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Review By: Jared Black
Developer:   Game Arts
Publisher:   Working Designs
# of Players:   1
Genre:   RPG
ESRB:   Teen

When people mention the Sega CD, what words come to your mind?  Failure? Bad Idea? Ill-advised? Yes, the Sega CD was all of that, but it was also the home to some decent games as well--the best of the bunch being the vaunted Lunar series.  The Lunar series was the Sega CD's killer app of sorts, being the only games that could really sell the platform (other then Sonic CD).

The problem was, even the great Lunar series wasn't enough to make the Sega CD a mass-market success (although it fared a lot better then the 32X).  Enter Working Designs.  Seeing that the Lunar series never really got a large audience (and it could make them loads of $$$), they decided to revamp the games with all new graphics, witty dialogue, etc. and re-release them on the Playstation. They certainly made the right decision.

Even before you play the actual game, Lunar will impress you.  With what? The packaging.  The packaging is quite simply the best I've ever seen with a video game.  You get: a cloth map, a 100+ page HARDBOUND manual (although a lot of that manual is simply strategy-guide filler with the offer to buy the full guide included), 2 game CDs, a music soundtrack, and a "Making of" CD.  The cloth map is nice (lacks detail though, so it's more of a novelty then anything else), the manual is sweet, the soundtrack is AWESOME (that baby is in my car's CD player right now), and the "Making of" CD is well done as well.  Overall, a very impressive package indeed.

Now that that is out of the way, let's focus on the game itself.  First off, the graphics.  The graphics are somewhat of a mixed bag.  Certainly, the game looks MUCH better then it did on the Sega CD, and everything is definitely more detailed and sharp.  Bosses are drawn quite nicely, characters and NPCs act lively, and environments have a good amount of detail to them. Still though, the game is not a graphical powerhouse by any means, as the overall look of the game world is barely better then that of some of the best-looking 16-bit games.

Where the graphics do shine in this game are in the anime cutscenes found throughout the game.  Quite simply, they're amazing.  The quality of the animation is excellent, and where anime was lacking (like the boat scene), CGI was implemented to pick up the slack.  The cutscenes do a great job of presenting key points in the story (as well as illustrating the character of your different party members), and really help to liven up the game's somewhat drab presentation.

The sound in this game really shines as well.  The sound effects are good, although somewhat sparse.  Where they really shine though are in the battle scenes. Each character has it's own mixture of different "battle cries" they utter during a fight, depending on whether you attack, use magic, etc.  Attacks and magic spells are well done, although they don't really stand-out.

There are also a number of voice-overs throughout the game, which also help to add atmosphere to the game. Voice-overs are also found at key points in the game, and help to add personality to each character (Ghaleon's voice-overs are especially well done).

The music is great, and really adds to the atmosphere of the game.  Dungeons and caves are accompanied by spooky, eerie music, towns are presented with upbeat, lively music, and every bit of it is well-composed. Overall, there's really nothing to complain about in this area. Great stuff.

Overall, the atmosphere of this game is very light-hearted. If you're expecting another game with the psychological weight of Xenogears, you'll be disappointed.  But don't let this deter you from playing the game, it will eventually grow on you (Right Joel? :).

Quite simply, the gameplay is simple and effective.  Walking around from place to place can be accomplished with either the Dual Shock analog control or the standard D pad.  I prefer the D-pad because to me the analog control seems just a little too touchy and kinda out of place in a 2d RPG.  Either way, it's nice to have the option to use either.

The battle system is about as simple as you can get.  During battle you have your standard options: Attack, Run, Magic, AI (computer control each character), etc..  If you pick Magic, you can choose from up to eight different magic spells (depending on your current level, character, etc.). Basically, if you've played any RPG before, you've seen this kind of a battle system.  It may annoy the hardcore that thrive on options, but it is extremely easy to use.

One great addition that Working Designs has made to the gameplay is Dual Shock support.  Spells rumble, cutscenes rumble according to what is happening in the movie, and it constantly rumbles during battles. It's a great addition that really adds to the game, and finally gives me a reason to own my Dual Shock controller. :)

What always makes or breaks a RPG though is the story, and this is where the game truly shines.  As a young boy, Alex has always dreamed of going on great adventures like his hero, Dragonmaster Dyne. When he's approached by his friend Ramus to go retrieve a diamond from a cave, he agrees.  So, the two set off and travel to the cave with Luna, Alex's life-long friend and love interest.  What starts out as a simple quest turns out to be that adventure Alex has always dreamed of, and so much more. Luna also ends up playing an integral role in the plot.  Clocking in at 30+ hours, it's definitely big enough to satisfy any gamer.  I really don't want to say any more then this, but the storyline is definitely on par with anything Square can offer.

The dialogue presenting the story is excellent, if you don't mind references to modern culture and light-heartedness.  Working Designs is known for its stunning translation work, and this game is no different. WD packed a ton of humor in the game, but luckily not so much that it killed the effectiveness of the story.  They also did a great job of presenting the interaction between characters, a key component of the storyline found in the game.  Excellent.

Another element that can make or break a RPG (as evidenced by Shadow Madness) is character development.  Lunar has the best character development in a RPG this side of Final Fantasy 3.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll fall in love with the characters in this game.  The anime sequences really bring out each characters' personality, and the dailogue between characters is very-well written.  Character development is certainly a key to developing any great, engrossing RPG--and Lunar thrives in this area.

Overall, this is an excellent RPG wrapped in an excellent package (literally). The story is just as good today as it was in 1992, the updated graphics provide the game a fresh look, and the extras make it worth the $10 more over most other PSX games.  As long as you aren't a graphic tart and you want a great RPG, Lunar is highly recommended.

Overall: 9.0

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