Lunar: Silver Star Harmony Review

Lunar Title

Title: Lunar: Silver Star Harmony
Developer: Game Arts, XSEED
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 827 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

Many games revered as classics have survived the test of time and gone from generation to generation.  With new consoles come enhanced ports and remakes of previous games to show how the world of gaming was given these gems, mostly in enhanced forms.  With the PS Vita, we’ve gotten remakes of games like Earth Defense Force 2017, Hyperdimension Neptunia, and Persona 4.  In the coming years we may yet see even more to come.

Last generation saw a lot of remakes on the PSP, which are now available on the PS Vita and PlayStation TV.  I could offer countless examples from Disgaea and Final Fantasy IV to Mega Man X and Persona 3.  It is in this library that Vita gamers can really start to look into a lot of classic games, especially RPGs.  It is in this library that I bring you today’s review of a classic RPG from the PlayStation era.  I present my retro review of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony!

Story

Lunar Story

The story takes place on the planet of Lunar, where the Goddess Althena keeps peace and harmony with her protectors, the Dragons and Dragon Master.  Many years after the disappearance of Dragon Master Dyne, a young boy named Alex ventures off in a journey to become the world’s newest Dragon Master, along with his childhood friend, Luna, a magical songstress.

In their journey, they meet countless memorable characters, from the legendary heroes that accompanied Althena and Dyne to many more as they uncover not only a plot to plunge the world into Chaos, but one that involves the dragons, Althena, and even them all in the shadows.

Lunar is considered one of the most memorable RPGs in gaming history.  I won’t say it’s the best game there is.  There are a lot of comically cheesy lines thrown in, but it is a story that is quite memorable and definitely worth any RPG fan’s experience to see the ventures of Alex and Luna.

Gameplay

Lunar Game 1

Lunar is a turn-based RPG that has always had a couple tricks up its sleeve that most RPGs do not care to experiment in.  Silver Star Harmony is a complete remake of the classic PlayStation game and the first remake to completely re-do everything in the game, from the visual presentation to how the battles play to how the visual novel-like scenes are showcased.  Unlike other recent releases of Lunar, this is one that went out of its way to do what a remake deserves and get a full make-over.

There are a few differences between the original game and this game.  Aside from a few plot differences, Silver Star Harmony contains a playable prologue not available in any other version, showcasing a deeper involvement of the adventures of Dyne before Alex comes of age to go on his journey.  This is good, but also received mixed with fans, as some believe it gives the players too many hints on who the true villain of the game is.

When playing the game, you have a general console RPG style.  You’re traveling across an expansive world map through towns and dungeons as you progress through a storyline that pushes you towards your next objective.  As you explore, you’ll interact with characters as well as fight enemies and bosses to advance the story and the plot.  It’s a pretty standard JRPG style and does it pretty well.

The battle system in Lunar is unique because it incorporates a movement system despite being turn-based.  Many attacks can only be done at certain distances from enemies.  If you are fighting a boss in a nearby pool of water, only long-range weapons can use normal attacks on them.  Because of situations like this, the game gives you a lot more strategy to think about, especially during boss fights which require that strategy.

A nice thing about the combat is that the AI / Auto Battle system is still in place.  This allows you to either set specific types of commands for each character or let the computer decide commands for you as you go through each dungeon.  This is useful because, unlike most games, the AI is pretty smart about things.  I could go through an entire dungeon on pure AI in every normal battle and never have a single worry in the world.  But this type of strategy does not work for boss fights.

Lunar Game 2

Lunar was also one of the first RPGs to incorporate Ultimate Attacks that could be gained from a gauge and kept for boss fights.  Much like in games like Final Fantasy VII or Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth 1 and 2, you have a gauge for your Ultimate Attack and the more you fight, the more it fills.  When it’s full, you can unleash that attack, and it will stay full even if you don’t use it, allowing you to “stack” the party with these attacks to give you an edge in your next boss fight.

Overall, Lunar is a pretty long RPG.  People who have played this game before claim it can be beaten in 25 hours in the Harmony edition of the game.  I, however, have played the game on different systems, and the PSP version still takes me a good 35-40 hours to finish, at least.  If you’re not used to the game, I wouldn’t expect to be spending any less than 30-35 hours on the game.  Needless to say, it’s a long RPG.

Controls

Lunar isn’t too hard to control, even for a PSP game.  The controls are so simple that not even the L and R triggers are used as you play through the game.  You also have no need to redirect any buttons to the Right Analog Stick for an enhanced camera experience.

Moving around through the menus or environments is done with the D-Pad and/or Left Analog Stick.  Choosing an option or interacting with someone is done with the X button.  Circle cancels an option and Triangle opens up the customization menu.  That’s all there is to it.  It’s from an era of simple 2D RPGs and has a very simple and easy control scheme to get a handle on.

Presenation

Lunar Pres

Here is where things get interesting.  The visual style of this remake added a lot of depth to the game.  First of all, all of the character models have realistic physics instead of looking like tiny chibi-style sprites.  They also have shadowing that makes them almost look 3D in the way they look.  It makes it look like a completely different game than the previous versions of Lunar.

Aside from this, the visuals look surprisingly good on the Vita and PSTV.  Despite being stretched on those screens, it still looks quite crisp and clean around each of the character models.  A little bit of touch-ups and it could pass as a 2D PS Vita game.  The only downside of the visuals is the fact that they have all of the PS1 version’s anime cutscenes.  This has all of the 4:3 resolution as from the original release, making it clear they made no effort to optimize this for the wide-screen display of the PSP.

Another problem with the presentation is the clashing of colors of the text.  When you see dialogue, you see white text over a semi-transparent text box.  Whenever there is anything remotely bright in color behind the text, the words immediately start to fade into what’s in the background.  This makes it hard to read the dialogue at times.  Since only certain scenes are voiced, it can hamper your experience of the plot.

Outside of this, the game performs well.  Load times are never long and the game never slows down for any animations or other elements

Summary

Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is the most advanced version of Lunar available.  On the downside, it still uses the 4:3 anime scenes from the PS1 version and the text color clashes with many backgrounds.  If you can manage with the text issues, you’ll find a fresh take on a classic RPG that should be a part of any RPG fan’s library

8/10

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