Review by digitalK

"Traditional RPG with "old school" feel ? you betcha XD"

Lunar 2 Eternal Blue or Eternal Blue Remix as its also known for the Sega Saturn is a revamped and updated version of the Sega CD classic Lunar Eternal Blue.

Being a latecomer to this series I've never played the original so this review is seen through a novice eyes. Since this is a review on Japanese release I'm using the Japanese spelling of the character names.

Eternal Blue takes place (a thousand years after the events of Lunar Silver Star Story) on the Silver Star, a once uninhabitable planet now populated by the descendants of people brought over from the Blue Star by the goddess Althena.

According to legend, Althena comes to the Silver Star and appears in human form whenever danger threatens the world, and it is rumored that she has returned.

The storyline stars Hiero, a 16 year old adventurer who lives with his grandfather Gwyn and his talking flying companion called Ruby (kinda like a pink cat with wings) XD. After exploring some ruins, Hiero and Ruby bump into Leo, one of Althena's senior followers, who warns them that a destroyer is coming to the Silver Star. This destroyer is rumored to be pure evil and possesses immeasurable power.

Back home Hiro, Ruby, and Gwyn witness a strange beam of light descending upon the Blue Spire, another mysterious ancient tower nearby. the trio travel to the Blue Spire to investigate.

Inside the Blue Spire, Hiro, Ruby, and Gwyn discover a beautiful young girl named Lucia all alone in the dangerous ruins. The trio leave the tower with Lucia. On their way out they encounter an evil force called Zophar, who puts a curse on Lucia before disappearing.

Returning home, Hiero and Ruby are at a loss as to how to help Lucia. Gwyn then remembers that a powerful healer named Rong-fa is rumoured to reside in the town of Larpa. Gwyn thinks that Rong-fa may be a healer powerful enough to lift Lucia's curse and so Hiero and Ruby set out to seek this healer.

This is where Hiero's adventure begins, along the way many twists appear in the journey.

GAME PLAY and CONTROL
One word that sums up Lunar 2's controls: SIMPLICITY! Everything is pretty much as you expect from a traditional RPG and that its menu driven but Eternal Blue (like Silver Star Story) has a simple interface thats quite easy to learn. I found this menu system far more easier than Silver Star Story's (although its quite similar) and also I made less mistakes when selecting battle options during fights with Lunar 2. The menu system feels tight and efficient! ^___^

Unlike today's RPGs you don't have lots and lots of menu's that allow customized options for example:Your characters cannot be infinitely customized, so they remain unique, both in personality and in-game play. Although there are crests and items that you collect on the way that allow your characters to gain (or lose) new skills etc. So there is some customisation.

I've read that in the original Lunar 2 Sega CD there are randomly encountered battles in dungeon/maze maps. In this version you can now see your enemies before they attack. Enemies no longer attack you on the world map, In addition to these changes, items are now pooled, instead of each character carrying his or her own items. Since I've only played this version I actually think the efficiency is much better this way.

You can dash through dungeon maps which although you have a certain amount of time before it runs out and you can dash again I think this definitely adds a bit of fun when you wanna run past enemies to get to the next point.

I've also read that the magic experience point system has been removed too. Characters now gain specific spells at certain experience levels. But if you are new to Lunar like me then I guess this wouldn't bother you like it might to a Veteran of the series.

I really enjoy the strategy in the battles. Yes you can just hack and slash you way through but when you have tough monsters then it requires a bit more strategy. The battle system again feels efficient and again its a true traditional turn based RPG but unlike other RPGs where characters stand in one spot, your characters will run around on the map with their little legs (somehow this feels a bit like the battles in Grandia to me! hmmm another great RPG made by Gamearts) XD
This is useful when fighting monsters who's magic attacks do damage that spread over an area on the battle ground. you can also pre-set how you want your characters to be positioned when battle commences. If you feel that the battles get tedious after a while you can always set the AI mode on and let the computer control your characters actions (I think the computer does an ok job at this) ~_^

CONTROL and Game play: 7

GRAPHICS
Upon loading this up most people will say no, no, no! upon the 2D graphics. This is a game that came out when the SNES and Megadrive/Genesis were kings in the gaming market. Although I've not seem much of the original Sega CD version this version does have improved colour and graphics but its not heaps and bounds over the original like Silver Star was compared to its original. Again the graphics here at best appear as though it seems at home on the SNES and Genesis/Megadrive. In silver star there was some lovely transparency effects in spell attacks and in towns,even the water effects (to me) looked just as good as the ones you see in Panzer Dragoon Zwei's. The main in-game graphics to Lunar 2 I don't think any Saturn owner will feel that it does justice to the Saturn's 2D abilities and the colour palette in towns and dungeons are quite low. To me it feels like its there to just do its job. Although the characters are "super deformed" and look cute I would have liked to seen a few more frames of animation on them too. There is some transparency effects but they are really few. Overall it feels like the budget on Lunar 2 is a lot less than the budget spent on remaking Lunar Silver Star Story.

The most impressive aspect of Lunar 2 Eternal Blue is its visual presentation in the collection of anime cut scenes used to tell key parts of the game's story. These smoothly animated clips incorporate a fusion of Computer Graphics and anime, and the results are spectacular. There is a small amount of noticeable graininess in these movies (as there are in many Saturn MPEG's) but I think they're among the best yet seen in any Saturn game.

graphics score: 5 MPEG cut scenes: 8

SOUND
Don't think you can put the Lunar 2's CD into a CD player and play the music because they are all generated via the Saturn's Sound chip. I think this is an area that does great job of the Sega Saturn's sound talent. Noriyuki Iwadare's score can create and heighten the impact throughout the many scenes sprinkled in Lunar 2. The soundtrack to Lunar 2 is definitely one of the impressive features to this game. Each soundtrack has variety, well composed and highly sampled (there are also a few tracks taken from Lunar Silver Star) and the sound effects are also of high quality samples. My complaint is that I feel there should be a few more tracks composed since a few of them are re-used for different towns and scenes therefore making some towns feel like they lose their uniqueness and individuality. Also the Cut scenes I found the volume a bit lower compared to the in-game's (This is also apparent in the Silver Star Story).

Voice acting (since this is a Japanese import title therefore features Japanese voices) is superb. The voice cast of Lunar Eternal Blue's deliver performances where you can feel the tone in their voices and adds tremendously to the impact of the story-telling especially during dramatic, tense scenes and moments that are tender and emotional. (although I might be a bit picky here but I feel in some areas the compression used in the sampled speech reduces the clarity somewhat). There are lots of great sampled speech used throughout battles too ^___^

SOUND and EFFECTS: 8 VOICE ACTING: 8.

Have you ever played an RPG that had a world which was so compelling, the characters you encounter have great characterisation that you could identify and felt some attachment to them that.... although you felt triumphant when you
defeated the final boss you also felt sadness because you completed the game and the story had come to an end? (I think Gamearts have captured this well in their Lunar games as well as Grandia 1). Well in Lunar 2 after the game credits roll you get a blank screen that appears for a while then an option appears for you to save you game. Once you have saved a 3rd option appears called 'special'. This special is I guess the true ending to the game and it allows you to continue on a few more adventures as there are dungeons (that get unlocked) and new items to find and equipment for your party and the continuation of the story development carries on.

After completing the main game I feel Eternal Blue is perhaps graced with one of the most well-developed, and compelling storylines for a RPG.

Truly great role playing games has moments where you share the joy and pain that the characters go though and Eternal Blue puts great focus on them, I have to say the cast of characters: Hiero, Rong-Fa, Jean, Remiena and the supporting characters show quite a lot of depth compared to characters of some other RPGs. My only complaint is with Lucia, I couldn't attach myself and empathised with her until near the end. (I also disliked the western voice for Lucia in Working Design's PSX translation).

Overall I am extremely happy with Lunar 2 Eternal Blue, it is a great anime RPG (and an old-school RPG at that) and although there are heaps of Japanese text its pretty easy to plough through this game with the many great guides and FAQS which you can obtain from the Internet. If the thought of ploughing though Japanese text off-putting then try and get hold of the USA Playstation release or the Sega CD version. Both have been translated by Working Designs.

I plan on trying out the Sega CD version in the not to distant future provided the price is right but thats another story......

OVERALL SCORE: 8


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/15/04


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