Lunar light

It’s a tale as old as the hills: A young man makes a journey across the land to find his destiny, thwart an ancient evil and save the world.

It’s a tale as old as the hills: A young man makes a journey across the land to find his destiny, thwart an ancient evil and save the world.

This is exactly the kind of thing that I usually hate about the homogenization of Japanese RPGs. In the early days of gaming tales like this, despite their epic scope, they were relatively quaint (given that the genre still had a lot of growing up to do) in terms of presentation and, for the time, that was fine.

Now, however, no one wants to role-play their way through the archetypal hero’s archetypal journey in a black-and-white, clear-cut, good-versus-evil world. We need intrigue, depth and substance (the fact that JRPGs still fail to capitalize on this a great deal of the time is another issue).

Despite its classic trappings, you should cut Lunar: Silver Star Harmony some slack. Yes, it’s very old school, and its narrative is as old-timey as its well-worn mechanics. But that’s because the game has been around for years and years, seeing iterations on multiple consoles.

My first bout with Lunar came in the form of the PS1’s Silver Star Story Complete release, which back in 1999 was a pretty impressive if traditional package (it was already the third re-release or update of the game up to that point).

What made Lunar special is that its translation and characterizations (not to mention graphics and presentation) had been lovingly re-crafted, giving the game not just a fresh lick of paint, but also instilling a real sense of personality within the broader character archetypes the game dealt with regularly. It wasn’t Pulitzer-worthy writing, but for a game about a warrior who must defeat an evil wizard, it was pretty damn good, and often pretty funny.

Silver Star Harmony, then, follows the same route. For this PSP release (now the fifth iteration of the game that’s been made over the years) the game has once again been torn down and reconstructed, emerging with the glossy, updated veneer required of games these days, with completely renovated graphics and a slicker and (slightly) more streamlined presentation.

While the bulk of the gameplay is largely the same, mechanics have been tweaked ever so slightly as well—the ability to save your game anywhere has been added (this is a PSP game, after all) and traveling on the world map is now a point-to-point affair rather than a directionless slog through an unzoomable mass of land. Needless to say, this is helpful.

The translation seems to be touched up again as well, retaining the great, funny dialogue of the PS1 release while adding extra, expanded bits of the story with extra sequences. Best of all, it’s all presented in glorious, high-res 2D—even the hand-drawn anime cut scenes added for the Playstation release are all present—and it looks sharp on the PSP’s screen.

So despite its old-school trappings, Lunar is a great little throwback. PSP-owning fans of JRPGs would be wise to seek it out—it won’t even cost you that much—with the caveat that it’s filled with the level-grinding and traditional fantasy you’d expect from an RPG classic.