Lunar: Silver Star Harmony

What we liked:
+ Beautiful soundtrack
+ Charming characters and dialogue
+ Great new animation
What we didn't like:
- Repetitive combat
- Painful load times
- Could’ve, with a little more effort, been the definitive Lunar
DEVELOPER: Game Arts   |   PUBLISHER: Xseed Games   |   RELEASE: 03/02/2010

Something here feels very familiar.

A small-town boy with the potential to be great. A girl with the power of magic, but not the power to confess her eternal love. A fat, money-hungry friend who runs away at any sign of danger.

We’ve played this RPG before. This time, it goes by the name Lunar: Silver Star Harmony. If this title sounds familiar, it’s with good reason: this is the third remake of the 1993 Sega CD game, Lunar: The Silver Star (previous incarnations include 1999′s Lunar: Silver Star Story for Playstation, and 2002′s Lunar Legend for Game Boy Advance).

And yet, though every conceit and plot element of this game has been featured in umpteen old school JRPGs before it, it manages to be an addictive experience. It hearkens back to a simpler time, when we were kids and had no responsibilities, and nothing but time to play 30 hour epic RPGs on a console our parents had to put on layaway.

For those of us who have played the game before, the new 2D animation is much-appreciated and enjoyed. However, there are times when it becomes clear that new animation would fit in well, but it just wasn’t done. Interacting with townspeople, for example, doesn’t lead to a character still, whereas interacting with your party and characters of note does. Admittedly, that’s a very minor complaint, but it is one of many glaring instances of omission (committed, presumably, for time’s sake) that indicate this remake was not given 100% effort.

Ultimately, I hope this game finds the remake it deserves, because a whole new legion of RPG fans would be very welcoming. There is room for strict enhanced remakes, and I’m glad that this one was made. Still, I would like to see is a total reboot of the title, one that recreates it but leaves the bitter taste of loading and grinding in the past where it belongs.

Which is sad, because while it’ll never be a household name (well, awesome households) like Final Fantasy, it deserves to be a recognizable title. For one, the humor that made the title great sets it apart from the pack. When Alex and his friends meet the first dragon, Quark, they meekly ask him for a precious Dragon Diamond, worth a fortune to humans. Quark, the elderly, white dragon, stops himself just before confessing that Dragon Diamonds are just pieces of his “sh–.” Then he proceeds to hand one over, but only if you can prove yourself worthy.

The story, though tried and true (as illustrated in the intro) does have its charms. It takes awhile to really get going, but you might find like I did that battling your way past Paunchy Snake after Paunchy Snake is worth seeing these lovable fellows through to the end.

With greatness often comes great load times, and Lunar is no exception to that rule. Traveling in and out of rooms means a fade-to-black that takes some time to load, and you’ll be traveling in and out of a lot of rooms. Combat is repetitive and slow (made all the more painful when backtracking, because enemies do respawn), dialogue is slow, travel is slow, and the plot is slow. Many of siren Luna’s mesmerizing songs were interrupted by the furious whir of the UMD. But like a great romance, sometimes a slower pace can make the experience that much more intense.

Whether that is the case with your Lunar playthrough is dependent on your own taste. Me? I have too many “adult responsibilities” to float through a lengthy RPG on gossamer wings, and even with relying on Party AI to throw combat on autopilot, I personally felt it was drawn out a bit. Twelve year-old me would’ve been in heaven, and I wish I could be that person again. Well, just to play games as. Regular life as a twelve year old isn’t that great. Supporting evidence: Lunchables, puberty, standardized testing.

Review copy provided by publisher.