Review By: Jared Black
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
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
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
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.