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Lunar 2: Eternal Blue

Publisher: Game Arts\ESP Developer: Game Arts\ESP
Reviewer: Commodore Wheeler Released: 07/23/98
Gameplay: 89% Control: 86%
Graphics: 87% Sound/Music: 97%
Story: 97% Overall: 91%


Lunar: Eternal Blue Remix is a revamped and updated version of the Sega CD classic Lunar: Eternal Blue. Like Lunar: Silver Star Story, Lunar: EBR makes some significant improvements that improve its aesthetic appeal from the original version of the game. However, unlike Lunar: SSS, which blew away the original in nearly all of its individual facets, Lunar: EBR's improvements are mainly superficial. As a matter of fact, some unwelcome changes in gameplay and control cause Lunar: EBR to actually fall a bit short of the original Lunar: EB.

Lunar: EBR takes place on the Silver Star, a once uninhabitable wasteland now populated by the descendants of people brought over from the Blue Star by the goddess Althena. According to legend, Althena comes to the Silver Star in human form whenever danger threatens the world, and it is rumored that she has returned.

Lunar: EBR's storyline stars Hiro, a young adventurer who lives with his grandfather Gwyn and his talking flying cat companion Ruby. One day, after exploring some ruins near his house, Hiro and Ruby encounter Leo, one of Althena's most trusted servants, who warns them that a destroyer is coming to the Silver Star. This destroyer is rumored to be pure evil and to possess nearly immeasurable power, and an epic battle between the destroyer and Althena's forces of good seems to be an inevitability.

Back home at Gwyn's house, Hiro, Ruby, and Gwyn witness a strange beam of light descending upon the nearby Blue Spire, another mysterious ancient structure. Fearing that this beam signals the arrival of the evil destroyer, the trio travels to the Blue Spire to see if there's anything they can do to help.

Once at the Blue Spire, Hiro, Ruby, and Gwyn discover that the beam of light delivered a beautiful young girl named Lucia to the ancient structure. In disbelief that she could be the fabled destroyer of worlds, the trio decides to exit the tower with her. On their way out, they encounter the true destroyer, Zophar, who puts a curse on Lucia and taunts the trio before making his exit.

Safely back at home, Hiro and Ruby are at a loss as to how to help Lucia and stop Zophar. Gwyn then remembers that a powerful healer named Ronfar is rumored to reside in the distant town of Larpa. According to Gwyn, Ronfar may be the only healer powerful enough to remove Lucia's curse. Determined to help the beautiful young woman, Hiro and Ruby take Gwyn's raft to Larpa in order to find Ronfar.

Hiro's adventure only begins from Larpa, and it takes many exciting twists and turns along the way. Lunar: EBR is blessed with one of the most brilliant, well-developed, and consistent storylines that has ever been written for a video game. The plot is epic in its scope, but always manages to stay focused on the characters, with many great emotional moments throughout its length. Like those of most anime-style games, Lunar: EBR's characters exhibit exaggerated primary personality traits. In spite of this, however, the characters are rounded out quite well and show more depth than the characters of most other RPGs. Even the supporting characters are portrayed as individuals rather than as decoration for the rest of the game.

As brilliant as the storyline is overall, it contains some significant flaws. Unlike its prequel, Lunar: SSS, which never seemed contrived, Lunar: EBR is sometimes guilty of being a little bit too blatant with its tear-jerking. Also, up until near the end of the game, I had a lot of trouble sympathizing with Lucia, as little about her personality appealed to me. This detached me from the game (and its otherwise brilliant story) somewhat.

As far as gameplay goes, Lunar: EBR is quite similar to the original Lunar: EB. Other than the semi-tactical battle system (where your choice of actions for a character also has a hand in his or her placement on the battle screen), everything is pretty much tried-and-true traditional RPG mechanics, just executed much better than the overwhelming majority of RPGs out there. Battles are turn-based. Weapons, items, and spells can be used in combat. Defeating enemies yields experience points, and your characters level up after collecting a certain amount of them.

Like that of Lunar: EB, the quality of Lunar: EBR's gameplay is what sets it apart from the overwhelming majority of RPGs out there. The execution is generally very smooth, and character individuality has been retained. Your characters cannot be infinitely customized, so they are unique, both in personality and in gameplay.

Some gameplay changes have been made to Lunar: EBR from the original Lunar: EB, though. Battles are no longer randomly encountered; you can now see your enemies before they attack. Enemies no longer attack you on the world map, either. In addition, items are now pooled, instead of each character carrying his or her own items. This particular change sacrifices some realism, but the resulting increased efficiency is a more than ample return.

The somewhat tedious magic experience point system has been completely removed, too. Characters now gain specific spells at certain experience levels. Also, since the magic experience point system is gone, it no longer costs magic experience points to save your game.

Not all of the changes to Lunar: EBR are for the better, though. The clever but reasonable puzzles in the original Lunar: EB are all but eliminated in Lunar: EBR. In addition, the near-perfect difficulty balance of the original Lunar: EB fails to make it over to the remix. Expect to spend significant amounts of time building levels to get through this one. Most importantly, the ample strategy in the battles of the original is largely gone; for the most part, Lunar: EBR's battles are more hack and slash than strategic.

Lunar: EBR is overall quite strong in the control department. You can move your onscreen characters in 8 directions in both the area maps and the world map, and the directional movement control is very responsive. The menu organization has been slightly changed from the original, but it maintains Lunar: EB's feel and efficiency.

Lunar: EBR also presents an innovation in control. Unfortunately, it's an ill-conceived one. Like most present-day RPGs, there's a dash button that allows your characters to move through dungeons at a quicker pace. However, in Lunar: EBR, the dash button cannot be used infinitely like it can in most other RPGs. There's a short (approximately 3 seconds) time limit to your characters' heightened speed whenever the dash button is depressed; once the time limit is reached, your characters return to their normal slow pace. In addition, after it has been used, the dash button cannot be used again for another 3 seconds or so. This feature is fairly realistic in theory (obviously, nobody can keep running forever), but it proves to be extremely bothersome in practice due to the fact that enemies don't seem to be under this particular constraint. As a result, it's prohibitively difficult to avoid them.

The above complaint aside, Lunar: EBR's control does stack up quite well to that of the best RPGs of today. It does retain one of the somewhat annoying quirks of Lunar: EB's control, though. In most RPGs, when you run into a wall, you stop. In Lunar: EBR, when you run into a wall, you run along the wall instead of stopping. This feature is very annoying, because it needlessly increases the difficulty in examining items in the background.

Visually, Lunar: EBR doesn't break any new ground with its 2D overhead graphics, but it does stand significantly improved over the original Lunar: EB in this department. The level of detail is much higher in the remix than in the original in all areas of the game. The colors used are improved, too; not only are there many more colors, the ones used are noticeably brighter and more appealing. Spell effects look better, too, though they're still not impressive when compared to other games of today. I also found the in-game art to be much more appealing in Lunar: EBR than in the original Lunar: EB.

As improved as the graphics are, though, Lunar: EBR doesn't quite match up to Lunar: SSS (at least the Playstation version) in terms of in-game visuals. Lunar: SSS still holds a noticeable edge in detail level and color palette.

The most impressive aspect of Lunar: EBR's visual presentation, though, is the ample collection of movies used to tell certain parts of the game's story. These smoothly animated movies incorporate a brilliant fusion of CG and anime, and the results are spectacular. Although there's still a small amount of noticeable graininess in these movies, they're among the best yet seen in an RPG.

The original Lunar: EB ranked among the finest in its sound department, and Lunar: EBR manages to take the original's accomplishments a step further. The sound effects in Lunar: EBR are much more consistent in quality than those featured in Lunar: EB. They're still not spectacular, but they are solid.

The voice acting, on the other hand, is one of the top performances of its type in video game history. Featuring Chisa Yokoyama and Megumi Hayashibara, two of Japan's top voice talents, as Lucia and Lemina, respectively, the talented cast of Lunar: EBR delivers a dramatic and emotive performance that greatly strengthens the impact of the storyline to gamers.

As strong as Lunar: EBR is in the other aspects of its sound department, its soundtrack is its most impressive feature. The original Lunar: EB possessed one of the most brilliant soundtracks ever to grace a traditional RPG, and, unlike Lunar: SSS, Lunar: EBR retains the intact composition of the original. Noriyuki Iwadare's epic score boasts both stylistic variety as well as some of the most compelling melodies ever composed for a game. "Promenade" is a cheerful, catchy number that does an excellent job of gradually adding a harmony to its effervescent central melody. The frantically symphonic "Battle No. 2" is perhaps my favorite battle theme ever composed. And "Lucia vs. Zophar- The Last Battle" is a piece that is both threatening and triumphant, fitting its setting perfectly, and ranking as one of the best final boss themes ever.

In addition, the sound quality of the music has been greatly improved over that of the original. The streaming quality is much better; Lunar: EBR ranks among the top of the 32-bit heap in music sound programming as well. One weakness of the original Lunar: EB's soundtrack has been retained, though. Despite the addition of some new tracks, the score could have used some more pieces. Lunar: EBR is a long game, and many of the individual tracks are repeated a lot.

Although Lunar: Eternal Blue Remix doesn't quite match up to the overall greatness of the original Lunar: Eternal Blue, it does manage to improve many facets of the original. More importantly, it's one of the best post-16-bit era RPGs available today. Highly recommended.

Commodore
Wheeler

Lunar 2 is rife with anime sequences such as this.

The battle system stays true to the original, and is one of the best features of the game.







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