Many many years ago, over one dozen years ago even, the Four Heroes of Lunar struck down the world’s greatest evil sorcerer and saved the Goddess Althena, bringing everlasting peace to the land.
This is how Lunar: the Silver Star‘s PlayStation Portable remake, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, begins — it shows us the path of Dragonmaster Dyne and his unlikely band of warriors as they ascend Eiphel’s tower to save their Iron Lady (that’s an Eiffel tower joke — you’re welcome). Lunar SSH players can even take the reigns of Dyne and crew in this new introductory showdown, giving newcomers a stakes-free intro to the game’s combat, and giving returning players an exciting refresher course and some further context for the game’s main story. Of course, this is one of very few new story beats added in this remake, but some might find this to be a relief, as it helps keep the original’s chronology and vibe intact.
The peace afforded by the Four Heroes’ triumph lasts for eons, or so the game’s peaceful townsfolk and the crumbling monument of Dyne in the starting town might have you believe. Really, there are only about fourteen years between apocalyptic immortal evils on Lunar; just enough time for the reincarnated goddess to grow old enough to make an appearance among the game’s saucy lady cards and have it not be completely icky… actually, it is pretty icky. I will put that aside for now, though, so I can focus on the rest of Lunar‘s story.
After completing the prologue, you find yourself in the shoes of Alex, a young boy who spends too much time at Dyne’s monument, and his adopted sister, Luna, whom he has some uncomfortable romantic tension with — again, I am just going to set that over here out of the way for now. These two live with a cheeky critter named Nall, a flying boyish Siamese-ish cat who loves to talk and shares Alex and Luna’s penchant for adventure. As you wander a quaint, pastoral, notably wall-free and unfortified town named Burg (all my burg scholars will know what I mean by this), you take in the folksy atmosphere, meet the local burghers, and eventually round up your posse of adventurers for a trip to the White Dragon’s cave to steal one of his fabled white diamonds. This is step one in Alex’s lofty vision to become the next Dragonmaster.
However, there is something nefarious afoot in the dragon’s cave — something about these white diamonds stinks, and Alex and gang are going to get to the bottom of it. What they discover at the bottom of this cave, though, is the rumblings of reincarnated evil that can only be stopped with the help of several mystical dragons, including the White Dragon, who will give them the first seed (all my Korok seed scholars will know what I mean by this) they’ll need for their journey.
I will spare you any further spoilers. Just know this: the gang’s journey to incorporate this draconic power and save the world encompasses over 30-40 hours of shenanigans, epic battles, mysterious discoveries, heartbreak, new friends, and general whimsy. These introductory hours perfectly encapsulate the character of the rest of the game, which is, simply put, overwhelmingly charming.
Of course, the story has rough edges, such as those I’ve mentioned previously: irritating and unnecessary sexualization, especially of its younger characters, as well as some uncomfortable “what are you doing, stepbro” moments. The amount of conflict in the game is pretty minimal as well, which might leave those who crave a consistent tension creep a little wanting. However, the sheer charm of it all — the locales, the characters, and especially the clearly FMV-era cutscenes complete with FMV-era voiceovers — makes up for many of the pitfalls I have with the story.
Plus, the game has immaculate style in its audio and visuals. The new character headshots are a total upgrade from Lunar and Silver Star Story Complete, and the characters’ overworld visual style is, in my opinion, perfect. It is a perfect blend of modern crispness with a classic 2D PS1 style — think Suikoden II or Grandia. The way characters move looks incredible, as well. I believe mobile “remakes” like the Final Fantasy games botch the visual style Lunar SSH is going for because of the movement in particular; characters in those mobile games often look like their limbs and equipment are merely shaking back and forth, as if a teenager was making their first movie using Photoshop rotation effects for animations. The visuals here far exceed that standard, however, and would be a welcome paradigm for future mobile RPG remakes and remasters to follow. On the audio end, things are remarkably good as well. Tunes are peppy and mellow, and match the vibe of the world. Plus, the updated songs are incredible —in fact, the soundtrack of Lunar SSH is absolutely my favorite version (even for Luna’s song), especially when it comes to the battle theme, which you will hear frequently in this rendition — perhaps far more frequently than previous entries.
You heard that right: battles in this game are absolutely non-stop. Like previous versions, the enemies in Lunar: Silver Star Harmony appear in the overworld. However, unlike other versions, they are essentially unavoidable. They have the same issue that plagues games like Chrono Trigger, where level corridors are too small and all the enemy sprites are enormous and run far faster than the player character can. Areas like the Iluk Fields are especially egregious offenders here, as they are labyrinthine, and resetting screens for backtracking becomes grating. Battles are peppy, however, and the attack animations for each character are beautiful. The battle system will feel familiar to anyone who has played a turn-based RPG, with familiar item names, standard turn-based action like “attack” and “use magic,” and defensive options. Silver Star Harmony also has an option for AI-driven attacks, meaning your role as player can be minimized as you see fit. Another addition is “ultimate” attacks, which can be especially spectacular when executed in the right place. Admittedly, good execution of ultimate attacks rarely matters as the battles are pretty easy, something I enjoy about this version but may turn off difficulty-loving veterans.
I have my gripes with Lunar, and there are ways I feel that Lunar SSH made steps back from previous versions — unavoidable battles and pervasive load screens being my major complaints. However, I still adore this series, and for my money, Silver Star Harmony is the best way to play. It looks dreamy and has a far more nostalgic visual aesthetic to me. Maybe it isn’t as crunchy as the original, but I think the SEGA CD and PS1 versions of this game look a bit generic and outdated (for the time, I mean). This version is more colorful and stylish, like it is the logical next step in the Chrono Trigger -> Suikoden -> Grandia timeline of this visual style. Any way you prefer the visuals, the Lunar base this game operates from is effervescent, a joyful and charming classic, and Silver Star Harmony effectively recaptures this charm all these countless eons (fourteen years) later.