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Why You Should Care: Lunar Silver Star Story Complete

This week I wanted to take a look back to a bit of an 'in-between' generation. It's not ducking all the way back to the glory days of 8-bit consoles, and it's nothing that released in the current generation that you might still have kickin' around in your pile of uncompleted shame. It's a dive back into an era where, while it still wasn't a primary genre for me, I spent the most time in my video game 'career' with JRPGs.  Saying that puts things in a weird category, people tend to divide themselves on this genre as either the "would never play" type, or the fanatical. I fell somewhere in-between though, and I assume there are others like me. Those that enjoyed Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII without having dug through the complete works of Final Fantasy, or Suikoden, or a wide birth of other fantastic sounding series that we can't stop hearing enough about... But I wanted to talk into one gem from my RPG past that I almost never get to hear about in those conversations, and would definitely like to discuss: Lunar Silver Star Story Complete.

Lunar Silver Star Story Complete was a re-vamped version of an old Sega CD classic that garnered a lot of praise in the Asian market, but took a lot of getting around to before it crossed over the ocean and become available to the North American market. I think the original reason I was drawn to the game was a copy of a demo version of the game that some employee at Blockbuster tossed in as a bonus for some other game I was renting at the time. Whatever that other game was, it wasn't as good as the demo for Silver Star Story, which wrapped me in so quickly that I ran out the following day and bought a collectors version of the game (complete with the cloth map, anyone else miss those?).

What It Is:

As already stated, the game is re-do of a Sega CD game. The original version of the game (Lunar Silver Star Story) was released in 1992 in Japan, and wound up doing pretty well for itself, but it's the 1998 version released on the Playstation where I got roped in.

The Playstation version included some graphical tweaks, and of course the bonus materials in the collectors version that I got (soundtrack, map, etc.) along with re-mastered animation for the gameplay and cut-scenes, an improved version of the soundtrack within the game (better quality masterings) and some slight modifications to the story. - So in a nut-shell, everything was just made prettier and better sounding, the core of the game remained the same.

Lunar Silver Star Story tells the story of a young hero, Alex, and his group of friends as they set out to become world-class heroes. The dream is mainly that of the hero, having dreamed of being a legendary swordsman/warrior like his idol Dragonmaster Dyne and the supporting cast comes along for the ride in 'morale support' capacity (though they do of course all get roped into joining Alex in each battle along the way).

Why You Should Care:

As far as gameplay goes the game is pretty much your standard fair. It didn't break the mold where JRPGs are concerned, keeping to the tried-and-true turn-based battle system featuring physical attacks, magic and items. What it did do well though were the story elements, with a specific focus on how it was told.

I remember the intro movie caught me up front, the animation (having been re-touched to take advantage of the Playstations hardware) was visually stunning, and the soundtrack that accompanied it wasn't half bad. Even more impressive though was the fact that once you got into the game and started to see the characters interacting with one another, dialogue-wise, I didn't feel a need to rip my ears from my skull.

Those that played JRPGs in those days may remember that a majority of the ones that bravely attempted voice-acting generally were left with some pretty crap 'actors' in the realm of anime/RPGs. The people that would act in these games were generally phoning it in, or sounded like they were dragged in off the street and reading from the script for the first time on their 'final cut.' But Lunar suffered from none of that. Everyone in the game seemed to care for the source material, and did well with providing the right feel to each of the character's personalities.

Beyond that was the production of the videos. I remember going through the "Making Of" DVD when I'd wrapped the game to see the amount of time and dedication that the team had put into bring the Sega CD port to new life on the Playstation. Everyone legitimately seemed to care about the world that they were creating, the story that was being told, and most importantly of all to me: the quality of the product they were going to be thrusting onto the public at the end.

The game took years to port over, which gives you a small concept of the time and effort these guys took to bring over a game that had already been made.

One of my favorite moments in the game is when the crew is setting out into the world on their grand adventure. It's dusk on the ship that's carrying the crew to new lands in order to venture out further from home than any had ever dreamed of prior, and the game takes a moment to encapsulate that with an extended "music video" consisting of Luna singing her song on the deck of the ship while a couple thousand fireflies surround the ship and light the way.

I don't often get to use the term "awe-inspiring" but this is definitely one of those moments in gaming that will be forever in-grained in my mind.

Lunar's ability to provide a solid JRPG experience wrapped around a unique and interesting world flooded by a series of characters that I actually felt connected to and cared about (nearly from the introduction of each). Beyond that, it was built by a team that really seemed to care about what they were doing and why for a genre that the industry had not yet fully come to understand the potential of, or really take advantage of. It's that kind of passion that can flow through a game into the gamer to leave you with a memorable experience that the industry should always be striving for... If you haven't previously played the games from the Lunar series, Silver Star Story Complete is something that you should do what you can to hunt down, and in a perfect world, spend some time with the making of DVD as well to see just how much effort these guys put into making a port of a game that (at the time) it seemed like North America couldn't be forced to care about.