Lunar the Silver Star review –

Developer: Studio Alex    Publisher: Working Designs    Release: 12/93    Genre: RPG

Ever since I saw screenshots of Exile’s cutscenes the idea of a RPG on a CD-ROM fascinated me. With all of that space you could have full blown anime cutscenes and fully voiced dialogue and a 100 hour quest! The video game industry was not quite prepared for my lofty ideas yet but I will say they came close. Lunar: the Silver Star was on my radar since its early previews and it is safe to say my hype was through the roof. It lived up to my lofty expectations in 1995 and nearly thirty years later it is still just as good. This is one of the best reasons to own a Sega CD and a classic of the 16-bit era.

Alex has always idolized the legendary hero Dragonmaster Dyne and longs to be just like him. An early adventure with his best friend Ramus and adopted sister Luna starts to obtain a dragon diamond starts his adventure. But little does he know that his childish quest is the beginning of journey to follow in his hero’s footsteps and eventually save the world.

Lunar was one of the first big RPGs to take advantage of CD-ROM released in the US. The script is dense and thanks to Working Designs an excellent localization for the time. To be fair the overall plot is not original and the game’s intro gives away many plot twists. What makes the game so memorable is its characters and dialogue. Everyone in the principle cast is bursting with personality and it is a delight to witness their interactions over the course of the adventure. While the story may be cliché it never fails to entertain. Although your quest will eventually encompass saving the world in the end Alex just wants to save the girl he loves and the game never loses sight of that. These are the reasons those who played Lunar back in the day still sings its praises today.

Lunar slightly mixes strategy with its turn based battles. Every character can take a certain number of steps and actions per turn (usually 2 each). There is no grid to denote movement although it technically exists in the background. If you target an enemy within one step you can attack twice. But if you have to cross the field to reach them that number drops. Positioning becomes key as enemies use the same system and can and will attack three or four times in one turn. Spells also have ranges and zones that need consideration. While it sounds deep it really is not. Random battles are still just as fast as in other games and the AI option makes it quicker. The few boss battles are where these nuances have to be taken into consideration. It’s a unique yet familiar system that gives the game its own flavor.

The game’s user interface is a bit clunky and lacks critical information. Although you have a shared inventory you navigate it per character and it is slow. Status information is buried multiple pages deep as well. The most frustrating is magic. With the exception of Kyle every character receives a massive list of spells during the course of the game. The game gives no description of each spell and for healers like Jessica needing a guide or handmade list is flat out stupid. Overall it is a minor quibble but still notable.

The pacing is brisk and one of the game’s stronger aspects. For most of the game the encounter rate is very low; it isn’t out of the ordinary to go minutes without a random battle. Leveling comes at a consistent pace in spite of that. In the second half battles become more frequent for story reasons but never to the point of absurdity. There are no side quests so the story remains focused and does not drag its heels. All told this is twenty five hour RPG that does not overstay its welcome.

Overall Lunar is easy in comparison to most RPGs. Healing shrines and stones litter the landscape everywhere. I’ve seen as many as three within ten feet of each other. It makes sense as there are no inns to rest in. With an overabundance of free healing grinding out levels Is simple. Grinding isn’t really necessary; experience and silver are balanced pretty well over the entire game. By the end at least one party member will level up every two or three random battles. Once you reach the frontier there is a little spike but that is due to dungeon’s becoming longer. The only challenge comes from the boss battles where strategic use of the flee command to avoid heavy damage becomes mandatory. But as a whole Lunar is one of the most accessible RPGs I have come across.

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The advertising for Lunar heavily focused on the game’s cutscenes as they were an easy way to sell the game. It is a bit of a surprise that the game overall has very few cinemas and the ones that exist are brief. As well even though there is a voice cast there is very little spoken dialogue although what is here is good. The bulk of the CD is dedicated to the beyond incredible soundtrack. The orchestral soundtrack is a 16-bit standout and I actually prefer it to the later PlayStation/Saturn remake.

In Closing

Lunar: the Silver Star is an incredible game and a 16-bit classic. Working Designs went above and beyond and gave the game all star treatment even though the Sega CD was not a roaring success. If you own a Sega CD you owe it to yourself to play this game.

8 out of 10

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