There is no excuse for this.
I want to give this game a good rating, I feel guilty admitting how poorly the localization was executed. I feel guilty admitting how boring and repetitive the battle system is. I feel guilty admitting how I only barely got past what a boring eyes-sore the graphics were and how lazy the artists were. I feel even worse for Mr. Iwadare, whose fantastic composition was completely butchered by the disgusting sound format used for them. But I have to be honest, and that's all the truth.
The Lunar series, to me, is the only RPG series which has an excuse to continue with the classic gameplay and plot. This is where the traditions started with games like Dragon Warrior were perfected. So, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete was a great game... when it was originally released on the Sega CD seven years ago. Well, like I said, great game, so GameArts re-released TS in Japan with new enhancements on the Sega Saturn. They should have stopped there.
Which is not to say that there aren't good points to this RPG. The problem is, none of them apply anymore.
"It's the principal of the thing."
The graphics weren't too outdated when SSSC was released in Japan, in fact, they were just outdated enough to create a warm fuzzy experience of nostalgia. However, in the years between the Japan release and the American release, the graphics were so obsolete it became difficult for even me, the guy who still plays NES games happily, to get past. While this doesn't technically make the game worse, it's the principle that screws this game here.
The artists were so amazingly lazy, it was pitiful. Characters are animated as though running all the time, which looks ridiculous. How hard can it possibly be to draw a frame where the characters are standing still?! The maps are tile-based, which adds a boring uniformity to the entire game. Each Dragon Cave has the same tile set as the last with swapped palettes, each road the same with swapped palettes, and the towns all share the same tile set. I have never seen such boring scenery in my life.
The in-battle graphics are equally boring. There are only a few scenes, which get swapped palettes, almost all the enemies have up to if not more than five palette swapped counterparts, and you'll be seeing a maximum of six different sorts of enemies-per-dungeon. The spells can be interesting, but most happen so fast you can't even appreciate them.
There are a FEW redeeming qualities to the graphics, however.
First off are the character portraits. While the lines on these are a bit jagged, they still look fantastic. The main characters have tons of emotions, and many of the minor characters have at least three. This helps to identify what the characters are feeling, which is a very important thing.
Second of all are the Anime/CG sequences. These are fantastic, and there's roughly an hour of them. The only real complaints I have are the jaggedness of the lines and the somewhat lackluster frame rate.
Iwadare's music is quirky, I'll give you that. But he deserved so much better! While his themes were well composed and fit the game like O.J.'s glove, the sound itself was disgusting. I'm sure those of you reading have heard MIDI music. It's worse than that.
Once again though, the sound does have a redeeming feature. The voice acting on the game isn't astounding, but it's pretty good, especially for a video game.
"Are we having fun yet...?"
The battle system is interesting, and well designed, but becomes increasingly tedious over time. When you start out, the whole thing is pretty exciting. But by the time you get to the fifth dungeon or so, you suddenly realize it's just the same thing over and over again.
In each dungeon, there are about six enemies. Most of these enemies will be enemies that are recycled from earlier dungeons. You form a strategy for each combination of enemies, and there are normally only three combinations per dungeon. So you'll have three strategies, most likely, and it's just not smart to vary. Something cool to note, though, is that you can see all enemies in the dungeons before you run into them. So, you can decide to avoid them or not, giving you the chance to avoid such battles.
The boss battles are mostly boring, although a few add something interesting to the mix. One good thing, though. For every level Alex, (your main character) has, the bosses stats are multiplied in an attempt to make them harder. Well, I commend the effort, but only a few bosses presented a true challenge. The worst part is that once you get past level forty, it stops.
Even worse than the battle system, perhaps, is the system for handling equipment and items. I'm sorry, but having to make a helmet change hand three times just to get it on to Alex's head is ridiculous. Furthermore, the amount of items you can have in your inventory is pretty limited. This was meant to add another strategic element, forcing you to choose your items carefully. Well, it didn't. I breezed through the game without ever running out of needed items, in fact I never really needed to worry. So, instead of adding a strategic element, they were adding another little thing to annoy me.
"It's all in the telling."
I saved the best aspect of SSSC for last. If there's one reason Lunar has lasted as long as it has, it's the endearing characters. While the story becomes a simple save the princess plot, it's a save the princess plot done right. The characters are extremely well developed, and the game is a bit of a personal thing. I often read aloud to my little brothers when I play RPGs. However, I read out loud about a thousand times slower than I read silently. And somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to read to them, I needed to let it flow comfortably for me so I could be happy with the text. And believe me, I was.
Towns are filled with hysterics, you'll find a few jokes in every house. While some may be turned off by the complete lack of drama by the townspeople, I preferred it. While in most RPGs the townspeople, who are by definition shallow, try to be deep. They end up being longwinded and boring, instead. In SSSC, however, they're all a barrel of laughs. The problem with this is that you'll spend most of your time in those boring battles. I wanted to spend the entire time exploring the towns. And I'll make this part quick: the translation is flawless.
"The more things change, the more they stay the same."
Veterans of earlier installments in the series should know that from what I hear, a lot has been changed about the story. I never played the earlier games, so I can't tell you what those changes are, but expect new characters and older characters to be more developed and real. The Anime/CG scenes are completely new, by the way.
"Big things come in small packages."
The largest incentive for Lunar fans to buy SSSC is the packaging. Included were a music CD, a CD with a "making of" movie and a hidden mini-game, along with a cloth map and a colorful instruction booklet. As special packaging goes, this is about as good as it gets, although I would have liked a specially-made graphical interface for the music CD.
In the end, Lunar will probably only be a good game for fans of classic RPGs and also fans of the Lunar series. Others should still take a look, but in the end, there are a lot of RPGs that are more worth your time. Please direct all flame mail and/or comments to me at TheNetSpider@aol.com.