- Oct 25, 2017
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete was released in North America in May, 1999, which means 2019 is its 20th anniversary! This is one of my favourite games of all time, so, to celebrate, I recently replayed Lunar: SSSC to completion for the first time in probably ten years. Now's a great time to celebrate this game, and the Lunar series in general, which feels under-appreciated these days, since it's only really available to people via a mediocre mobile port.
Over on EGMNOW, I had the opportunity to write a long, heart-filled retrospective of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, but I wanted to take the time here to go through some of the things that stood out to me, and highlight why I think this game is so special.
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete is a PlayStation and Saturn remake of Lunar: The Silver Star, one of the most popular games on the SEGA CD. It was later also released on Windows and iOS. Lunar: SSSC was developed by Studio Alex and released in North America by Working Designs in 1999.
Story & Characters
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete tells the story of young Alex, an erstwhile bumpkin from a village called Burg who dreams of following in the footsteps of his hero, Dragonmaster Dyne. When him and his friends Luna and Ramus set out to get a Dragon Diamond from a nearby cave, they take the first steps on a journey that will save the world and change them all irrevocably.
All of the characters, from Alex and Luna, to Jessica, Nash, Nall, and Ghaleon, have full, realized character arcs, realistic motivations, and varied personalities. Best of all is the way the team comes together like a group of real people, which genuine relationships building between all of them. I love the way the party doesn't always get along—there's a lot of sandpaper between Kyle and Nash, and the tumultuous nature of Kyle and Jessica's relationship is sweet and well-handled.
From top to bottom, it's a fun, adventurous story with a great amount of warmth and heart. One of the things I think sets it apart from other JRPGs at the time is that Alex is constantly driving the plot forward in a proactive way. Rather than responding to something that happens to him outside of his control, he sets out to have an adventure, and each step along the plot's path is a choice made by Alex and the party. This really leads to a sense of adventure and wonder that is unmatched outside of other games that aren't Grandia or Trails in the Sky (both of which I consider spiritual successors to Lunar.) It's full of cliches, but it's so well executed, and the world and characters are so likeable, that it feels like the perfect telling of a favourite story.
One of my favourite things about Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete is how fast and snappy everything is (except saving to a PS1 memory card...) Character movement is quick and fluid, even without a run button, dialogue moves along snappily, and you're into battles and fighting super quick thanks to the game's "Tactics" system (which allows you to set up predetermined actions for each character.) This carries over to the plot, which never stops moving and keeps dishing out excitement, emotion, and character development at a satisfying pace.
(Screenshots courtesy Lunar.net)
I'm a sucker for gorgeous 2D sprite-based graphics, and Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete still holds up wonderfully today. It's character sprites are small and basic, without even the emotive animations found in something like Final Fantasy VI, but the character portraits that accompany dialogue more than make up for this. The world is varied and detailed, feeling like a living, breathing place. The original release was already a nice looking game, but Lunar: SSSC took that base work and really made something beautiful out of it. It's always fun to see what's around the next corner, and the anime cut scenes feel like a sweet reward as you progress through the story.
Working Designs Localization
One of the huge question marks I had going into my replay of Lunar: SSSC was how the Working Designs localization would hold up in 2019. It's been divisive among fans since the game's release, and a lot of the game's humour was cringey even in the mid-nineties. For the most part, though, the localization remains as warm, hopeful, and well-written as I remembered it being. There's definitely a ton of groan-worth jokes, and some tasteless transphobia when Kyle's introduced (though that's on the original creators, not WD necessarily), but it's mostly contained to side content and NPC dialogue, meaning it didn't impact or detract from my overall enjoyment of the game. This was released just when publishers were realizing how important a good localization was and, compared to its contemporaries like Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy VII, or Suikoden 2, it set a new bar.
The thing that stood out most negatively to me was the way Working Designs tweaked the difficulty in battle. They increased enemy damage by 45% (!!!) and winning a battle provided 14% less experience and 10% less gold. This often turns what otherwise feels like a light, charming experience into a grindfest at times, with dungeons feeling like a battle of attrition and resource management. I don't mind this style of difficulty, and the game never feels unfair, but given how bright and cheery everything else is, I found myself wishing the game were a bit easier, especially if it chopped 5 or so hours off the completion time.
Artwork from Lunar: The Silver Star & Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete
In all, I was really impressed and pleased to see how the game lived up to my memories and expectations. It can be harrowing revisiting an old favourite, but when they're crafted with as much love, attention, and care as Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete it becomes obvious that time will continue to be kind to one of the best JRPGs ever.
Now, to somehow convince Vic Ireland and whoever owns the rights to the games to get them up on PSN so more people can experience this wonderful series.