Lunar: Silver Star Harmony
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-04-11 PSP RPG T (Teen) XSEED Games / Game Arts

I loved Lunar. I loved it back on the SEGA CD, even if my gaming experience was short because I couldn't get past the Vane trial. After all, Luna stayed behind. And then I loved it all over again, as Silver Star Complete on the Playstation, even if it was different and this time there was a helpful Luna going through the Vane trial with me, keeping me alive. Although easier, it was still challenging. And by the time I beat it, it was one of the most epic stories I had played.

Now, many years later, the time came to play Silver Star Harmony on the PSP, and I was really looking forward to visit Burg, the Shrine of Althena, Vane and the Dragon Caves, and to catch up with all the characters once again.

But what first hit me - like a virtual slap on the face - was the intro. No, not the opening scene, that's just fine; it looks great and it sounds amazing. What I mean is the actual beginning of the game. This was basically my train of thought while watching the background story about how the Four Heroes defeated a bad guy and saved the world:

"What is going on? What the heck is this? Who is this guy? WTF? Oh wait, I know these guys, they're the Four Heroes. My god, what happened to Master Mel's voice? But what is this doing at the beginning of the game? Oh, nevermind that now, what's happening? Oh, wait, I have to fight this guy. ok... I won! um... the five spirits of the what now? But wait, more fight... Uh, wtf?"

Ok, I think that sums it up for my initial 10 minutes or so. I was so disoriented that I thought my memory deceived me, but no. I somewhat remember playing the SEGA CD version, I clearly remember playing the PS1 version as well. None of them started like this. Watch the beginning videos for the SEGA CD and Playstation versions, if you don't believe me.

Anyway, in this new lenghty intro, you are taken into some past event where the four heroes defeat some evil dude, save the goddess Althena and a prophecy is made. This just to skip to Alex being told this story by his parents, in his little house in Burg.

Finally, known territory: Burg. Fast forward to what I actually remembered from the beginning of the game: Alex daydreaming about becoming a hero at Dragonmaster Dyne's monument, Nall coming to remind him about music practice with Luna. But as the voice calls "Aleeeexxx!" my heart is shattered again: what have you done to Nall's voice?

I was so excited to revisit the characters and events in Lunar, and my first 15 minutes of the game were already composed of disappointment. Some sites claim that fans of the series will (note: "will", not "should" or might") appreciate the extended scenes... Personally, when the four heroes of legend are presented as clumsy while battling a monster that is, at best, ridiculous-looking... No, I'm sorry but I didn't appreciate it.

For those who haven't played Lunar before, the game follows the tale of Alex and his friend Luna, a girl with a beautiful voice who was taken in by Alex's parents when she was still a baby. Soon enough, Alex, Luna and their friend Ramus set out on a seemingly simple adventure: to find a dragon diamond, sell it and make tons of money. But no one in Burg can afford to buy this diamond, so they travel to the capital of Meribia in search of fortune. In the process of achieving such precious gem, Alex passes the first of the four trials required to become the next Dragonmaster. After some sad events that separate the two friends who grew up as brother and sister, and reveal that the balance of the world is at stake, Alex finds the determination to go on with a little help of some new friends.

For those who have played Lunar before, the story needs no introduction (aside from the new intro scene itself), but the rest of the changes certainly does.

I actually went through the game manual (for a change) reading up on the characters' bios... only to be surprised by the addition of surnames to most of them. I don't remember anyone having surnames before... But ok, that's not really important.

Some of the script was revised to include "actualized" pop-culture references, but while the jokes may be different, the humor remains the same, making the serious events of a somewhat dark tale be a bit more light-hearted.

The overall look of the game is colorful and detailed. The artwork is fantastic and even the character sprites have plenty of little details. However, I feel like everything has been "cutesy-fied". Monsters that seemed once slightly creepy no longer do, and some of them look completely different on the world map. They also sound different - I remember the sounds they used to make when spotting you, only to rush to your location and attack you. It seemed like before it was easier to dodge them while they did this lunge rush too.

The dungeon areas are considerably smaller now. I remember the first time I left Burg, it took me quite a while to be able to cross Ghoto Woods. Not to mention I always powered up until fighting the monsters in a given area was easily done through Auto-Battle. And Auto-Battle used to suck! It was so unpredictable and unreliable that you couldn't even fully trust it during a normal monster encounter due to the AI making silly mistakes and getting some characters killed. Now, you can even use it during boss fights.

While smaller dungeons may seem like an aid to game progression, the number of encounters seems out of proportion with the dungeon sizes, which makes progressing a bit slow. However, I found that I went through the game at a ridiculous pace because everything seemed so easy. I mean, I remember taking forever to get past the Meribia Sewers, and never go on to the next area until every fight seemed easy enough, just because I knew the next area would be even tougher and I had to be prepared. Damon's Tower was probably one of the zones that took me the longest to clear in Silver Star Story: Complete, yet this time it was a breeze.

The turn-based combat is still as it was. Some may complain this is an outdated system, but I still like my turn-based RPGs. Characters gain experience, level up, learn new skills automatically, and on occasion, unlock some powerful attacks of devastating effects to use during battles. You are still able to move around the battlefield or escape the battle. The only addition that I found a little annoying was the zoom in animation and a brief pause before someone actually attacks. There should be an option to skip these. They are ok the first few times you see them because they're new and they look cool, but I want the monsters dead, not watch a circle of light forming under someone's feet every time before they actually use whatever skill!

With all these bells and whistles comes extra loading time. Even while in a given city area, entering a house is a new area, as is visiting another floor on the same house. You will be seeing quite a few black screens for a few seconds at a time, and notice that even the music will fade as you load.

Overall, I think I would have enjoyed Lunar: Silver Star Harmony more if I hadn't played the other two versions of Lunar. It's still a solid RPG with a great story and loveable characters (even if they're not perfect - and neither are we - we grow to like their wacky personalities), fantastic music and a convenient "save anywhere" feature that makes it great for on-the-go gaming.

Still, I can't help but be disappointed with some of the changes (particularly the voice acting). I think it may be time to get that SEGA CD dusted off and attempt to finish what I started so long ago.

Special thanks to Scott Fry and XSEED for providing a copy of this title.