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Lunar Legends

Video Game Reviews

Ratings are based on a five-point scale, in homage to the the late, great Next Generation Magazine.

Game Arts
Gameboy Advance

Rating: * * * *
Lunar Legends - video game reviews
Lunar Legends - screen shots - click for closeup

February 28, 2005

There have been a number of good role-playing games on Nintendo's little handheld, and they're all very good (if endlessly predictable and cliched); for my money, I'll say the best one you can find is Lunar Legends.

Classic gaming fans recognize this game, as it was a certifiable classic when it first appeared on the Sega CD in the early '90s, winning acclaim and awards before spawning an equally great sequel which eventually migrated to the Playstation. Lunar was innovative and clever for its time, and it's something of an indictment against the stagnation of the videogames business that it's still that way.

One would think that console RPG's would have evolved or changed at all since 1993. You look at the latest Final Fantasy titles and marvel at their graphic prowess; but when it comes down to gameplay, you're still stuck with waddling through every Tolkein schtick in the book and pressing the A button on everything.

So perhaps this shapes my thinking somewhat. The GBA version of Lunar may be, at heart, a reissue, but it's still more entertaining than more contemporary names like Golden Sun.

Lunar comes from a time when fantasy RPG's were really stretching their wings. This was the cutting edge in story-driven game worlds, set against mascot platformers, fighting titles and arcade puzzlers. The story, involving a pair of young adolescents named Alex and Luna, carries a breezy, rural flair, a more casual tempo. There are the usual bits about young heroes following in the footsteps of long-dead heroes and portents of doom, but most of the focus is on these characters and their adventures.

One of the more tiring aspects of these games is having to talk to strangers in various towns. It's usually a pointless affair, as people doll out bits of exposition and nothing else. Lunar spins this tired notion on its head, giving so many characters life and sparked dialog. This is the one role-player that makes you eager to talk to people.

The best dialog is between the main characters, friends and rivals who pop in and out at various points. One little remark will often set off a fiery rant or long conversation. These kids love to gab, gab, gab; they have such personality that I don't mind having to save the world, sigh, yet again.

It has been often said that this version of Lunar is a faithful recreation of the original, but I think it's a marked improvement in its presentation. Everyone and everything is given a fresh coat of paint, looking luminous and shiny and new. Aside from the usual battle scenes and overhead point-of-view, there are side-view cut-scenes, as well as occasional portraits and still shots of key moments in the story. This game looks terrific.

The sound, unfortunately, is tinny. Songs are catchy, sure, but tinny as hell. Most games on the Advance sound like this; you've probably made your peace with that sad fact by now. Funny how everything comes back to the same thing: corporate complacency, laziness, a dearth of new ideas.

At least Lunar's charms make it worth the ride. Not a bad haul.

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