Lunar: Silver Star Harmony Limited Edition
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: Xseed Games
Release Date: 03/02/10
Lunar, or more specifically Lunar: The Silver Star, in all of its different incarnations, can quite rightly be considered a “classic” by RPG standards. Anyone who considers themselves a fan of Japanese RPG’s has some version of the game somewhere on their list of “Best RPG’s Ever”Â, including our own Alex Lucard, who ranked the PS1 release as Number 12 on his Top 30 RPG Countdown back in 2004. The game has seen three different releases at this point, between its original Sega CD release, its PS1 release which was dubbed as Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, and then its Gameboy Advance release which was dubbed Lunar Legend, each with its own different adjustments and upgrades. Well, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony marks the fourth release of the game, this time on the Sony PSP, and like its predecessors, it’s still a mighty fine game. This is to be expected, of course, as it’s a remake of a classic, and while Game Arts has been having issues making good new games, their remakes tend to be high-quality affairs for the most part, and this remake is no exception. Is it better than its predecessors, however? Let’s find out.
The story of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is more or less the same as the story of all of its predecessors. You take on the role of Alex, a teenager from the small town of Burg, who wants to take a journey to become the Dragonmaster, one of the world’s legendary heroes. One day, one of the four dragons wakes up near his home, and he goes on an adventure to meet said dragon with his childhood friend/adopted sister/romantic interest Luna and his business-minded and somewhat lazy friend Ramus. This starts him on a long journey to actually fulfill his dream of becoming the Dragonmaster, which is actually a two-part tale, with the first part being about his adventures around the world and his making new friends, and the second part being about saving the world from unspeakable evil. The story of Lunar is still as simple as it ever was, but it’s still as good as it ever was largely because of that simplicity. There are no mentally unstable heroes, no emo kids with “complex issues”Â to deal with, and no long, involved explanations of plots that wouldn’t otherwise work without long and involved explanations. Lunar: Silver Star Harmony does add a few new things here and there to make the story its own, but it’s still a story that’s just complex enough to be interesting but just simple enough that anyone can appreciate it. The characters are still likable, the bad guys are still very bad, the big plot twists are still interesting, and the game still inspires the emotional response it attempts to inspire. The story is basically something of a retread of the PS1 version’s story, with some minor additions and such added in, so if you’ve played that particular version of the game you’re getting pretty much the same story here, but honestly, the story is good enough that it’s worth seeing again, and if you’ve missed the prior Lunar releases, the story in this version is as good as any other to be your first.
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony has received a visual upgrade from its predecessors, as it essentially looks like a cleaner version of Lunar Legend. The character sprites are bright and colorful, and look significantly better than their Sega CD and PS1 counterparts, and the game environments are also very pretty and look fantastic. The game’s sprites are somewhat similar, again, to those of Lunar Legend, though they’re a good bit cleaner and more vibrant than they were in that game, and they look very nice overall. The animated cutscenes from the prior disc-based games have made a return to this release as well, and though the animated scenes do look very nice, they’re essentially the same scenes from Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. They don’t have the artifacting present in the cutscenes of that game, though this may be due to the smaller screen size, but they look very nice on the small screen, regardless. The sound quality of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is also very nice, though whether or not you’ll like it is a matter of personal preference. Speaking in terms of pure quality, the music is very well done and fits the theme of the game well, the sound effects are great and sound as they should across the board, and the voice acting is generally very solid, though it occasionally runs into the “too much to say given the short amount of time a character speaks in a cutscene”Â problem. Fans of the prior game, specifically the PS1 release, may not be huge fans of the voice acting, as the voice cast for this game is completely different. Whether this is a show of solidarity in favor of Vic Ireland or a power play orchestrated by him (depending on which rumors you believe), the point is that the voice acting isn’t the same, and thus may put you off if you were a fan of the prior games. Personally, I think it’s silly to hate what is a fairly solid voice work job for something Xseed has absolutely nothing to do with (the dissolution of Working Designs), but to each their own, I suppose.
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is very much a “classic”Â JRPG in its mechanics, so fans of the genre should have no problem picking it up and playing it. You’ll spend your time either wandering around towns buying goods and talking to people or wandering around dungeons slaying monsters and collecting loot. The D-pad and analog stick can both be used to navigate around, and the X button interacts with pretty much everything you can look at or talk to. Inventory management is just as simple, as moving through the menus is done with the pad (no stick support here), X chooses an option or item, and Circle cancels the choice. Combat, again, is just as simple to work around as any of the above. The pad moves through the menu options (no stick support here either), X confirms, and Circle cancels choices. All of your characters have various regular attacks they can use, depending on the weapon type equipped, and most have powerful special attacks at their disposal that they can use to heal, wipe out individual or groups of enemies, boost stats and so on, as do your enemies. Each character is rated by their abilities, health and magic bars, meaning that some characters are beastly fighters while others are better spell-casters, giving everyone a use in battle of some sort or another. Absolutely all of the above should be instantly familiar to fans of more traditional JRPG’s, and playing the game is going to be easy enough that no one should need any sort of a tutorial to understand how the basics work.
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony has its own unique elements, as did many of its predecessors, to make it more than just another RPG, however. For one, each character save Ramus has available to them what the game calls Arts, which are essentially super-special attacks that have all sorts of useful effects. Arts, unlike magic and other skills, don’t drain from your magic bar when used; rather, you fill up an Arts bar over the course of several battles by doing things and having things done to you, and when it’s full, you can use your Arts ability. Arts are usually heavy damage attacks, though one or two have other uses, making them mostly useful in boss fights or desperate battles where your party is outmatched, so it’s good to note that you can keep your Arts charged until you need them. You can also customize your battle formation as needed when outside of battle, placing magic users and distance fighters in the rear while you place fighters and meat shields in the front. This layout tends to fall apart after two or three rounds, since characters will move around the battlefield, but it’s useful at the start of battle if nothing else. In another useful addition, enemies appear as actual sprites on the game map instead of simply engaging you in random battle, meaning that you get a rough idea of what you’re facing in advance and can potentially avoid battles you don’t want to face if you can move past the enemy well enough.
The game also makes it harder to munchkin your way through bosses by allowing boss monsters to level up along with your characters, as the earlier games in the series did. This isn’t a huge addition for reasons we will address later, and the formula doesn’t make the bosses EXACTLY the same no matter what, as being four levels higher than you would have otherwise been through grinding will give you a marginal boost, but this might cut off one turn at most, so boss battles don’t turn into a complete cakewalk just because you spent two hours grinding in the cave outside of the Magic Guild. The game also gives you the ability to automate battles, which is great when you’re just fighting regular enemies, as you can essentially just choose the “Attack All”Â set and let your team rip through a battle you don’t feel like dealing with. You can also let the computer go with its own AI choices, though the AI is somewhat spotty, as it will sometimes use overpowered moves on enemies that can be wiped out with regular attacks without an issue. This isn’t a constant problem, but it makes the AI option less than desirable when you can just choose to have everyone attack and conserve magic for battles that might need it. These aren’t amazing additions on their own, but together they make Lunar: Silver Star Harmony one of the better games of its type for the sake of variety if nothing else, and keep the game interesting throughout.
The game will take most players around forty to sixty hours to plow through, depending on how much time is spent exploring and grinding. The game does offer some neat stuff to find, such as the Bromides, which are essentially pictures of the female cast members in varying cheesecake poses, and some hidden items and cutscenes to find, for those that like this sort of thing. Aside from finding the hidden items and such, there’s not a whole lot of replay value to the game, unfortunately, as it’s really a game you can see in its entirety after one playthrough, but the story is interesting enough that it might be worth playing through at some point down the road, which is something I personally have done with the prior versions of the game a few times. The Limited Edition of the game also includes two small novelties in addition to the game itself for collectors. The first is a music CD containing the various music tracks from the game, which is cute, though the music isn’t so great that it merits listening to it in the car, for instance. The second is a collection of Bromides from the game, printed as actual cards for you to look at, complete with various quotes and descriptions of the characters on the back. The cards are nicely printed and fun to have, and are a nice novelty for any fan of the series to have. Finally, THANK GOD you can save the game at any time, and bravo to whoever it was, be it Game Arts or Xseed, who included this option. No one wants to be stuck playing for an hour because the game refuses to let them save, ESPECIALLY with a hand-held game, and this is something developers all too often overlook, so good on everyone for this.
The biggest flaws with Lunar: Silver Star Harmony come from the fact that it’s a remake, and as such has to stand against its predecessors in every respect. As such, while this particular release features updated visuals and music, it also features, for example, a decline in difficulty. As I noted above, the game does seem to match boss levels with Alex’s levels, thus allowing the bosses to retain their challenge as you level up, but the bosses aren’t much of a threat to begin with, frankly. As you progress there is some challenge to be had in a few boss battles, but if you play smart the game isn’t as challenging as Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, for instance, as the enemies are simply not challenging enough overall. It also doesn’t help that you can essentially earn way more cash than you’ll ever need and carry ninety nine of every item in the game, which can eventually allow you to acquire items later in the game that essentially make it impossible for you to lose with judicious use. The difficulty aside, if you’ve played Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, this game is essentially the same thing with some minor additions here and there, and while it’s a good bit prettier, it’s not a good bit different, making it hard to recommend in that respect. This being a remake of a nearly two decade old game, the typical issues that plague such releases could be an issue for new players with this game, such as the sometimes archaic battle system or the lack of anything to do with the game once you’re done with it, but those complaints are minor all in all.
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is a great remake of a great game, all in all, between the fact that the overall game is still as great as it ever was and many of the improvements made to this version are for the better, but it’s not without its flaws and it’s not likely to blow the socks off of anyone who’s played the prior games to death. The story is still as good as ever, the graphics are fantastic and nicely upgraded from prior releases, and the audio is well presented even if it might be an issue of contention for fans of the prior games. The game is very simple to play but has enough interesting gimmicks of its own to make it more than just another also-ran game, and it’s deep and lengthy enough to make it well worth the asking price for anyone who has yet to play it or wants another go with Alex and company. The game is a good bit easier than its predecessors, unfortunately, and while this might make it more accessible to new players, it does nothing for players who have played Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, or any other game of this type for that matter. Further, anyone who HAS played the prior games will see nothing significantly new here, and the game is a remake of a game from the old days of RPG gaming where combat gimmicks were minimal, making this hard to recommend for more modern gamers. Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is still a good time if you’re willing to overlook its flaws, and anyone who has not played it should absolutely do so, but it’s not as easy to recommend as it once was, unfortunately, and it may be time for Game Arts to buckle down and actually make a third game in the series instead of rehashing the first two and releasing less than pleasant spin-offs.
Balance: ABOVE AVERAGE
Appeal: ABOVE AVERAGE
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME.
Short Attention Span Summary:
As the final score says, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is a good game, as were its predecessors, though whether or not you ultimately feel that way will depend on your personal tastes in RPG’s and whether or not you’ve played the prior games or not. The story is as enjoyable and well written as ever, and manages to hold up very well almost two decades after the fact. The game has received a great visual improvement all around, and while the audio may not impress fans of the prior releases, it’s well done all in all. The game is very simple to play but loaded up with enough interesting mechanical additions to be worthwhile, and there’s plenty to see and do across the game’s forty to sixty hours of play to make it worth checking out. Fans of the prior releases will note that the game is a good bit less challenging than its predecessors, however, and it adds nothing significant to the game that fans of the earlier releases will not have seen. It’s also very much an older JRPG, which may put off players who have no appreciation for eighties and early nineties RPG’s in general. Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is still a fine product all in all, and if you’re a fan of the prior games who is willing to overlook what things the game doesn’t do as well as its predecessors or a new player who is willing to accept that this is a game with a simpler mindset, it’s a great release for the PSP all in all.