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On Thursday, January 14th, XSEED released a playable demo of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony onto the PSP. Now I’m a big fan of the original Lunar: The Silver Star and I still own it for the Sega CD, Sega Saturn, Sony PSX and the Lunar Legend remake on the GBA. To say Lunar is one of the greatest video games ever made is almost an understatement, and so of course when the PSP remake was announced, I was pretty excited. One thing that definitely piqued my curiosity was that the localization and translation were being done by XSEED rather than Victor Ireland and his Working Designs crew. Of course as WD went under half a decade ago, there was no possible way for them to do the translation. Still, it’s hard to separate this game from that publisher. Some fans still think WD did Lunar Legend and Dragon Song. After Ubisoft got the rights to localize and publish Lunar Legend, they managed to do a a fine job with it, even if it wasn’t as good as the two WD versions in terms of story. Then there was Lunar: Dragon Song. Oh, I wish there wasn’t, but we can’t deny its existence. That was more an overall “Game Arts made a crappy game” issue than any real issues with Ubisoft’s translation though. Let’s just push the taint of L:DS back to the darkest corners of our minds and thinking about the two games made by Studio Alex, shall we? With all that in mind, here’s a quick break down of my thoughts on the demo.
Cinematics – It’s the same exact footage that we saw in Silver Star Story: Complete but with different lyrics to the opening theme. The new singer sounds very similar to the original PSX singer. The same thing is true about all the cut scenes in the demo. It’s the same exact footage from Silver Star Story Complete but with completely new dialogue.
Voice Acting – VERY different. Nall actually sounds like a boy now, but it just sounds so weird to my ears. Not right, if you will. I’m a little hesitant to hear the new Ghaleon because Ghaleon without John Truitt is like Batman without Kevin Conroy – even if you like it, there will always be that thought in the back of your head that something isn’t quite kosher. It would be nice to know why XSEED went with a different case, just for curiosity’s sake. One good thing is I don’t have to hear Nash say, “Check THIS out!” repeatedly. Luna actually sounds like Rhonda Gibson. At least when she sings, that is. It could just be the same track being used in the, “Luna at the Springs” cinematic, but that wouldn’t explain the opening cinematic’s singer sounding so close as well. When she talks though, she sounds like Luna has picked up a two pack a day habit. Luna’s new actress’ voice is more than a little too deep for a young girl. It’s pretty apparent that we’ve got a whole new voice acting cast and crew. While this is more than a little disappointing to the long time Lunar fan in me, I enjoyed Lunar Legend without the cast of actors and even the Japanese games, which switched actors with each remake. It’s just something that will take some getting used to. I have to say so far there is a definite drop in quality of voice acting compared to the Working Designs versions, and that’s not just in terms of the actors not sound like the original. Delivery is flat and sometimes emotionless. Let’s hope it gets better, because voice acting is one of the hallmarks of the Lunar games.
Plot – it’s the opening of the game. Alex and Nall are by Dragonmaster Dyne’s grave when Ramus comes us with a scheme to get a dragon diamond from the white dragon cave now that the ice has melted. Together with Lunar, they go through the cave in search of a treasure known as the Dragon Ring. In exchange for getting the ring, Quark, the white dragon, names Alex and crew full-fledged adventurers. He also gives them a dragon diamond, which if you’re an long time Lunar fan, is not exactly what Ramus thinks it is…
Localization – the humour is still here, which is the thing I was most concerned about. NPC have multiple lines of dialogue, like in previous versions, which is always nice. So are strange outdated pop culture references. “Boom-Shaka-Laka?” In 2010? I have to admit, I approve. The demo uses an odd little font which was annoying at first, but I quickly grew used to it. One thing that I noticed is that XSEED used the word “shit” instead of “turd” or “poop” for Quark, which is a bit odd because even in the Japanese versions it’s always been a “lighter” variant of defecation rather than the profane. Of course, they cut it off before Quark fully says the word, but this was an interesting translation choice and it makes me wonder if we’ll be seeing a more “adult” Lunar this time around instead of the light hearted fare it has been in Japan and North America previously. Probably not though as the rest of the script felt was fun, silly and sometimes frivolous, just like the opening scenes of Lunar SHOULD be.
Graphics – This is definitely the best looking out of any Silver Star remake. Although there is less voice acting than in any version save Lunar Legend, the crisp colourful visuals make up for it. This is a very pretty game, and it’s proof that a 2-D game can look just as good as a 3-D one.
Gameplay – This is basically Lunar Legend all over again, but with SSC animation and cut scenes. Your team is on the right hand side of the screen and the enemy is on the left. You attack based on agility. It’s your standard RPG fare but with the Lunar Legend special meter built in. The special meter is taken straight from Super Street Fighter II Turbo. As your character hit or take damage, the meter rises. When it is full, your character gets a super attack. Much like in LL, the super attacks are a bit broken and way too powerful compared to normal attacks. You’ll definitely bee see 1-hit KO’s of the entire opposing side when you use Alex’s in the demo.
Other -One nice touch is that if you complete the demo, you can save your results and use the “Demo Clear Data” to unlock features in the retail version. Of course, we’re not sure what these features are, but this is still a nice bit of fan service. I can’t wait to see what it unlocks in a month or so.
Overall, this was a great little demo. Although it sure didn’t SOUND like the Lunar games I’ve played so many times in the past, it still felt like it. The story, gameplay and visuals were excellent as always and I’m really looking forward to the game’s eventual release on February 23rd, 2010. Remember that there is also a limited edition collector’s version of the game (seems like one aspect of Working Designs has certainly stuck around) and for forty dollars, you’ll get the game, a soundtrack and 13 “bromide” cards. Alas, there is no Ghaleon punching puppet this time around. Hopefully the bromides won’t include that one of Borgan from Eternal Blue…
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony might not have the amount of voice acting as the Sega CD or Sony PSX versions did (or the same level of quality), but everything else about the game seems as excellent as ever. If you’ve never played a version of The Silver Star before, then you need to pick this up and experience it for yourself. As I said earlier, there is a reason Lunar is considered one of the best video games ever made. Come find out why. Besides, if enough people buy it maybe we’ll get Eternal Blue or even Magical School on the PSP as well.