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Lunar II: Eternal Blue - Retroview

Buy yourself a Sega CD now! (Buy me one too, please)

By: Sgt. Dawkins


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 6
   Plot 9
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Average
   Time to Complete

20-30 Hours

 
Overall
8
Criteria

Lunar II: Eternal Blue
 

   These past few years, Working Designs has re-released a number of their older titles, including the Arc the Lad Series (which was never originally released in the states) and their more popular brothers, Lunar I and II. With these releases on the PlayStation, there came a change in dungeon mechanics, difficulty, and overall pacing of the games. The reason for these improvements was to accommodate newer gamers; to quicken the pace of a series that might turn off those weaned on Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda. While the games may have come out intact, it turns out that newer, as they say, isn't necessarily better.

   Working Designs' games have always been about charming characters and a compelling story, both of which Lunar II: Eternal Blue possess in abundance. As the case in the first game, the characters are straight out of Japanese animation, brought to life in full motion cartoon movies that, while certainly dated in the year 2003, do a nice job of propelling the story. This was revolutionary stuff when it was first released, and even now gamers should find that they are compelled to venture onward by the promise of these (sometimes overly) cute cut-scenes.

   The story picks up years after the first left off, but a bunch of the characters return, and there are plenty of familiar places for veterans to visit. This time, we follow another dragonmaster wannabe as he tries to uncover the mystery of the strange girl who, for one reason or another, temporarily inhabits the ruin he is exploring. This will lead way to a larger quest, worldly travels, and a cast of characters as diverse as…well…the first Lunar. As a matter of fact, much of what you will find in this game is very similar to its predecessor. While story elements are changed slightly, the jaded gamer might get a "been there done that" vibe from the second chapter in the series, though it shouldn't seriously detract from the enjoyment to be gained by playing through. This is the charm of the Lunar series: it might seem like a lot of the same; you may be able to predict every plot twist; but you will have a lot of fun doing so.


You have to wonder what it said in the Japanese version.
You have to wonder what it said in the Japanese version.  

   Much of the enjoyment in these games comes from the excellent translation Working Designs always provides. The townspeople speak like you might, and sometimes they are laugh out loud funny. There is nary a translation error in sight, a fact that won't go unnoticed after playing the Final Fantasy V's and (gasp!) the Wild Arms 2's of the RPG world. While it is true that the dialogue sometimes tries too hard to be funny, (some of the jokes were stale before the game originally hit shelves) this is one of the few games where you truly can't complain about localization.

   How about those all important graphics and sound? Well, for all the work put into translation, it can be said that visual presentation suffers somewhat. This is not to say they game looks atrocious, but the graphics are serviceable at best, featuring small cartoon characters and colorful, if uninspired backgrounds. Beside the anime cut-scenes, there isn't anything that will impress, but it should be noted that the cartoony-cutesy look fits the game perfectly. Sound is much the same; it fits the mood of the story while not jumping out as particularly memorable. Much of the soundtrack actually seems to come straight from a supermarket Muzak CD- a fact which should annoy some gamers, but may merely come off as amusing to others. While there are some tracks that are certainly hummable, you will probably find the first Lunar had a score more to your liking.

   The battle system and interface are both fairly convenient, though both suffer from the limitations of a time before many RPG innovations came to be. Yes, there are random battles, (actually better than the system used in the PlayStation version, in my opinion) and those battles are very straightforward. Just like the first game, you move your character into range and attack, use magic, item, etc. If close enough to the enemy, you are vulnerable to attack, though magic can affect players on the entire screen. Repeat, and then repeat again. While there is little variation; and sometimes these fights will seem a chore, a simple set of menus will make sure you are always in full control of your actions.


Weren't you in Vay?... Phantasy Star 4 maybe? Lunar? How 'bout Xenogears? Ah, forget it!
Weren't you in Vay?... Phantasy Star 4 maybe? Lunar? How 'bout Xenogears? Ah, forget it!  

   On the whole, Lunar II is much more difficult than its predecessor, which admittedly isn't saying much. The first game was laughably easy, and while this features some difficult battles later on, it is nothing that cannot be solved with some quick (okay, maybe not so quick) level gaining. An experienced gamer can probably fly through this game in no longer than thirty hours, and even that is being generous, considering how straightforward the story is. There are, however, a few extras that can be accessed once you obtain a dragonship; and in a nice surprise, the game goes on an extra hour or two once you've defeated the main boss. While there is nothing in the way of "traditional replay", Lunar II offers a fun experience that many might wish to repeat.

When Working Designs re-released these games, they thought the end product was more accessible to a newer generation of gamers, not realizing that what they were producing was ultimately inferior. The Sega-CD version of Lunar II is less difficult and thus, more fun than its PlayStation counterpart. While the game teeters dangerously close to being a longer rehash of the first, it will actually give the gamer a feeling of accomplishment at having seen it through to the end, and joy at having visited some old friends one more time. It may not be the newest-looking game out there, or the most original, but it is definitely one journey that any serious RPG fan shouldn't miss.




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