And just like that young Alex’s happy adventures with his friends ends. But Lunar: Silver Star Story is just beginning. As is my love affair with this game.
Back in those glorious, golden days when the original Playstation ruled the video game world, the only threats to its dominance coming from pockets of Nintendo 64 resistance, Lunar Silver Star Story Complete was the kind of game that taunted me. I was a latecomer to the Playstation camp. I grew up with almost only Nintendo systems. The NES, as this blog will attest, was my first system and possibly my most loved. The Super Nintendo may not have had the sheer number of great games its predecessor did, but the SNES’s greats are still the pinnacle of video gaming. Yes, we had a Genesis, but that was more like an unwelcome guest than a beloved family member like the Nintendo systems. An occasional session of Sonic the Hedgehog or Joe Montana Football was all the entertainment it provided. So the Nintendo 64 was the obvious choice for my next video game system. And I was happy with it, mostly. I am not the N64 hater that many seem to be, but while I loved what the system offered, it lacked many things. Like JRPGs, for instance, my genre du jour then and now to a lesser extent.
In order to get those tantalizing JRPGs, I purchased a Playstation in early 2000. Being the obsessive nerd I was (am) I had every gaming magazine possible shipped to my home and read them cover to cover, so I knew about all the “great” JRPGs the had already come to the system and those that were coming. I had a list of games that I knew I had to have. Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, with its Anime cut scenes and 16-bit style graphics, was the kind of experience I craved. However, like many of the games on that had-to-have list, I never managed to track down Lunar while Playstation games were still readily available.
To this day, there are several PS1 games I’d like to play, but have never managed to find, such as Vagrant Story and Valkyrie Profile. Most of the others I have found. And almost to the game, each one has disappointed me. The RPG’s of the Playstation era were not all the brilliant works of art and masterful story telling that my 15-year-old self imagined. They are frequently ugly, janky messes with hackneyed, poorly localized stories. At this point, they merely serve as a reminder that I’m not 15 any more. But like a dog to its vomit, I return repeatedly to hunt down the games on that list. So when the opportunity to purchase Lunar presented itself, I leapt on it. And 3 hours in I was feeling that same sort of disappointment that I got from Xenogears and Star Ocean: The Second Story. But upon entering the third town and meeting its former pirate leader, something happened. The 15 year-old Scott started speaking up in the back of my head. “This is great” he enthused. The early adventures of young Alex, the main character, his best girl Luna, her of the healing magic and mysterious special powers, is just the sort of fairy tale stories the SNES specialized in. I was growing to love it. And he stayed excited though the trip to the flying magic city and to the marsh where we fought an imposter hero. When big twisty story stuff happened on the return to the magic city Vane, the game had me forever.
The big twist, that the video at the top spoils, as does Lunar 2, which I had already played, is the perfect representation of this game. Ghaleon, friend of the former Dragonmaster, who so far in the game has hung moodily, palely in the background, suddenly decides to have Alex take him to see the White Dragon. Then the video happens. It’s cheesy, goofy, ridiculous and perfect. I love this game.
Much of the joy in this game is from Working Designs localization. No one did localizations like Working Designs, for better or worse. At the time, they were one of the only companies that seemed to put much thought or effort into translating games to English, though they sometimes got carried away trying to be funny. I’ll take an over-enthusiastic labor of love over the carelessness of their completion any day (FFVII: This guy are sick). While Working Designs certainly changed too much sometimes, I believe we can thank them for helping force other companies to pay more attention to localization. Working Designs is sadly gone, a victim of its own hubris and other companies catching up to what made tem special in the first place. The translation of Lunar is awkward at times, sometimes oddly formal, others too familiar, but every villager has something interesting to say, often more than one something. It is one of the things that make me feel 15 again. Instead of the cynicism and pretension of other PS1 RPGs Lunar is earnest and sincere. While current me can see the childishness of the game, 15 year old me is enthralled by it and is currently overpowering current me. I am about 1/3 the way through the game now, and I feel like I’ve come home.