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Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete Review by Samuel Rivera
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Lunar 2: Eternal Blue is a classic masterpiece, and in my opinion a game that has aged a bit better than FFVI. Lunar 2 is not only Working Designs greatest imported game but also master RPG developer Game Arts’ greatest RPG ever.

Yes, some may claim that Game Arts’ Grandia is their biggest and mightiest accomplishment but I disagree, Grandia is a classic and a great game on its own right, but the craftsmanship and care that went into Lunar 2: Eternal Blue in its day was unparalleled. This is probably the kind of RPG that inspired the FF series to become so story oriented.
Right up to FFV the FF series had simple if boring Stories…around that time Sega released the Sega CD, which was an add on to the Genesis or Mega-Drive, that used CD’s as a format and allowed the Genesis to gain a graphical and aural edge over the SNES.

With the arrival of this system, Game Arts developed the Legendary Lunar: Silver Star Story, this was the game in my opinion that took RPGs into a new direction…featuring an epic plot, and complex character development.

Because of this game it is my belief that Square was forced to move the FF series in a more dramatic story driven direction as showcased by the great FFVI. Around the time of FFVI, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue was released. Unfortunately for the game it was released on the ill-fated Sega CD (probably because the SNES wasn’t powerful enough to sustain a game as huge as this, especially with all the anime cutscenes) and because Working Designs for some reason seemed to prefer Sega’s consoles over the competition. Because the Sega CD was pretty much dead in the water by the time Lunar 2 was released 1994-1995, the game shamefully did not received the attention or the hype titles such as FFVI and Chrono Trigger received.

So working designs decided to release the game then as a Sega Saturn RPG, the also ill-fated Sega Console did not do the game justice (sells wise.) However Master RPG Publisher Working Designs listened to disheartened RPG fans pleas and released a special (if limited in terms of number of copies) edition of the game in the widely popular PS1 called Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete.

Of course as it is Working Designs habit, they tweaked and added in game content and stuff in order to improve the game enough to be competitive against the monsters of the day ( 2000-2001) which included the immortal FFVII, FFIX and Next Generation (at the time) great Skies of Arcadia. So what PS1 owners got courtesy of Working Designs was the best playable version of the game available

Graphically this is still a Sega CD game at heart, with everything done in full 2-D. However it must be mentioned that Working Designs has cleaned up the graphics in order to make them look clearer and sharper. The end result is game that can stand on it’s own two legs with 2-D PS1 games such as Suikoden 1 and 2.

The character sprites are well animated with little details that make them easily distinguishable from one another. The character design is top notch, unfortunately the environments leave something to be desired, I mean they are well drawn, but the problem lies on their design, they could have been a little more epic in scale, and more majestic in design. But that is an easily forgivable point, because I am probably spoiled by the newer generation RPGs.

The Anime sequences are sweet and very well done, and it is in these that one can appreciate the artwork that was made for the game as well as the great character design, which is something Game Arts has always exceeded at. Also is very impressive the way Gonzo managed to mix CG sequences with anime drawings with out making them look out of place.

On a negative note I am not too impressed by the flat world map. I’m sure the Sega CD was capable of better, I would like to take my ship a go around the globe rather than have to back track all the way from east to west on a flat surface, this makes the game world seem like flat rather than round as it should be.

Other than that this is probably the greatest looking RPG of the 16 Bit Generation. If you play a lot of old school classics like me then this won’t be a problem at all, as I actually think Lunar 2 is very pleasing to the eyes.

Aurally Game Arts premier Composer Noriyuki Iwadare delivers a Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda caliber performance, he has always been one of my favorite composers, but without a doubt Lunar 2 is his best work ever, the songs here are worthy enough to purchase a Lunar 2 soundtrack for them. Luckily enough the game package comes with a free complete Sountrack CD … but more on that later. The Tunes range from epic, to simple and fun, to melancholic, there is something in the game for every taste. Also the music matches very well each locale and scene in the game. It must be mentioned that there are two vocal themes that sound great, so Japanese music fans and purists will not be disappointed.

The voice acting, something many games seem to struggle with (including Game Arts’ newer Grandia) was nailed very well on Lunar 2, this thanks of course to Working Designs commitment towards excellence. The actors match the characters well, I was very impressed by Ghaleon and Leo’s performance.

Gameplay wise, Lunar 2 is not too different from your standard old school RPG. You go around the world, usually having to go through a maze of some sort (or dungeon) battling monsters in order to level up, and be strong enough to battle the boss of the area. This is a mechanic that holds true all the way from the very beginning of the adventure to the very end. There is also a convenient "Save anywhere" feature.

Hiro the main character can now on the PS1 version be controlled with the analog stick you still have to press the "O" button in order to run. Unfortunately you can only run for a second or two at a time, this becomes particularly annoying at dungeons when you are trying to avoid an enemy. Yes, you can see the enemies on the screen, which may help you to avoid some unnecessary battles. Being that I am on the topic of seeing your enemies on the screen, I would like to correct myself at this moment on a statement I made in my Chrono Trigger review. "you can see the monsters on the screen before you fight them so there are no random battles. While this has become the standard for some games such as the Grandia series, Chrono Trigger did it first (I might be wrong, but I know it was probably the first high profile game to use this combat mechanic)." This statement is wrong as Lunar included this mechanic long before Trigger.

The Battles are turn based, you get to choose in a menu whether you will defend, fight, run or let the AI control your characters for you (not recommended). If you chose to fight, you have a variety of options to chose from. You can do a standard physical attack, which depending on your level your characters might deliver more than one blow to the enemy. You can use Items, defend and magic. At the latter stages of the game you will rely more on magic attacks than anything else.

Like in every other RPG your success depends of fighting monsters to level up and to gain money to buy the most expensive and effective equipment available. The game has a moderate difficulty. Provided you level up consistently, and use smart strategies in boss fights there shouldn’t be a problem in beating the game, however the game seems to be geared more towards the hardcore crowd than causal gamers so beginner RPG gamers, might find the game’s battles a bit frustrating.

The game took me 34 hours to reach the normal ending. However if you play the epilogue (which is the only way to unlock all the FMVs, music, extra goodies and real ending) it can easily take up to 40-45 hours, it took my about 5 hours to beat the Epilogue. The Epilogue is one of the coolest features ever in an RPG, but I will go more into that in our next section, which is….

The Story…this a Sequel to Lunar however you don’t need to play Lunar in order to understand everything that happens here because over a thousand years have passed since Alex’s (Lunar’s main character) quest ended. So while Lunar 2 takes place in the same world, all the main characters are different even though there are many appearances from Lunar characters such as Nall and Ghaleon. So while it doesn’t matter if you had played the first game or not, those who DID play the first game will probably enjoy the game in a different light than those who are new to the series.

In Lunar 2 you follow the adventures of young man Hiro and flying Cat Ruby. During one of their misadventures they find a lost, if strange, beautiful girl named Lucia, who comes from the Blue Star, and has to find Althena before the Evil god Zophar is revived and destroys the world. However the world which is ruled by Althena’s chosen, seems hell bent on capturing Lucia because according to Althena herself Lucia is the "Destroyer" who has come from the Blue Star.

Hiro decides to help Lucia find Althena as he has a crush on Lucia, and from here on an adventure full of twists, danger and funny moments awaits. Along your travels a strong cast of characters will join you. Mainly the gambling, beer drinking, and self-proclaimed ladies man Ronfar, the sexy yet mysterious dancer Jean and the opportunistic mage Lemina.

All of them have individual personalities, and their own motives for joining Hiro’s quest, all of them will have to deal with their own individual conflicts through the game.

The Villains themselves are very well done, Ghaelon leads the pack, with his menacing look, Leo with his stubbornness, and Zophar with the ever present threat of chaos and destruction. However if you have played many RPGs you might be asking yourself right now, "so what? I have seen this before countless of times in other RPGs." Indeed you have my friend, but like in Grandia it is not the originality of plot that makes the story a must read experience…It’s the characters.

Whether Villain or Good they all go through a visible change from the beginning of the story to the end. Not only that, they all read beautifully thanks to Working Designs commitment towards a genuine translation that while faithful to the Japanese version, makes sense to American and Western audiences. The makes it a pleasure to speak with every NPC in town, as all of them have something to say and more often than not, what they have to say is or triggers hilarious reactions from the party members.

There are also moments when I fell of my chair in laughter, the one scene with Leo and Ghaleon comes to mind. While I pretty much could tell how the game was going to end, and it was a light hearted story, the humor here is geared towards the late teens to twenties crowd because of the numerous sexual over tones and jokes. The game ends in a sad note, but unlike other RPGs Lunar 2 features an Epilogue which is about 5-10 hours long, and it lets you do what no other RPG has ever let you do… play in the game world after you have become a renowned hero. Visit places to see how they are doing after beating the game, collect hidden goodies, fight hidden bosses, and most importantly get the final ending you wanted to get, but didn’t get. Unlike other companies and developers who make you buy crap with the numbers "X-2" (Square I am looking your way) in order to see the ending you want to see, Game Arts beat Square to the punch by allowing you to play the direct sequel to Lunar 2 in well…Lunar 2. All you have to do is save after the credits roll and load that save to start the epilogue.

The love story in the game is believable, and fun to follow to a degree but it is not a strong as it could have been. However it is the clever humor that has made Lunar 2 age a little more gracefully than FFVI for example.

Last but not least I must review the amazing packaging of this game, packaging usually doesn’t influence me when buying a game or rating a game, but working designs has made packaging an important aspect of an RPG. I must say right here that Lunar 2’s packaging is the best in the business, by far.

The FF series needs not apply since the only competition to Lunar 2’s packaging is well …Working Designs’ own packaging for other games. Growlanser Generations being their newest one and even though the "silver" watch is nice, I prefer what they did with Lunar 2.

A beautiful card board metallic box cover rounds the package, once opened you will find a standard double Jewel Case with four CDs in it. Three game CD’s (there are tons of speech, anime sequences, plus the prologue, and Easter eggs like the voice work bloopers that play after beating epilogue, this is why the game was packed in 3 discs.) and a "Making of the game" CD, which is about 30 minutes long. The there is the revolutionary Omake Box with features a large color map of the game, plus characters mini standees, and finally the Omake Box features a golden real life size copy of Lucia’s pendant! It is pretty heavy too!!

Working designs could have stopped there, but they DIDN’T! The game also features a music CD with the original soundtrack of Lunar 2, and in the same little card board folder there is a space for the Lunar 2 demo that came with Vanguard Bandits, a definite nice touch. Also the instruction manual is Hard Cover and printed in Color quality paper!!! Not only that the manual has tons of interviews with the game creators, and original Japanese music lyrics versus the English version music lyrics. It doesn’t get any better for RPG collectors. Thank you Working Designs.

In the end however the packaging is worthy of a game as great and as legendary as Lunar 2, a must buy for any RPG fan lucky enough to get his or her hands on it. Since it is extremely difficult to find the game today and much less in stellar condition with all the collectible features, I was very blessed to have found one in pristine shape since the previous owner never even touched the Omake Box. Lunar 2 is the perfect example of a great classic RPG.

Gameplay: 9-The run button only works for two seconds, some battles are very tough and might alienate newbies from the genre. Other than that and amazing old school classic, the Epilogue is truly wonderful feature.

Graphics: 9.5-Some of the best 2-D work ever, the Anime scenes are exquisite!

Music: 9.0- Iwadare’s best work, a soundtrack is included on the package enjoy!!

Story: 9.0 –Not terribly original but the cast, excellent translation and humor, make it a must experience ride. The Humor and jokes make it a game that will continue to entertain masses for years to come

Addictiveness: 9.0 The Epilogue gives the game a 40-50 hour life span, the secret quests and FMV collecting will keep it running on your PS1 a few more hours, but it is a game worthy of being played through twice.

Overall: 9.5-One of the best and possibly most influential RPGs of all time, even today in 2005 (in fact now more than ever) a must buy! Working Designs is the best RPG publisher in the world and Lunar 2 is their finest work.

 

 

 

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