Sporting a new translation and voiceover work, this oft-remade RPG has now come to the PSP. A few technical issues drag it down a bit, but it's still one of the best darn entries in the genre.
- Clever, well-written script
- Fantastic and memorable characters
- Classic RPG gameplay
- Frequent load times
- Spotty voice acting
- Dated RPG gameplay
Lunar is definitely a game that gets around. Game Arts’ classic RPG is playable in one form or another on Sega CD, PlayStation, Saturn, Game Boy Advance, and now, the PSP. Considering that this story has been retold for nearly 20 years now (Lunar was originally released in 1992!), those who have yet to experience the game might expect it to be an elaborate and original tale.
And whatta’ya know? Lunar: Silver Star Harmony isn’t. It's yet another "adventurous young lad from a small village sets out on a journey; gathers a party that includes a warrior, a magic user, and a healer; and ends up saving the world" tale that seems to be the plot of 90% of all RPGs. There's even a "beautiful girl with a mysterious past" thrown in for good measure. Despite the heavy reliance on what are now RPG stereotypes, the game's script handles them in such a way that they're actually quite charming. The characters are full of personality and immediately likable. Even the secondary characters are fleshed out and interesting to talk to. There are also some extremely charismatic villains, making it all the easier to continue pushing forward to the final confrontation.
Another way that Lunar help ease the cliché factor is with its ample use of humor. The characters' dialogue is often good for a chuckle or two, and this is one of those rare RPGs where you'll actually want to talk to the NPCs to find out what they have to say.
No School like the Old School
Considering the original Lunar's age, it should come as no surprise that Silver Star Harmony has a very retro feel to it. Because the characters actually move around the playing field during the turn-based battles, there is a bit of strategy as you determine the formation of your party Other than that, though, fights consist mostly of choosing when you want to do a standard attack or when you want to use a particular magic spell. Returning from the GBA's Lunar Legend is the Arts Gauge, which allows for an ultra-powerful attack to be used after the gauge slowly fills. Although handy, these attacks do tend to make boss battles a bit easier.
In fact, Harmony's overall difficulty is significantly lower than previous versions of the game. This might irritate some hardened RPG players, but there are undoubtedly plenty of people out there who will appreciate not being repeatedly killed whenever they enter a dungeon. While you're in those dungeons, it's awfully nice to be able to see monsters on the screen. Since you have an opportunity to evade an attack, this eliminates those pesky random battles. Of course, the game is designed in such a way that it's tricky to dodge too many fights, and besides, doing so will cost your party precious experience points. Thankfully, the game is balanced in such a way that if you play at a normal pace, you won't have to waste much time with tedious level grinding.
Fly Me to the Moon
Even with its somewhat aged mechanics, Lunar is still plenty fun to play, and this redone PSP version looks outstanding. Both the environments and the character sprites are lovingly detailed, making the game a treat to look at. It is somewhat jarring, however, when the game switches back and forth between the widescreen gameplay and the 4:3 aspect ratio of the cinema sequences (which are carried over from the console versions of the game).
In true Lunar fashion, the soundtrack is also outstanding. Just prepare for ample annoying pauses as the music fades in and out whenever there's a screen transition. Those transitions also come with frequent bits of load time that tend to artificially slow the game down. For disclosure’s sake, I encountered the problems in the UMD version of Silver Star Harmony, and not in a downloadable PSN version, although ultimately, load times are hardly a grand shortcoming for this game.
For as good as the graphics and music are, the voice acting is somewhat disappointing. Although the game utilizes professional voice actors, their delivery tends to range from "fairly decent" to "not very good at all."
The Time for Valor Has Returned Again
If nothing else, this new version of Lunar allows the game to be played by even more people. RPG fans that have somehow missed out on this fine adventure can fix that problem immediately. The few technical problems are easily overlooked given the vast amounts of witty writing and charm that Lunar: Silver Star Harmony contains. Even if you know this game inside and out, the new translation and opening sequence (one that will have you yearning for a prequel) are some solid incentives to give it another go.