My first introduction to the Lunar series came with Working Designs' re-release of Lunar Silver Star Story Complete for the Playstation, a game which I actually put off buying until Working Designs threatened to take it away forever (a promise that they have apparently since made good on). Lunar SSSC was a heaping helping of old-fashioned RPG goodness that took me back to the days of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 3, Breath of Fire 2, and all the other amazing RPGs that I was weaned on as a child of the Super Nintendo. Although the sound and graphics for SSSC may pale in comparison to the majority of games finding their way onto consoles in this day and age, its fully developed characters, involving storyline and compulsive playability help it to outshine many games that are little more than dreary eye candy.
And so, with high anticipation I slogged through the endless and constant delays and scant information that accompanied the launch of SSSC's sequel, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete. There is a saying - common in the video game industry it would seem - that a game can only be late until it is released, while a bad game is a bad game forever. Were the delays worth it? Overall, the answer would appear to be yes. While Eternal Blue Complete does have its flaws, as a whole the game possesses enough wit, strategy and old school charm to overcome those aspects that may have benefited from a little more tinkering.
One of the main selling points of Lunar SSSC was its highly defined characters and engrossing and twisting storyline. Eternal Blue is no different, really. You begin the game as Hiro, an adventuresome lad who lives with his archaeologist Grandpa and his pet baby Red Dragon, Ruby. When a beautiful blue-haired girl named Lucia suddenly materializes in the mysterious Blue Spire near Hiro's home, his adventure begins. Hiro must attempt to aid Lucia in her quest to meet with the Goddess Althena, as well as outwit and outrun the members of Althena's Chosen, a cult-type organization that believes that Lucia is actually the Destroyer that has been prophesied to end the world.
Along the way, Hiro and Lucia are joined by the requisite quirky and multitalented characters - a fan dancing karate master (or mistress), a priest/gambler/womanizer, the money grubbing head of the Magic Guild, etc. There are also some of the surprise twists and alliance shifts that made SSSC so enticing. The characters are all very well developed and personalized, and the dialogue is well written and entertaining. In SSSC, however, the party members seemed to constantly be chatting amongst themselves and offering their individual input into any given situation, but there isn't a whole lot of that in EBC, which is a pity.
Nevertheless, each character has his or her own backstory to give you insight into their personalities and histories, which helps a great deal to flesh out the characters. And while some of the characters look startlingly like their SSSC counterparts (Ronfar is basically Kyle with a widow's peak), they are still intriguing enough to keep you playing.
Story - 88%
The gameplay of Eternal Blue has all the characteristics of old-fashioned RPG fare. Battles earn you experience points, experience points gain you levels, higher levels mean more spells, higher stats, more hit points and more magic points. Battles also gain money for your characters, which can then be used for weapon and equipment upgrades in stores in the different towns. The merchants of Eternal Blue care only about your money, so there is no need for a collection of screws, leather and fur in order to upgrade your party (a tactic that I personally find frustrating, irritating and unnecessary in many RPGs).
There is also the added bonus of Crests that can be found or bought and equipped on the characters. Different Crest combinations result in different spell abilities, which gives you more opportunity to customize your characters (always a bonus).
The battle system is also in the typical RPG style, with two main upgrades to the traditional battle methods. First, the distance between the party member and the enemy they attack must be taken into account. Some characters have weapons that will attack at any distance; others must be within their range or they will stop just short of the enemy and not do any damage at all. While admittedly that can be frustrating, it also allows for an extra level of strategy that results in more engaging battles.
Second, enemies in the area are always shown onscreen, so if you are low on energy or if you don't feel like fighting, you can usually scoot right by them. If you do opt to battle, defeated enemies stay dead, so you can explore the different areas at your leisure without worrying about the constant interruptions that can make games like the Final Fantasy series such a chore at times.
Overall, the battle system in Eternal Blue keeps all the things that RPGers know and love about RPG games, with some fine tune tweaking that raises it above the standard. The Crest system does not allow for as many options as Espers or Jobs, but really, what system does?
Gameplay - 93%
And now for the bad news. The overall sound and music effects in Eternal Blue are very uneven. The compositions are adequate; sometimes they are actually very moody, pretty, and atmospheric, while other times they can range from filler all the way to downright irritating. The music accompanying the battles, Jean's Bromides, and the "White Mask Funk (Mystere's Theme)" are a few of my personal favorites, but the jangly Overworld music really works my nerves and, unfortunately, seems as though it is ALWAYS ON. Oh, to be in the Hyrule Overworld.
On the other side of the sound effects coin is the voice acting - superb in SSSC and pretty good in Eternal Blue as well. Even the weaker voices are excellent by the standard of most RPGs, and nothing even approaches the realm of being distractingly bad. The villains, especially, sound as though they are having a good time, and there are some pretty cool effects to go along with some of the spells. When all is said and done, the sound effects and music are not the qualities that make or break a game for me, and those aspects of Eternal Blue may not be tremendous, but they are perfectly serviceable as a means to progress the story and set a tone for the game. Sound/Music - 82%
The graphics in EBC are, for the most part, highly reminiscent of those found on the SNES - sprite-like and super pixilated at times. As the party explores towns and dungeons, and moves through the Overworld, the characters appear to be in a constant "running" state, and are squished down and smeary looking. As with sound, the graphics in a game are not where the main attraction lies for me. I have absolutely seen better, but again, the graphics did not distract me from enjoying the game.
In contrast to the real-time graphics, the anime cut-scenes are beautifully drawn and breathtakingly directed. Dragons glide, water laps gently, moonlight glows, and a giant pulsating tentacle beast wrenches a fortress from the ocean's depths and engulfs it. While I would have liked to see more of the characters included in those scenes (most seem to only feature Lucia, Hiro and Ruby), overall they are just as amazing and atmospheric as those in SSSC. Graphics - 79%
Overall, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete is a welcome return to the old fashioned, fairy tale world of the first Lunar game. Its simplistic feel is deceiving; under the surface, the story and battles are more complex than the visuals may at first lead you to believe. Some of the bosses are truly challenging, and after the final boss is defeated, there are still SEVEN full dungeons to explore at your leisure in order to obtain a final Happily Ever After for everyone.
If you're the type of person that can still entertain themselves with Final Fantasy 3, Earthbound, or any of the RPG classics from the older consoles, then look no further - this game is for you. If your first exposure to the world of Lunar was through Lunar SSSC, you will find this game worth the wait. EBC is not as frilly as some of the games out there today, but its reliance on fun, humor, character development and storytelling indicate that its priorities are unquestionably in place. Overall - 92%