Lunar: Silver Star Harmony - Staff Review  

Fighting Through the Darkness Once More
by Sam "Nyx" Marchello

Very Easy
20-40 Hours
+ Great visuals and voice work.
+ Adorable characters (yay Nash!).
+ Fun, hilarious and whimsical localization.
- Too easy compared to the WD version.
- Battle system hasn't aged well.
- Royce's voice makes my ears bleed.
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   Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete was the first game I completed on my newly owned PlayStation back in 1999. It was the first game I played that melted my heart and made me believe that video games had great stories to tell. After the first time I completed Lunar, I knew that this game would stick with me for ages to come, because there was something extraordinarily special in that first experience. Flash forward eleven years later, and Lunar is a game I that I can safely say still holds up for me. Lunar: Silver Star Harmony for the PlayStation Portable is a solid remake, through not much has really changed for better or worse.

   For those who have never played Lunar in one of its many incarnations, the story revolves around Alex, a young boy from the tiny village of Burg, who dreams of becoming a Dragonmaster. Having admired his idol Dyne since childhood, Alex embarks on a journey to make his dreams a reality. Accompanied by his sweetheart, Luna, and his best friends, Nall and Ramus, they journey to the White Dragon Cave in search of a dragon diamond, only to be forced into a trial of skill and determination. After his initial visit with the White Dragon Quark, Alex sets out to explore the world and seek out the trials of the other three dragon brothers in order to become the world's next Dragonmaster.

   XSEED's localization, while noticeably different from the original by Working Designs, is superb and stays incredibly true to the original Lunar story. To fans of the original, the care and detail put into this version maintains its humorous and often hilarious style, but still preserves the themes of love and adventure. Regardless of the seriousness onscreen, the localization shows so much love and devotion that XSEED should truly be proud of its efforts.

   Lunar's greatest strength lies in its characters and story. The game doesn't attempt to be more than a clichéd but hugely effective love story, and it succeeds it's a coming of age story about a young boy's first love, loss, and adventure. It's hard not to love a game that simply is what it wants to be, and does not strive to be something it's not.

Come to me smelly warriors, a bath tub awaits you! Come to me smelly warriors, a bath tub awaits you!

   Although its story is nearly twenty years old, Silver Star Harmony retains the charm of its earlier incarnations while featuring new scenes that enhance it for the better. These new scenes give some added depth to specific characters, and shed light on situations that perhaps seemed very unclear prior. Lunar's greatest focus has always been on having a strong cast of lovable, if flawed, characters. It is through these flaws, however, that characters become memorable adding even greater depth to the story.

   While the story stands out as a shining example of something that is still relevant and easy to relate to, the combat system in Silver Star Harmony certainly shows its age. Lunar's combat system is turn-based with a twist when a character attacks, they move around the battlefield, and as characters level up, their physical attacks can hit more times per turn. Characters consume MP in order to use magic or special attacks, and the remake also includes new super attacks. These super attacks can only be performed when the yellow bar beneath the health bar is filled during combat. This is done either by dealing damage, or taking it. At that point, characters can unleash an attack that when used on regular enemies will kill them instantly. The Auto-Battle system also makes a return, in which players can execute set actions in advance, and can click it to reuse the same actions if they don't feel like implementing attacks manually.

   The battle system doesn't work so well because the game has been dumbed-down in terms of difficulty. Silver Star Harmony is noticeably easier than the earlier versions of Silver Star, and this encourages use of Auto-Battle because the game also has an annoyingly high encounter rate. In prior versions of Lunar, players couldn't rely on the Auto-Battle feature, because it was easy to make mistakes and be killed. In Silver Star Harmony one doesn't have to think about how the battles will progress because the enemies provide little to no challenge, and this includes the boss fights. Combat also progresses very slowly, and implementing attacks every turn does get very tedious and tiresome. Although Game Arts added the new super attacks, they don't add enough to make the battle system anymore enjoyable. This battle system was great in 1999, but does not hold up in 2010.

   Silver Star Harmony's world map design and dungeon layouts have changed in an attempt to address complaints about how long it took to move around in earlier versions of the game. Silver Star Harmony sports a simplified map that allowed players to click a location and effortlessly move around, along with dungeons that have been redesigned to be much shorter than those found in previous versions. The brevity of dungeons coupled with the high random encounter rate leads to a tiresome and frustrating experience at times.

Chubby Ramus doesn't want to fight. He just wants to eat snacks and steal dragon poo-- diamonds. Chubby Ramus doesn't want to fight. He just wants to eat snacks and steal dragon poo-- diamonds.

   The remake has also revamped the game's menus, which are solid and easy to navigate. It is important to note that this version of Lunar has the ability to save anywhere, a fitting feature for a portable game. One minor complaint is the existence of load times, which make themselves noticeable by having the music fade in and out, though this is not very bothersome after one becomes accustomed to it.

   Visuals in Silver Star Harmony have received a major overhaul, and they look great for a PSP title. The textures look incredibly smooth, and the attention to detail is impeccable. The sprites have been graced with very detailed artistry, examples of which are the intricate patterns on Luna's dress and the noticeable size of chubby Ramus. The game is rich with colour, and its environments are luscious looking and full of life.

   The game's sounds and music are another of its strengths. Noriyuki Iwadare reprises his role as composer, and he does an impressive job of weaving the main themes of the game into its music. Since music is a central theme to the story, in particular to the characters of Alex and Luna, the music has to be strong in order to make their situation seem believable. The vocal songs "Wind Nocturne" and "Wings" have had their lyrics changed for Harmony, and the new words add a sense of maturity to the story's tone that seemed less prominent in Working Designs' work. It's also amazing to hear Jenny Stigile's breathtaking voice return to provide the power and emotion that these songs demand.

   While Lunar purists might not be thrilled that the original cast wasn't able to return, most of the new voice actors do an exceptional job. Some of the best voice acting comes from the main cast, especially in specific scenes such as the Lyton Shrine. While this version lacks John Truitt doing the voice of Ghaleon, his replacement does a fairly impressive job, though he lacks the creepiness Truitt brought to the role. Most of the voices do an exceptional job at portraying the characters accordingly, with the exception being Royce who comes across like nails on a chalkboard.

   Although Silver Star Harmony is not a perfect remake, it's one that definitely received a lot of tender love and care. It's obvious that Game Arts and XSEED put in a great deal of effort to make this an enjoyable experience, and while most of the changes are welcomed, additional changes in other areas would have been nice. If you've already played Lunar before, you likely do not need to play it again, as it's still the same game. For those who have never played Lunar before, I wholeheartedly recommend this version. The new localization alone is one of the best parts of the game. Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is a great addition to any RPGamer's PSP library, and if you can look beyond the game's dated combat system and lack of originality, you may find yourself wanting to fight through the darkness once more, or even for the first time.

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