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Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete: Almost Finished
Company: Working Designs

Busting into Working Designs' new RPG Lunar: Silver Star Story is a complete dream for the old-school gamer, as well as new fans of the genre. Not the visual polish of Final Fantasy, but for story and depth, it's a contender. Some people will be turned off by the graphics, but shoo them away, lock the door, call the phone company, and add them to your "call-rejection" list. Complaining about graphics in Lunar is like complaining about salt in seawater. It's an old game! But much like Yoda, just because it's old doesn't mean it's weak...

Sound is okay, with good scene music, and the typical repetitive battle song. Characters speak during battles to cast spells or grunt when hit, and that's cute... for a while. The vocal score is great, though.

Lunar grabs you quickly with a simple quest that gets complicated very fast. As has become standard in RPG World, a young boy (Alex) and girl (Luna) develop a love-bond as friends and brother/sister ("Deliverance," anyone?) during the course of the game. Alex faces the challenge of passing four trials to become the new Dragonmaster, and defeating the mysterious Magic Emperor, protecting Luna all the while. The band that forms around Alex is the usual fighting/magic-using/fuzzy-cat-creature bunch, but the most noticeable difference overall is great dialogue translation. Working Designs was obviously in love with their product, as one of the non-game discs has 30 minutes of the producers stroking their egos over the great translation. But, to give them credit, it does rock! Finally, character development!

The "dungeons" are creative, and the overland travel works great. Towns are cool looking and sometimes double as dungeons, and NPCs have a lot of personality. Though I wouldn't call Lunar: Silver Star Story "non-linear," there's a lot of freedom to what you do and where you go. The quest itself unravels in a very nice way, without too much tedium or predictability. Each character really has a unique reason to stay with Alex, and there aren't any "throw-away" members in the party.

The enemies in Lunar: Silver Star Story get tougher and tougher, and each boss' attributes are multiples of Alex's current level. So if Alex comes in twice as strong, the boss has twice as many hit-points. This makes strategy really important, and even lower enemies require a great deal of planning to defeat without sustaining too much damage. Battle mechanics are complex, and take some getting used to. In the end, there's a great feeling of having learned each character's strength and used it wisely.

I've yet to see an RPG with so many neat features, both in battle and out. Nall, the little creature that hangs around Alex, serves as the portable save point and carries most of the items. He also lets you go in and change how characters stand during battle, create custom attacks, and revives "fainted" characters during battle. Nobody actually dies in battles, so Lunar will most likely be overlooked in the current ratings debate. Dual Shock and Analog compatibility are excellent. Even though I thought the Analog would be wasted on an RPG, I've learned to love it. Maybe it's just my controller, but the vibration during battle is a little too strong. Nice idea, but I feel Working Designs went a little overboard on the amount of vibration. Sadly, I turned it off after about 15 hours. Another wild feature is the hidden "bromide" item found throughout the game. Each is a picture of one of the Lunar ladies in a vaguely suggestive pose, and the camera pans up and down when you select them from the item menu. Those girl-crazy Japanese programmers; what will they think of next!

Last but not least is the packaging for Lunar. Working Designs really went all out and it shows. I could have done without the "Making of Lunar" CD, but that's just me. Everything was done with extreme panache, and I would love to see every game released in similar fashion. The manual alone is a 100+ page, hardback, foil-stamped book with a little ribbon attached to the spine as a bookmark! With two game discs, a "Music of Lunar" CD, a cloth map and neat box, you can take it from me (a major play-and-trade gamer) this is one game I'll never trade in. Buy it!

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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