#3 - Lunar: Silver Star Story (Complete) + Lunar: Eternal Blue (Complete)
This one happened by pure chance, but am I ever glad it happened at all. I was lent a copy of SSSC when I was in my mid-teens and immediately proceeded to devour the whole thing as quickly as I could. It had been a long time since a game had hooked me in every single way that hard. Everything about it was hitting my buttons, now that I had actually formed taste and specifics about what I liked. I was also consuming every single goddamn JRPG I could get my hands on, and back then there was so so many of them, eager to cash in on the success of stuff like Final Fantasy 7, we got the best and the worst by the truckload, translations of varying quality, in print runs of short amounts leading to some of the most expensive stuff you'd find on eBay even now with things like digital versions and reprints being a thing.
Lunar was one of those games with a print run of "once it's done, that's it" so they could avoid an ugly green bar on the side that said GREATEST HITS on reprint copies. It's also got one of the most divisive localizations in history, but if you use this post as an excuse to debate or argue it, either in favor of or against it, I will hunt you down in real life. While I am an apologist for the localized scripts of SSSC and EBC, a lot of it being when you're 16 these are revolutionary and they stick with you like napalm-soaked nostalgia often will, I still don't want to hear it. This debate is older than Althena herself and at this point nobody really cares.
If I could design my own JRPG from scratch with a team that would make it to my specifications, chances are you'd wind up with something extremely close to Lunar. It's got the perfect high fantasy flavor I've dug as my favorite genre my whole life, it's usually pretty funny, and it's always heartwarming. You're just some hick who plays a flute (or harp, depending on version) and has a pet flying cat who gets to go on a lucky few adventures before your girl is kidnapped by one of history's Four Heroes, and it's off to you to live up to your childhood dreams of becoming a Dragonmaster (a Dragon-magic infused super swordsman that saves the world whenever things on Lunar fuck up) and save the day and the girl and...
...Hey what a minute, that sounds very familiar. If you've read the article, the plot summary of SSSC sounds an awful lot like my childhood ambitions. No wonder this is a game that resonates strongly with me. The sequel, EBC, about an archaeologist in over his head escorting a mysterious traveling woman from another world to visit Althena, Lunar's creator goddess, to warn her about impending doom lead by a dark god Althena sealed on another world before fleeing with its survivors to Lunar while the other world rehabilitates. It takes place 1000 years after SSSC and you can see a lot of how Lunar has changed and was influenced by all that. It's still Lunar, but it's definitely well-evolved and the plot is more complex, the game is one whole disc longer, and it's a lot darker, especially towards the middle-end, but it doesn't lose any of its charm.
While I may be an actual swordsman now, I am by no means any kind of Dragonmaster, no matter how much Teen Atma thought that would be the most kickass thing ever is if she became one of Lunar's most prestigious female Dragonmasters (there were plenty of them, you can find history books in games that talk about them, so it's excellent it's a gender equal job opportunity). I did, however, become quite a bit like a character in EBC named Jean. It winds up she's actually a survivor of an orphan group raised by abusive karate masters. She trains in karate again under the guidance of the world's best teacher, who reveals himself to be the orphan group's old lead abuser, and it's up to her in her character arc to take him out and free the kids.
Given I am now someone who does karate, too, as a supplement to my swordsmanship, and specializes in training kids and women, Jean was a premonition of things to come for me. It's also refreshing to see even the women NPCs want her and she winds up with no love interests nor any specified sexuality. She just has to do karate and die, and seeing as she's very much alive, she's doing her job damn well. A rare instance of a female character in a major JRPG not winding up paired extraneously combined with being a martial arts powerhouse and your main DPS unit in game means Jean is one of my all time favorite video game characters.
So Teen Atma didn't get to be the Dragonmaster, but she is the savior of children and women all over, and that's not a bad runner up prize.
The original Sega CD version of both SSSC and EBC are interesting from a historical point, especially after seeing the overhauls the Complete versions made. I recommend hunting down and enjoying both, especially now that some rebalancing patches exist for the Sega CD originals. The PSP version of SSSC (Called Silver Star Harmony) is also very playable, handled by my current industry favorite XSeed, they tried to stay both loyal to the game and keep the whimsy of the original translations intact, and they strike a wonderful balance.
Just do me a favor and don't play the shoddy GBA port. With things like being able to save anywhere, and then turning the game off then back on and being fully healed, to a lower difficulty and the battle system pared down to minimum, to whole sections being cut or shortened, to a translation/localization that's the equivalent of chewing wet cardboard including fun typos and grammar fuck ups, it's a hot mess and only worth it if you like to see what happens if you think a PS1 to GBA conversion is a sexy idea.
Also the less said about Dragon Song, the better. I don't think I've ever been more disappointed by anything in my life, and this is coming from someone who admittedly defends Working Designs.
These games also get points for being one of the few things in any medium I can't talk about without at least tearing up a little bit, if only because it's just that damn good. I definitely am a bit weepy just having written this. To this day, I still wear Lucia's pendant (which only 3 people have recognized ever in my 15 years of wearing it) and have the full map of Lunar hung up on my wall. Anytime I look at it, it makes me want to go and see the world.
Lunar is something magical, y'all.
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