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Platform: GameBoy Advance Publisher: Ubi Soft
Genre: Turn-Based RPG Developer: Media Rings
Format: Cartridge Released: 12/02

Review
02/03/03
Christopher Holzworth
Christopher Holzworth

In some rare instances, a game comes along that wins the hearts of so many, that becomes such a classic, such a fan-followed love, that no introduction for the game seems appropriate. Surely the crown-bearer of games of that nature is the Lunar series. Since its birth on the Sega CD, it has been reincarnated four times now. Both Lunar: Silver Star Story and Eternal Blue have appeared on Sega Saturn and Playstation. Now the Silver Star Story is born again, rising forth from the ashes of its predecessors like a blinding Phoenix, bringing with its rebirth the same endearing tale many have come to love and cherish to be experienced in a whole new light.

Once more Alex of Burg's epic tale full of hardships and journeys to save the love of his life and the world of LUNAR emerges in Lunar Legend. Although it may be the same story seen several times already, many of the events have been given interesting twists so that there's been enough of a change for the game to be considered a "new experience". In addition, the graphics have been revamped, the dialogue improved (in some cases), and even the battle system has been tweaked a little closer to perfection. In almost every aspect, greatness has only been made better, lased with a perfectionist's touch. Although Lunar has always been translated and localized by Working Designs, certain conflicts between them and the creators, Game Arts, have led the game to be published by Ubi-Soft this time around. Although many aspects of the game have been bettered by Ubi-Soft, some of the touches that made Lunar what it is have been lost. If the die-hard fans can see past this, though, than the relatively same wonderful story awaits them for rediscovery.

The story, which many should be able to recite like a litany by now, revolves around a young aspiring adventurer, Alex, and his beautiful and charming childhood friend, Luna. In addition to this perfect pair is the goofy but lovable sidekick, Nall, a sort of flying white cat who claims to be a Dragon. Alex is a dreamer, by nature, who yearns for a life outside of the simple town he lives in, but rather one of adventure, magic, and mystery. Luna fancies his thoughts alongside him, although she has her own inner struggles she contends with enough so that adventuring isn't foremost in her mind. Nall, of course, is interested in anything that will take him to a plate full of fish. Relatively early on in the story they are joined by the would-be wizard, Nash, from the Magic Guild of Vane. Through him they meet Mel, mayor of Meribia and one of the Four Heroes who fought alongside of Dragonmaster Dyne; Mia, the daughter of Lemia, another of the Four Heroes and also the head of the Magic Guild; Jessica, daughter to Mel and troublemaker just the same as him; and Kyle, Jessica's would-be love interest if it weren't for his arrogant ways and habitual drinking problem.

Emulating his idol, Dragonmaster Dyne, events are sent into motion that eventually draw Alex from his simple country-bumpkin town of Burg and into the vast world of LUNAR, where all his fantasies will and surely do come to life. Lunar Legend deviates from its predecessors right from the start, as these events are set in motion by none other than Nash, who has come to Burg from Vane to seek out the White Dragon, Quark, and beseech him for the powers of the Dragonmaster. The appearance of Nash in Burg is just one of the many event changes in Lunar Legend. From there on out it becomes a journey across LUNAR. Nash leads Alex and Luna to the Magic Guild of Vane, sidetracked here and there on their way by minor adventures to overcome. At Vane, Alex and Luna are introduced to Ghaleon, premier of the Guild and another of the Four Heroes. Somber and brooding, an ominous aura surrounds the silver-haired Elf. Upon his request, Alex investigates the appearance of a false Dragonmaster, and upon accomplishing the goal to dispel any truths of that matter, is then asked to lead Ghaleon to Quark's shrine. After a series of events that changes the lives of everyone, Alex is thrust deep into an adventure he had only dared dream about and the quest for the Dragons in order to become Dragonmaster. As the game progresses, true intentions come to light and the beauty that is Lunar unfolds.

Visually the game is a great improvement from its predecessors. It still bears the ever-faithful sprites the series has always used, but the quality of the sprites has been drastically enhanced. The sprites are larger, more detailed, not mere specks of colors on the screen like they once were. In addition, the animations are clearer, more vivid in the wake of these larger sprites. Backgrounds and environments, for the most part, remain the same. Coloring is superb, shading done to trees, to the houses and other structures still top of the line for such an outdated game. On the GBA the game looks are marvelous as it plays, and if played on a backlit GBA, it shines even more (with a hint of heavenly radiance from the soft glow emanating from behind the screen). Also due to the game being on cartridge, the anime cut scenes that were present even in the original Lunar: Silver Star Story have been removed. However, in their place are anime stills. When key characters are introduced, or story-heavy events unfold, anime still scenes aid in their telling. In addition, anime stills of the characters flash whenever you use a high-level skill or magic ability during battle.

There aren't many changes from Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete's gameplay with Lunar Legend. Saving is still performed anywhere, a change that was made in the PSOne version. Althena statues still litter the world for you to heal yourself fully at. The most noticeable addition is the card collecting. Defeating enemies, trading with NPCs, or trading via GBA link cable with a friend, obtain cards. No real use can be found in the cards, however. They are merely for collection purposes. No card battling game is involved like other RPGs have had, they do not add stats or alter the game's ending, just a sort of mini game placed into Lunar Legend for those who feel like breaking from the main plot progression. There were some unfortunate deductions from the original Lunar, such as bromides. Sorry ecchi fanboys, but perverse ogling over Mia or Jessica's semi-revealed bodies will have to put aside for the time being. Those bath shrines have instead become the congregation point of card collectors, with whom you can trade spoils from battles with for rare cards, namely player cards.

In terms of battling, major changes have been done to spells and abilities and movement. None of the original spells appear in this fourth retelling of the Silver Star Story. Replacing them for each character is a slew of all new spells and abilities. Movement is gone entirely, leaving the battle system more turn-based, like a classic RPG. The characters can still attack in multiple instances as they go into the higher levels, some even reaching five attacks in a row. Programmed tactics and a much-beloved auto-battle still reign true, as well. The most obvious addition to the battle system is that of the Arts Skills. Below each character's name/HP/MP is a rectangular bar that, as they take damage, fills. When the bar reaches its full capacity, special moves and/or spells become available for one-time use. It is during the use of an Arts ability that the battle anime stills appear. Once an Arts Skill is used, it becomes inaccessible until the gage is filled once more. Also, unlike the previous incarnation of Lunar: Silver Star Story, battles are not engaged by making contact with on-screen sprites the enemies, but rather random (like the original Lunar: Silver Star Story).

Map controls are still pretty basic. Menus are opened with one button, dialogue is initiated with the same button, and everything is cancelled with the other. The sprites are fairly responsive to the D-Pad, so maneuvering around the visually splendid 2-D maps isn't much of a hassle.

One of the most memorable aspects of Lunar has been the music. The composer, Noriyuki Iwadare, certainly outdid himself with the game's soundtrack. One of the prime reasons behind purchasing the seventy-dollar Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete was the twenty-four track OST that came bundled in the omake box. Amongst those twenty-four tracks, particular favorites were the game's vocal intro and Luna's boat theme. Unfortunately, due to it being cartridge-based, both Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete's vocal tracks are absent. However, and thankfully, the remainder of the game's original score is still present, in all its MIDI glory. Suffice to say, a pair of headphones can go a long way with the Game Boy Advance in some instances, and Lunar Legend is definitely no exception.

Once more, the Game Boy Advance picks up a classic tale and breaths life into it anew. This portable system has become a treasure trove of Role Playing Games from the past, whose value skyrockets with the addition of Lunar Legend to its library. If ever there was a game to get for college students bored while doing laundry, teens forced to bear through a long car drive of some sort, or just to kill some time in Physics class, then Lunar Legend is your key to escape. $29.99 will go a long way in this case, so pay the respective costs and become immersed in a story that will never grow old, a tale that will be retold for ages to come, forever appreciated.



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© 2002 Ubi Soft
Graphics: 90%
Sound: 85%
Gameplay: 90%
Control: 90%
Story: 90%
Overall: 88%

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The anime cutscenes may be gone, but the stills look nice.

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The new card collecting mini-game in action.

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The sprite-based graphics look quite nice.

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Experience--the spoils of victory.

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