Lunar Legend is a throwback to the simpler days of role playing games. The Lunar series was originally conceived on the Sega CD back in 1992. Surprisingly, the name Lunar was remembered longer than the ill-fated Sega CD. It was later ported to the Sega Saturn, the Playstation, and now the Gameboy Advance. The game was great on the Sega CD over 10 years ago, but how does it hold up on the GBA? Ever since the so-called RPG “revolution” that started when Final Fantasy VII was released, should anyone care about this fairly old-school game?
First of all, Lunar Legend is not a direct port of the original Sega CD version. Many of the characters and places remain the same, but almost all of the dialogue has been changed or cut. This may bother the most hardcore Lunar fans but it won’t bother anyone else. If Lunar for the Sega CD was a 500 page novel, Lunar Legend would be the two hour movie that trims most of the character development.
The main protagonist is the young Alex. He longs to be a Dragonmaster like his idol, Burg, who passed away many years ago. It wouldn’t be an RPG if the main character didn’t have a female best friend, and this is where Luna comes in. Alex and Lunar are minor celebrities in their small town thanks to their musical talents, and they both anticipate the upcoming Harvest Festival, where they get to perform together.
A few days before the festival, Luna, Alex and their friend Ramus are told to accompany an arrogant wizard apprentice to the nearby White Dragon Cave. Predictably enough, their quest ends up becoming much more than they bargained for and they end up traveling all over trying to put a stop to any evil threatening the world. While I kept the plot details as ambiguous as possible, the storyline is still extremely predictable. Even so, I still enjoyed it. It never felt confusing or overly artsy. It is just a simple, pleasant storyline.
At first glance, Lunar Legend has the same turn-based battles we have seen countless times before. There is no complex magic system or anything; you just gain new skills by leveling up. Also, each character has “limit break” bar that is raised each time they attack. Once it becomes full you can unleash a special attack. While this is a direct rip-off of more recent Final Fantasy games, it still is a nice touch.
After the first glance, a couple of the tweaks that make the battles surprisingly good are noticed. First of all, there is an “auto” command so you all your characters automatically attack. This is becoming somewhat popular in many recent RPGs, and I only hope the trend continues to be used. If you go into the options screen, you can set the “tactics” command. This is similar to “auto” except instead of just attacking you can set what each character does individually. For example, Alex can use his Sword Dance technique, Luna can then heal and then Ramus can finish it off with a regular attack with his sword. All of this can be done with just one button, and it cuts down on the unnecessary time spent navigating menus.
You can count on two things appearing in Lunar Legend since it is a “semi-port” of a game over a decade old; random encounters and dungeons. Random encounters occur fairly often, but thankfully the battles are quick. A couple of the dungeons are dull and generic, but most of them manage to be painless.
Lunar Legend is also one of the easiest RPGs released in years. Level ups occur frequently and most of the enemies disposed of easily. Reviving a fallen ally is not a problem because they are automatically revived after a turn or two. In fact, only one or two of the bosses actually required caution. And to top if off, you can save the game at almost any time (except for in battle). Lunar’s lack of challenge, coupled with an overall length of around 15 hours may bore gaming veterans. Being the optimist that I am, I feel it just makes Lunar Legend easily accessible to everyone. Who wants to waste time leveling up anyways?
Oddly enough, there are even some Pokemon elements woven into Lunar Legend. You can either find or buy cards and then trade them via link cable. The cards don’t really contain anything useful or interesting, just simple sprites of characters or monsters. To me it felt pretty pointless and tacked on, but I’m sure some people want to “catch ’em all.”
Golden Sun could arguably be considered one the best looking games on GBA, but Lunar Legend certainly gives it a run for its money. Simply put, Lunar Legend has some of the most vibrant character models on the GBA. Many of the animations convey emotion successfully and since the character models are large, we can see them perfectly despite the small screen. The portraits of each character look great and you can even view each one in the art gallery on the main menu. A little more variety in the texturing of a couple towns would have been nice. As it stands though, this game has some of the finest graphics available on the GBA.
Most of the tunes remain the same from past Lunar ports (that is a good thing), but occasionally some of the new instruments for the GBA version are questionable. A few of the instruments sound lackluster, possibly due to the poor GBA speakers. Fortunately, most of the tunes are catchy and sometimes even hum-able. For some reason, whenever you enter a building in a town the music changes. This was a poor design choice because it is so unnecessary. You will never spend more than 45 seconds in a house, and having to listen to a few seconds of silence when you enter or exit the building kills the mood. This flaw stands out, but the music is still solid.
The fact that Lunar Legend has a simple plot and is insanely easy may turn some people off. However, this is the ideal game to play if you are interested in RPGs, but do not know what game to start with. Even veterans will find this to be an interesting little diversion. Ultimately though, they will end up beating this game quickly and then moving onto a game with more “beef.”