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MIA - Lunar

Stop with all the re-releases and enhancements! We want a new Lunar game!

What is this?! Two MIA features in a single week?!  This is madness…no.  This is PixlBit!

Here at MIA we don’t just write about long defunct franchises and games, we also make references to movies years past their relevancy.  It’s just what we do.

In all seriousness, it is no coincidence that this is our second MIA feature this week.  Why the influx?  You’ll just have to wait a little longer to find out, but know this – March will be all sorts of mad.  I may have said too much.

For those of you who are new to this PixlBit staple, MIA is an ongoing feature where we pick a game or franchise out of the gutter, clean it up and present it for a current/next generation update.

In order to qualify for the MIA spotlight the game or franchise cannot have a new entry on any of the current generation consoles (or a PC release in the last 5 years), nor can a new title be in development.  Unconfirmed rumors and speculation are admissible and HD collections, digital re-releases and cameos in other games will not hinder count as a new entry.  The title or franchise must also be served well by a current generation face-lift.  Certain games should remain in the shadows and never grace our living rooms again.

This week for your consideration, Lunar!

The Lunar series traces its humble origins to the not-oft utilized Mega-CD/Sega CD in the distant year of 1992 in Japan and then was brought to the states by Working Designs one year later (I bet some of you are feeling really old right now – don’t worry, I do too).

Lunar: The Silver Star would kick the series off.  Developed by Game Arts and Studio Alex, The Silver Star followed the wondrous adventures of a young boy named Alex.  Like most young boys, Alex had designs on one day rising above his lot in life to become a great hero, like his chosen role model Dragonmaster Dyne.  Starting with a harmless, albeit naïve, outing, Alex embarks on a grand adventure that hits on almost every JRPG cliché you can imagine.

Cliché or not, Lunar imagine to capture many a gamer’s heart through its exemplary production values.  The Sega CD offered technological enhancements that previous platforms hadn’t, and the developers were able to include short FMV segments and impressive CD quality sound that would wow gamers and help to make it stick out in what was a rather saturated market at the time.

The Silver Star’s sequel, Eternal Blue, also released on the Sega CD, was released in Japan in December of 1994 before coming over sees the next year, courtesy of Working Designs yet again.  Set a thousand years after the events of the original, the player was put into the shoes of Hiro, an adventurer who shares quite a few personality traits in common with the previous protagonist, Alex.

Hiro sets upon his own whirlwind adventure when he crosses path with Lucia, a visitor from the Blue Star.  We all know what happens when the protagonist finds themselves somehow involved with a mysterious stranger from “another world”. It hits the fan, of course, especially since Lucia claims that she is visiting to prevent a catastrophe.

Aside from a couple of handheld spinoffs (I’ll get to those in a minute), Eternal Blue would end up being the last chapter in the Lunar story on home consoles.  This didn’t mean that the games wouldn’t be re-released and enhanced over and over again, however. 

The first re-release came in the form of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, released in Japan on the Sega Saturn in 1996.  An even further enhanced version of this game was released in Japan on the Sega Saturn the very next year under the title Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete MPEG.  The former was later ported to the Sony PlayStation in 1998 for Japan and then in 1999 for North America (the MPEG version was never ported).  A North American Saturn port had been planned, but was scrapped due in part to the console’s inability to create a stabilized market here.

Eternal Blue got its first re-release under the title of (you guessed it) Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete.  The Sega Saturn was the first home of this re-release in 1998 in Japan.  A PlayStation port came to Japan in 1999 and North America at the tail end of 2000.

Yet another enhanced version of the original was released in 2010 for the PSP under the title Lunar: Silver Star Harmony.

As I had previously mentioned, the handheld market got some love with a couple of spinoffs and an all new entry in the mainline series on the DS.  Lunar: Walking School released on the Sega Game Gear in 1995.  Released only in Japan, Walking School takes place in the same world as the original Lunar games and follows a young heroine named Ellie.  This title was actually enhanced and re-released on the Sega Saturn in 1997, though this also never made it to the states.

Lunar Legend is a re-telling of The Silver Star, and was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2001 in both Japan and North America.  The import is noted for being the first Lunar game not published by Working Designs in the states, and was rather handled by Ubisoft, who would also publish the next title in the states as well.

And finally we have Lunar Genesis, or Lunar: Dragon Song as it is known in North America, which was released on the Nintendo DS in 2005 in Japan and North America, with Europe getting their hands on it in 2006.  Taking place a thousand years before the events of The Silver Star, Lunar Genesis finds its young protagonist in the form of Jian Campbell, a young delivery boy who must become a hero and save the world.

This final entry in the Lunar series did not receive the same critical treatment that its forerunners had, and was instead largely panned due to poor mechanical decisions made by development and the removal of elements that had previously made the series famous, like the voice acted cutscenes.

And that brings us up to date.  It’s been about 8 years since we’ve seen a new Lunar game, and the last title didn’t exactly leave the series on a high note.  So how can we modernize this series, and make it relevant once more?

Embrace the Future: Many of Lunar’s weaker points evolve around its ability to embrace new ideas.  The games have grown stale over the year, with mechanics that are outdated, and stories that are riddled with clichés.  A more modern combat/encounter system and a better focus on creating a more original narrative would do this series very well.

Embrace the Past: Moving forward doesn’t mean you should drop everything that made you successful in the first place.  The Lunar series has been well known for its music and it’s fully voiced FMV cut scenes.  Fans expect these to be tip-top; anything less would be a disappointment.

Anime Aesthetic: Speaking of those classic FMV sequences, why not blur the lines between FMV and the player controlled elements by utilizing an anime inspired aesthetic? Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch did this to astounding results, and Lunar would be a prime candidate to do just the same.

So what do you all think? Is it about time that Lunar returned?  Or should this JRPG ride off into the sunset?  Have any other suggestions to bring this series forward?  Let your voice be heard and add to the discussion by sounding off in the comments section below!


 

Comments

Matt Snee Staff Writer

03/01/2013 at 04:12 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I have never made it through this game.  I didn't have it for the Sega CD, and my first experience with it was on the PSP.  I could stand the fact that the music faded out when you entered a building or different room, and then faded back up. It was constantly doing that as you were exploring and it drove me crazy.  

I bought it for my iPad, and liked that version much better.  But I haven't won that either.  I really need to play it, it's a great game.  

Never played the second one though.  I agree, it would be nice to have a new one.  I feel the same way about Grandia and Skies of Arcadia.  

Rangergirl

03/01/2013 at 04:20 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I was incredibly late to the PS1 and happened upon both Lunar Silver Star Story Complete and Lunar 2 Eternal Blue Complete in the used sections of a couple of local stores in 2004. Being used, they were both mostly complete, and I instantly fell in love with both the games and the packaging.

Much as I hate to say this, I really think this is one franchise that needs to be left alone.

Julian Titus Reviews Editor

03/01/2013 at 04:40 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Lunar 2 is my favorite RPG on PSX. I still have both games with all the goodies Working Designs packaged with them. My favorite thing about these games was the way that talking to random NPCs would kick off entire conversations with your party.

That GBA remake is pretty dang good. Less tactical combat, but gorgeous sprites and a great script.

mothman

03/01/2013 at 05:25 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I found both Silver Star Story Complete and Eternal Blue Complete used in pretty messed up condition but still playable. Neither was really "complete" and only gave me the game disks and making of CDs in broken cases with no manuals.

I played a bit of both but did not complete Silver Star Story until I bought Harmony on the PSP. 

I have to say though that I wasn't really all that impressed. I cared enough to complete Silver Star Harmony but only because I kept hoping something would happen that would change my mind. All that did happen was the game finally coming to an end.

I just sold my beat up Eternal Blue last week and the night before I shipped it out I played the first hour over again. Regardless of my disappointment in Silver Star Harmony I'd play Eternal Blue again if it was remade.

natron

03/01/2013 at 05:41 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I love the Lunar series, and as much as it pains me to say it- I think the series is best left where it is. They did the port for PSP... if that left any kind of mark we would have surely seen an Eternal Blue port as well. The GBA and DS games have been terrible. I think it woyuld be best to leave this old fashioned JRPG where it belongs... in the past.

Serraxor

03/01/2013 at 07:25 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

The first thing I said as I read this article's title is, "No, you don't."

I didn't mind the GBA reimagining of Silver Star, but Lunar: Dragon Song (HAAAH! get it??! "DS"??! sorry, that's one of my pet peeves) is proof of why Lunar needs retiring. 

BrokenH

03/01/2013 at 08:38 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I'd love to see a new Lunar game. However, it is kind of difficult to embrace the past and embrace the future without making the mistakes associated with either of those approaches. There was something "magical" about the first two games that's almost impossible to put in a bottle.

Regardless, thanks for paying tribute to one of my favorite old school rpgs of all time, Jesse! (It's just a shame I didn't play Lunar Silver Star Story and Lunar Eternal Blue until I got them on playstation. Growing up I was that kid who had an snes but not a genesis!)

Rangergirl

03/01/2013 at 08:43 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Saturn, Ben, Saturn!

BrokenH

03/01/2013 at 11:56 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

They were on the playstation 1 as well,Tami. lol. That I can confirm because I still have the ps1 boxed edition of Eternal Blue.

So they were not on the genesis too? My bad! My Sega knowledge is sketchy. I was a nintendo kid growing up.

SanAndreas

03/02/2013 at 02:05 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I remember seeing the print ads for Lunar: The Silver Star in a 1994 issue of GamePro I bought for the Mortal Kombat II strategy guide (this same magazine was also where I got my first look at Final Fantasy VI). Man, did I want that game, but I was a kid and my parents weren't about to form over $300 for a Genesis + Sega CD combo. So I got a SNES instead and contented myself with the aforementioned Final Fantasy VI.

Four years later, by then gainfully employed and owning a PS1, I heard rumors that Lunar was being remade for the 32-bit consoles and released in the US. Since WD was still a Sega publisher, I assumed the games were coming to Saturn and I'd have to buy one of those to play them.  I went to Electronics Boutique at the mall to inquire about what the staff there knew about Lunar. Not only did they confirm that Lunar was indeed being re-released in the US, but it was being released for the PlayStation, not the Saturn! Needless to say, I put down 5 bucks on the counter for a pre-order. Come May 1999, I came home with my Lunar prize. I loved the hell out of that game, A year later, I likewise picked up Lunar 2. I still own both games with all their little feelies and boxes, and they remain among my favorite games today.

As to whether I'd like to see the series revived? Sure, although I'd like to see it done using either Sega's CANVAS engine (the Valkyria Chronicles engine) or the engine used for Ni no Kuni, in glorious 3-D. And hopefully without whatever bizarre thinking that guided the development of Lunar: Dragon Song. Keep it back to basics but in wonderful cel-shaded 3-D, and maybe give me a box of feelies, and Game Arts would have $60 of my money right there.

Beerfan

03/01/2013 at 09:20 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Your right, I feel old.  I loved the first two games.  The fmv's were awesome in their day.  I heard the more recent games were pretty crappy, so I have avoided them.  However, if they were to make a new console game, I would definitely buy it.  I would love HD remakes of the first two, but that is probably wishful thinking.

Coolsetzer

03/01/2013 at 10:02 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Back when I was actively collecting games in the Playstation days, I got both of them and preserved them in boxes. I still have them, so I can play them if I want. The problem is, the games were just boring to me. I also tried to play the DS game, but it was just awful. If they did revive the IP, it would have to be on a handheld imo. I would be fine with anime cut scenes, but they need to update the combat system like you said. Also, get a quality writer on the project and go all out.

And I think a March Madness would be super. ^_^ Let's get to work!

FAF101

03/01/2013 at 11:51 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I would be the happiest girl alive if there was a new Lunar game to come out. This is my favorite series by far, ever. I have every single copy of the game minus the sega saturn copy since I never had a Sega Saturn and I don't own the Sega CD version of Lunar 2: Eternal Blue...yet. I was not a huge fan of the remakes truth be told for the PSP or the GBA of Silver Star Story. Although I think it would have been nice if they remade the second one as well onto the PSP maybe also. I feel they focus too much on the first game which is not to say terrible but the second game was just as great as the first.  I was never really a big fan of the DS game either because I feel that it did not feel like a Lunar game.

Also it would be pretty cool if they brought over Lunar Magic School. That never made a release in the US and I feel it would be another fun Lunar installment to play. I also think they can make at least one more Lunar game but instead maybe have the focus on the blue star at the main focus of story since Lunar 2 ends there. I could go for a new story along those lines or a totally different type of story.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

03/02/2013 at 03:10 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Lunar 2 needs more love. I have no idea why more versions of Lunar 1 exist that 2 considering how much more polished the second game was. 

One thing I've never seen done as well in other games (that I've personally played mind you) is the level of charm they pulled off in the Lunar series. I wouldn't say I fell in love with any of the characters in any of the games, but I honestly enjoyed spending time with them and found them endearing. I could honestly say the same about the story itself, the gameplay mechanics, everything about the game could best be described as charming. The games really offer nothing radically new or innovative or groundbreaking (again, in my experience, since I'm sure someone experienced some of these things for the first time with Lunar) but they did make me smile an awful lot, and I absolutely enjoyed my time with them.

If they do make another Lunar game, I hope they realize that's what made the game great, and they don't really try to push things too far. Do they need to update the game mechanics, graphics, story, etc? Absolutely. Should they try new things? Sure! But if this ever happens, and I'm not sure it will, I hope they don't ever push Lunar out of it's comfort zone, since that's what made it work for me.

GeminiMan78

03/02/2013 at 08:20 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Love these games but much like Chrono Trigger and other classics it might be better left in the realm of nostalgia. But in the right hands it could end up a modern masterpeice.

jgusw

03/03/2013 at 04:46 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Yep.  I really would like another Lunar game.  I like the remakes, but enough is enough. 

Jamie Alston Review Writer

03/04/2013 at 10:38 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I had Lunar: SSS Complete (without the goodies), but foolishly traded it for another game right in the middle of my adventure.  Thankfully, I was able to find Eternal Blue on the PlayStation for a decent price.  I haven't played it yet, but I've heard many good things about it.

I think the series could use a revival, but it has to respect what the original games were all about and not just be a quick cash cow attempt.

Funny_Color_Blue

03/05/2013 at 07:05 AM Reply | Permalink | Report

I was playing these games just last night, what a coincidence! Having said that, I really don't think, the Lunar series needs to be revisited anytime soon. The reason for that being, what sort of struck me about these two games in particular was how genuinely heartwarming and funny the story was for an RPG, which is what the Lunar series is known for.

Playing these games was sort of akin to watching, a Disney animated classic, targeted for a specific age group that the viewer could watch over and over again.

 Having said that I was genuinely embarrassed showing these games off to my friend’s years later where upon watching the first opening cut scene were the words “In your dreams magical thoughts, all things are real unless you dream there not.”…

This is a game franchise that you really should be passing down to your own children, retelling a coming of age story until they’ve outgrown it.

 With that in mind, I think the re-released version for the iPhone or iPad would be an ideal way to introduce your son or daughter to the world of JRPGs. That is, if they’re young enough to stomach it.

 Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m probably one the biggest fans of Lunar games you’ll ever meet! It’s just that all the loose ends are essentially tied up between the two installments, that there’s essentially no need for a sequel.

Expecting a sequel at this point would be like expecting a sequel to Don Bluth’s animated classic, “The Land Before Time”, which they’ve made several…

Chris Iozzi Staff Writer

03/05/2013 at 12:42 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

I adored the first Lunar on Sega CD. When the sequel came out, a few reviews said they were annoyed at the amount of pop culture referances and winks to the player. They described feeling like they were never really "inside" the game. I could completely relate to this as these things distracted me from the first game. I never did pick it up despite being a freak over the first game.

I picked up the PS1 remakes and still got my Ghaleon puppet on the shelf. I still never did play through Lunar 2 though.

Just last year I saw the Sega CD version of Lunar 2 in a mom 'n pop shop near my house in great shape and reasonably priced. I traded them a couple doubles and picked it up. Now its sitting there begging to be played. I intend to some day.

As for a revival? I would be up for it but it would have to be something majestic, no more cash-in rush jobs. Return to form please.

Anonymous

03/08/2013 at 01:32 PM Reply | Permalink | Report

Why not make a new game?? Just don't lose on what it is as well. They just have to be carefull with it. But hey I would not be surprised if they make a lunar and it ends up being a fps lol!!

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