Looking at these scores, I’m sure you’re probably thinking: “Yeah, he’s biased.” And you’re probably right, but hear me out. Back in early 1995, I was lucky enough to receive a Sega CD. What drove me to get one were two RPGs I had noticed at the rental store: Lunar TSS and Vay. I rented both, and went as far as renting all the way through TSS over the course of a few weeks. I eventually conned my little brother into asking for it for his birthday a few months later. Not too nice, but hey, it’s Lunar!
A few months later, I was reading through a gaming magazine and came across a small preview to a sequel for Lunar. I had to have it. I finally talked my grandmother into getting it as an early Christmas present that year, and I was definitely satisfied.
The packaging was some of the best I had seen at the time. Foil stamped covers, full color manual, translation notes in the back, good CD art, and just an overall sleek look, the packaging was just about perfect. Sure, it didn’t have puppets for preorders, or a making of CD, but in the industry at this time, black and white manuals were still the norm. Seeing something like this was a rarity.
Even cooler than the packaging were little quirks Working Designs added inside the game. For those that waited after the “Fin” screen, there was about 5 minutes of zany voice acting outtakes. They also created an extra track for the in-game music, which will be mentioned a little farther down. That was definitely a plus.
While some may complain, the voice acting, I thought, was great. This is definitely one of Working Designs best voice acting jobs. Very few of the actors could even be considered average at worst. And having John Truitt and T. Owen Smith in the mix made the voice talent that much better.
The sound effects in the game are sufficient. They work well with the environment, and sound like what they should sound like. The in-game music is where the sound score really gets a lift, though. Noriyuki Iwadare put out, in my opinion, his best soundtrack ever. So many of the themes for this game are masterpieces. From the peaceful Taben’s Peak to the ever-pressing Zophar Domain, the quality of composition shows. And having Working Designs put together the famous “Star Dragon Tower” only raised the bar that much more.
When Game Arts released the remix on the Saturn, they upped the quality of the music, but when it was ported to the PlayStation, much of that quality was lost, and the composition got downgraded in my opinion. Overall though, the quality of this version of Lunar 2 was quite fine, having used PCM compression. It wasn’t as good as CD quality like we had with TSS, but definitely better than the Lunar 2 PlayStation remix. It was enough to captivate me anyways.
The in-game graphics are very good and only Chrono Trigger and a few others equal when it comes to 16-bit graphics. There is great use of animation for things like windmills in Raculi and snow effects in Zulan.
More importantly, there’s LOADS of anime in this game. This is something very rare for a 16-bit game. And surprisingly, the anime is very good quality. LUNAR set the standard for anime within games, being one of the first, if not the first game to do it. Battle spells and such things are good, but Game Arts didn’t hang on elaborate 10 hour long spells like Square has done with many of its Final Fantasy games. The individual sprites for characters are fine, even if they do still walk in place, and the enemies and bosses in battles are nice.
The gameplay, much like the graphics and sound, is superb. Unlike the remix on the Saturn and PlayStation, enemy encounters are random, instead of being able to see the enemy on the map. And battles happened on the world map, something that didn’t happen in the remix. Personally, I liked this more, because it seemed they dumbed the world maps down in the remix to cover for the absence of random battles.
The difficulty was perfect. There is a certain boss in this game that is one of the hardest ever. Anyone who has played through the Sega CD Lunar 2 knows exactly what I’m talking about. It’s one of those classic battles that everyone remembers.
The battle system itself is great, not a whole lot different than the remix though. Basically, the Lunar battle system relies heavily on range and can make for some interesting strategies for bosses. Dungeon design is amazing, and way more creative than your average RPG cave or tower. Your party will venture into an overgrown tree house, a haunted mansion, and even the legendary Cave of Trial. The menu system is adequate, but not quite up to par with say, Final Fantasy 3 on the SNES. Good but not the best.
While the gameplay, music and graphics are great, the story is definitely where Lunar 2 shines through. The characters are amazing. These aren’t your average healer, fighter, mage and ninja. Where else can you find a character like Ronfar who drinks, gambles and parties, then turns out to be an ex-priest with a thick past revolving a part beast-woman turned priestess? Or how about the legendary Lord Leo, and how his strict morals become mixed with emotions in the thickening plot with Hiro and his gang?
And what would a Lunar be without a love plot? The love story between Hiro and Lucia is even more intricate than Luna and Alex from the first Lunar. Lucia, the naive stranger from a far away land, travels to the world and meets Hiro and Ruby. Throughout their quest, Hiro teaches Lucia the ways of the world, and soon comes to find the true meaning of her quest. But she herself gets entangled with her growing affection for Hiro as the story progresses. Lunar 2’s character development is nothing short of perfect. And it shows.
Equally as excellent as the character development is the actual plot to the game. Taking place 1000 years after The Silver Star, Game Arts sure knows how to take the cliché stories and turn them into mind-boggling plots. The typical “save the princess” story was perfected with The Silver Star, and Lunar 2 takes two typical cliché’s and perfects them. First, the “Dark God vs. Good God/Goddess” is intensified with the growing powers of Zophar, while Hiro and Lucia search for the Goddess Althena and her holy city, Pentagulia.
Second, Lunar 2 has the whole “save the world” thing going on tenfold, and does it very well. And it even manages to throw in a bit of that “save the princess” feeling while portraying a great sense of the human spirit, all rolled into one. The typical Lunar stuff, like the four dragons, Althena, Vane, Meribia, and even the Dragonmaster are all part of this story. This is still, to date, the top of the bar for RPG storylines.
Not to mention, Working Designs does a great job with the dialogue. Some gamers were quite unhappy by WDs addition of pop-culture jokes and other comic relief. Personally though, I’m quite fond of it, and rather liked it. Unlike many other RPGs, the Lunar series does a great job with giving its townspeople life. In most RPGs I usually skip talking to villagers and go straight ahead in the story. With Lunar, that’s not the case. Being mostly Game Arts genius for creating such a rich world, and definitely due in part to Working Designs for giving the NPCs great dialogue.
Like I mentioned above, Game Arts has done a wonderful job with creating a rich world with a complex history. By setting the stage 1000 years after the first Lunar, Game Arts both creates a completely engrossing new story, while combining in things from the past to make it that much better. There are few games I can sit down with and be completely immersed in, and Lunar 2 is the top of that list. When I sit down with this game, the entire Lunar universe is almost surreal. Nothing beats it. From the over-cliched, yet in a way unique, Magic Guild of Vane, to the tales of Dragonmasters and dragons, Lunar 2 sets a benchmark in atmosphere that has yet to be broken to this day. Lunar 2 remains at the top of my favorite game list, even after close to a decade.