hard work up to that point suddenly pays off. Suddenly you feel like nothing can touch you, and while very little changes in the battle system, your morale shoots through the roof.

The cast is truly amazing. Over the course of the game, their journey teaches them that there's more to the world, and to themselves, than they previously thought. They overcome everything that held them back before to become something better. By the end you can actually measure their progress, and it's thoroughly satisfying.

Believe it or not, there's a lot more to say about the story. There's a million things to discuss that would slowly start to give away the twists that make it so compelling. Suffice to say that the game makes Alex's goals your own, it gives you a sense of purpose that will drive you to achieve them for hours at a sitting.

The rest of the game doesn't hold it back. Sure the battle system is the same turn based affair you've seen before. It isn't the greatest thing about the game, but it almost couldn't be. Even if you put in the greatest battle system in the genre, it wouldn't overcome the story.

When Lunar came out in the US it came in this massive box with raised lettering. It's instruction manual is a 100 page leather bound behemoth complete with foil lettering on the cover and a ribbon bookmark. The game came with a cloth map of the world, and a few other extraneous extras that all tell you one thing. Working Designs picked Lunar because they loved it. They had every reason to. It's a game that really transcends time, in some ways it felt old even when it first came out, but it will never actually get old.

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Community review by dragoon_of_infinity (August 20, 2009)

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