Well, after waiting years for the remake of one of my favorite RPGs of all time and having the shipping company delay my order for quite a few days I finally received my long sought after prize, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. However, this game, while still wonderful, mistakes the word "complete" for the word "different".
"The Most Unfamiliar Story I Know so Well"
When Working Designs set out to translate the remake of Game Arts and ESP's classic RPG Lunar: The Silver Star, I was sure that it would be true to the Japanese version. However, I expected the Japanese version of SSSC to be a faithful retelling of TSS, and herein lay my mistake. While most of the plot elements in SSSC remain true to the Sega CD original, there are quite a few deviations and outright changes to the story I've come to know and love.
For those of you who have never played TSS (and I'm sure that includes many of you reading this) the story revolves around the taciturn main character, Alex, who dreams of becoming a Dragonmaster like his hero Dyne whose memorial he visits every day. Alex lives in the sleepy village of Burg along with his friends, Nall, a flying baby white dragon who doesn't know it, Ramus, the rotund and greedy son of the mayor, and Luna, the best singer in the village. One day, Ramus decides to go on an adventure to the cave of the White Dragon in order to find the legendary dragon diamond. Alex, being the dreamer he is, leaps at the chance and his adventures begin.
This is one of the few story elements that remains the same in SSSC. For all you veterans of the Lunar series, you'll definitely recognize the changes. For instance, in SSSC, Luna follows you to Meribia instead of staying in Caldor Isle. Also, gone is the legend of the Black Dragon going Insane, replaced by a more intriguing plot element regarding the Goddess Althena. In addition, more depth has been given to the characters of Ghaleon and Alex (who, if you remember, had only a couple of lines in TSS).
Morality lines have been blurred, and there aren't any more "totally evil" characters. Your hatred is often replaced with pity for their misguided intentions. While this lets the player see a different side of the familiar players in this grand epic, it deviates greatly from the black-and-white view of the characters in TSS. The result is a less-than-faithful portrayal of the spirit of the original game. The good news is that all of the characters in your party are even more developed than in the original and have much more personality, which I think is a fair tradeoff.
"The Name's the Same but Not the Game"
The game play in SSSC is, as it was in the previous Lunar games, outstanding. I usually like to replace the term game play with the term fun factor since the majority of what makes a game fun is how well it plays, and Lunar SSSC is fun, hands down.
The game takes place in the three classic RPG areas: towns, dungeons, and outdoor maps. Most of the towns are larger than in TSS and there are more people to talk with. Classic Working Designs humor is prevalent in the townsfolk, as are the pop-culture references. Sometimes these references can be overdone, but personally I enjoy them (though professionally it's a no-no). In either case, the result is a cast of characters that the player can relate to, and which have personalities all their own.
Dungeons seem to be smaller in SSSC over TSS, however, but they aren't anything new. The only major changes are that there are no enemies encountered in the outdoors, and in towns or dungeons all enemies are visible on the map so that you can either avoid or attack at your discretion. I found this feature good and bad; good because you can avoid enemies that you'd rather not battle; bad because it's easy to forget that you need those battles in order to earn the experience you need to increase your levels. This brings me to my next topic: the battle system.
"Fighting 'Gainst the Power"
Behind all good RPGs there is a solid battle system, and SSSC is no exception. Like its predecessors, SSSC's battles are carried out on a type of battlefield reminiscent of a chessboard. You set up your characters in a formation beforehand, and during enemy encounters, you have to traverse the distance between your character and an enemy before you are able to hit them. This adds a quality most RPG battle engines lack: the need for strategy. Many battles can be won or lost literally by who goes first, and where they are positioned.
Aside from the usual RPG fare of mundane weapons (both sharp and blunt) we have the ever-popular magic. As you increase your levels, you obtain spells which can be used to hurt enemies, or assist your characters. In addition, magic effects vary depending on the spell. For instance, you have battle spells that can hurt one enemy, a group of enemies around that enemy, or all enemies. Again, strategy is important, and magic plays the cornerstone of that strategy.
The only aspect of magic I was disappointed with was the overall lack of spells. Most of the characters only get 8 spells throughout the whole game as opposed to in TSS when characters would literally have over 30 spells by the end. I would even have appreciated a magic experience system like in EB, but I had to make due with leveling up my characters and hoping their wisdom attributes increased enough to make the spells worthwhile.
"2D or not 2D?"
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete only fails in one key area: graphics. All your characters are super-deformed 2D sprites that look dated at best. And, while the in-battle backgrounds are pretty, they're quite static and uninteresting. Spell effects are nothing to write home about either. The overall feel of the game's appearance is that of a 16-bit RPG warmed over. The one saving grace is the more than hour of FMV anime sequences, which are just outstanding to watch. They even incorporate CG into the mix and they do so flawlessly. If you're looking for an RPG with great anime that pulls you into the plot, search no further, but if you're interested in great battle graphics and breathtaking special effects, you may want to pass this one by.
"Good Music Makes for a Sound Game"
Music has always gone hand in hand with good RPGs, and Lunar SSSC takes this to heart. The music suits the different areas of the game well; bouncy themes accompany town areas, while ominous melodies play during dungeons and towers. There are also full-blown songs at the beginning and during later scenes, which are simply beautiful. And maybe the most impressive part of the overall production is the incredible voice acting that has always been a Working Designs trademark. Over an hour of voice is sprinkled throughout the game and is the best dubbing job I've seen outside of Lunar: EB.
I do have some gripes with the music however. For one, most of the music is merely arrangements of the game's opening song, Tsubasa (Japanese for Wings). Also, gone are some themes from TSS that I found to be superior their counterparts in SSSC, namely Alex's harp accompanying Luna's singing (he uses an ocarina now) as well as the stirring outdoors music that I enjoyed so much. And, while most of the voice acting is superb, Nall's voice acting seemed totally out of character, making this male baby dragon sound like a female baby dragon. Fortunately, though, included in the game box is a soundtrack CD of 24 music tracks from both SSSC and TSS, and, of course, the outtakes which have become a tradition in Working Designs games.
"Extra Special Game"
The most noteable part about the game (other than the game itself) is that Working Designs included quite a few extras. Aside from the 2 CD game, you get the aforementioned soundtrack, a video CD detailing the making of Lunar: SSSC, a cloth map, and a 120 page vinyl-bound manual containing interviews with the Japanese staff, a partial strategy guide, beautiful illustrations, and the classic translation notes. All of this comes in a collectable velcro-fastened box, which highlights different anime scenes, for a price tag of 60 dollars. It's a real bargain, and makes the years of delays just about worth it.
The game implements some pretty nifty features as well. First of all, it supports dual shock so you can feel the hits and spells that you normally can only watch and hear in an RPG. Then there is support for 2 controllers at once allowing pseudo 2-player control. Finally, you can save in 15 slots of a memory card in both ports 1 and 2 which if combined means 30 memory slots in which to save your games. This can be a lifesaver, especially for families with siblings who enjoy playing RPGs as well.
My opinion of the extras is split, however. Part of me thinks that a lot of these features are signs of how much Working Designs values quality in their games, but another part says it damn well better cook me dinner for the time I had to wait for it. Hopefully Working Designs will be able to fulfill their promise to get the Remake of Lunar: Eternal Blue out by the end of Winter, extras or not.
"The Final Judgement"
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete was not exactly what I expected, but nevertheless, it packed quite a punch. Although I wish that the game had stuck more to the original's plot, SSSC did a fine job of telling the story I've come to know and love. Add in the wonderful anime, the elegant voice acting, and all the little extras, and Silver Star Story Complete comes out a winner, and probably one of the best RPGs of the decade.