An anomaly in the Lunar series

For discussion of Lunar: The Silver Star, the original game for the Sega CD
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Shinto-Cetra
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An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Shinto-Cetra » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:39 am

Upon finishing TSS for the second time I realize what is so good about it overall to me. It’s an anomaly, in that virtually every Lunar (and some later games like Grandia II) game by GameArts are very preachy, with “power of humanity/human spirit/human heart” speeches, that are nonexistent in TSS. Between this and the later-censored blood, It seems to me like L:TSS is aimed at an older teenage or even college crowd, whereas most later games are aimed at children and preteens (the original EB is kinda in-between from what I've played-there is some blood but also much preachiness.) Lunar: The Silver Star also has plotlines plays out logically for a fantasy world. Alex is able to become Dragonmaster, because Ghaleon miscalculated and didn’t realize Nall was also a Dragon (which is vaguely hinted at beforehand.) There’s no dragon’s blood fueling the Grindery that somehow resurrects Althena’s tower. There is no similar instance to Hiro and Co. just regaining their stolen magic cause “Power of Humanity!” Alex, Mia, and Jess figuratively whip Kyle and Nash into shape when they give up near the end, no magic involved. I’ve spoken at length on how I hate what the remake did to Xenobia and the Vile tribe, Ghaleon, and Nash. But this is something that I only realized more recently. I really wish the later games weren’t so preachy and used less Deus ex Machina.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Kizyr » Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:46 am

Some of this may have been unintentional!

Shigema's often said that SSS is what he wanted TSS to be, if he had fewer constraints -- either technically (from limitations of the Sega CD or development time) or in terms of scale of the story. Thing is, though, constraints often can breed a lot of creativity: IMO a lot of the beauty of chiptunes is figuring out what you can do with limited hardware, and having constraints on how detailed you can make a story forces you to make skillful edits and design choices.

So with TSS, I think we're given a story that has to rely on context and guiding the player without overly explaining every detail. I'm not trying to be all "the older games were better", but it's an aspect that I think is the number-one reason that so many older games still are enjoyable to play. Because these constraints actually made the story better.
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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Shinto-Cetra » Fri Sep 07, 2018 4:57 am

Kizyr wrote:Some of this may have been unintentional!

Shigema's often said that SSS is what he wanted TSS to be, if he had fewer constraints -- either technically (from limitations of the Sega CD or development time) or in terms of scale of the story. Thing is, though, constraints often can breed a lot of creativity: IMO a lot of the beauty of chiptunes is figuring out what you can do with limited hardware, and having constraints on how detailed you can make a story forces you to make skillful edits and design choices.

So with TSS, I think we're given a story that has to rely on context and guiding the player without overly explaining every detail. I'm not trying to be all "the older games were better", but it's an aspect that I think is the number-one reason that so many older games still are enjoyable to play. Because these constraints actually made the story better.


Judging by that (I heard something similar but forget where) Shigema reminds me of George Lucas now. And I'm not a Lucas basher (SWIII was on par with IV-VI IMO, I-II not so much, though they were not the atrocities some fans made them out to be) but I wasn't a fan of him constantly editing the originals, and not giving fans a decent way to watch the originals in their original form.
Actually, TSS vs the later Lunar series is more than just overly explaining every detail, it's rewriting details in ways that often contradict each other even in the new story. I'm fine with details being added, SOME details can be changed (The one change (as opposed to pure additions) the remakes did right over TSS was Luna staying with Alex and the boat song IMO) but much of SSS and beyond just feels like "lets change this because we can!" For the record, I'm all for remakes of older games as long as the story is not completely rebooted; the focus should be graphical/musical. Lunar: Eternal Blue Complete and Final Fantasy IV 3D are the best remakes I have played cause they add but don't rewrite much. Likewise, I'm dreading the FFVII remake.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby ShugoHanasaki » Sun Sep 09, 2018 4:12 pm

Kizyr wrote:Some of this may have been unintentional!

Shigema's often said that SSS is what he wanted TSS to be,


I did not know this! That's neat! Makes me love SSS even more! No wonder I prefer it over all the other remakes ^.^
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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Kizyr » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:10 am

Shinto-Cetra wrote:Judging by that (I heard something similar but forget where) Shigema reminds me of George Lucas now. And I'm not a Lucas basher (SWIII was on par with IV-VI IMO, I-II not so much, though they were not the atrocities some fans made them out to be) but I wasn't a fan of him constantly editing the originals, and not giving fans a decent way to watch the originals in their original form.

It's a pretty good comparison. I don't dislike Lucas, but he (like most creators I'd argue) really benefited from having editors and other people there to push ideas off of. The original Star Wars trilogy was so good in part because there were other people checking and vetting good ideas, and helping craft the product; for Episodes 1-2, I think folks were too scared to really push back against anything that you ended up with an unedited mess. (TBH, I think some of the later Harry Potter books suffered from the same, as no one wanted to push back against JK.)

Shinto-Cetra wrote:For the record, I'm all for remakes of older games as long as the story is not completely rebooted; the focus should be graphical/musical. Lunar: Eternal Blue Complete and Final Fantasy IV 3D are the best remakes I have played cause they add but don't rewrite much. Likewise, I'm dreading the FFVII remake.

I think there's a good case for either (and a matter of personal preference -- whether folks want story reboots or not... and personally I connect way more with TSS than SSS). However, given my own preferences I'd have to agree -- other than extending Luna's stay with the party, I think if I had my way that a TSS remake wouldn't've altered the story anywhere near as radically as it did.

If you played Tales of Phantasia by the way, those remakes (especially thinking of the PSP full voice remake) really added plenty without removing a single thing that made the original game so great. KF
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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Imperial Knight » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:02 am

Never having played TSS, I can't really speak to the TSS/SSS comparison but I do think "less is more" is often true in storytelling and not as appreciated as it should be. There's a lot that can be left unsaid where the audience can fill in the blanks perfectly well for themselves. While I certainly agree that an older game is not necessarily a better game, it's often pretty impressive what they could manage to do. Look at how much gets conveyed using body language in 16-bit RPGs despite there often being quite a limited set of character sprites to work with. I feel like the trend not just with games but in the larger realm of, for lack of a better term, "geek" entertainment is towards spelling every little detail out, seemingly at least in part to cater to the common fan desire to know everything about the characters, setting, etc.

As I've been posting about in the What Are You Currently Playing topic, I've been playing Dragon Quest V, a remake of a 1992 game, and it's really drawn me into the game world more than any game I've played in years, not despite its storytelling relying strongly on the player filling in the blanks, but rather I think in part because of it. It's a characteristic that, looking back, a lot of my favorite stories, in games and otherwise, share.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby AkagisWhiteComet » Thu Sep 20, 2018 6:09 pm

On the less is more topic the biggest gripe I had in the US release (I believe it's similar in JP) of TSS is that sans some ellipses and a few lines of dialogue Alex for the most part is a silent protagonist. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with a silent protagonist because in many cases it can add effective immersion for the player. However a core plot point for TSS, and arguably all LUNAR games, is love. Not only among the primary protagonists, Alex/Luna, Hiro/Lucia, Jian/Lucia (could they not have came up with another name for her in Dragon Song?), but also among many of the other characters at some point.

It's a bit difficult to understand exactly what Alex is feeling when he's not saying anything or responding to other characters in some conceivable way. Or in the case of Luna feelings being conveyed through her words & actions. It's why I think the TSS remakes at first glance are SOOO much stronger with the plot device of Luna accompanying the party to Meribia rather than staying behind on Caldor Isle, as after Luna leaves in TSS it's very difficult at times to understand what Alex is feeling. On the other hand in SSS and the remakes Alex's character is much stronger because he has a clearly defined bond with Luna (and the other characters as he reacts to them). It was said by someone in the favorite LUNAR character poll that TSS can often feel like it "jumps around" in narrative because effectively you read dialogue of other characters, assume Alex responds in some manner, and then off you go to the next narrative device. It's not a strong point for TSS.

I get the feeling a lot of people don't really like some of the TSS remakes but personally I find it difficult to make an argument for TSS considering SSS and even further expanded stories like with Silver Star Harmony. Sure I think for the time and the limitations TSS isn't bad, but the remakes do show a lot of what could have been, especially with the narrative. It also shows that despite the initial concepts for Eternal Blue being a more direct sequel to TSS, not a long changed once EB appeared as a remake opposed to it's Sega/Mega CD original, which one could argue it's narrative must of had some sort of stability or acceptance.

Sorry I actually had a much larger post re: "the human spirit" thing but it's difficult to word. It doesn't bother me much. I'm not religious, and so I simply see it as a plot device of sort to push the narrative. It's also not completely out of place, considering most RPGs (and particularly JRPGs) deal with the whole "human spirit" spill when dealing with a otherwordly type antagonist.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Alunissage » Fri Sep 21, 2018 4:43 am

TSS was the first RPG I played, and I played it about seven times before SSSC came out (and before I knew of EB's existence), so perhaps I just got really used to filling in the characterization. But mostly I didn't have trouble filling in Alex's character from Nall's comments, and I found his dialogue in SSS to be about the right amount, with his personality just tending to be quiet. I didn't have trouble believing that Luna and Alex were in love (and clearly already so from the beginning of the story, rather than Luna's inconsistent development in SSS), unlike in, say, Chrono Trigger, where there was, like, nothing at all between Crono and Marle.

It might also be easier to fill in Alex's dialogue after years of Zelda games. :P

I'm glad Luna had more screentime in SSS, but I don't really care for the change of making her all hesitant and feeling her regard for Alex changing, and all that insecurity in the Boat Song (which is pretty, but I don't really feel like it fits her character). I mean, before she and Alex even leave Burg she tells him she always thought they'd have a place of their own together someday... and then on the boat she's supposed to just be realizing this? Not to mention that the idea of not having a goal in her life and feeling emptiness sure sounds like she's unfulfilled as a human compared to being a goddess and speaks against her eventual choice to stay with Alex.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Shinto-Cetra » Fri Sep 21, 2018 4:47 am

AkagisWhiteComet wrote:On the less is more topic the biggest gripe I had in the US release (I believe it's similar in JP) of TSS is that sans some ellipses and a few lines of dialogue Alex for the most part is a silent protagonist. There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with a silent protagonist because in many cases it can add effective immersion for the player. However a core plot point for TSS, and arguably all LUNAR games, is love. Not only among the primary protagonists, Alex/Luna, Hiro/Lucia, Jian/Lucia (could they not have came up with another name for her in Dragon Song?), but also among many of the other characters at some point.

It's a bit difficult to understand exactly what Alex is feeling when he's not saying anything or responding to other characters in some conceivable way. Or in the case of Luna feelings being conveyed through her words & actions. It's why I think the TSS remakes at first glance are SOOO much stronger with the plot device of Luna accompanying the party to Meribia rather than staying behind on Caldor Isle, as after Luna leaves in TSS it's very difficult at times to understand what Alex is feeling. On the other hand in SSS and the remakes Alex's character is much stronger because he has a clearly defined bond with Luna (and the other characters as he reacts to them). It was said by someone in the favorite LUNAR character poll that TSS can often feel like it "jumps around" in narrative because effectively you read dialogue of other characters, assume Alex responds in some manner, and then off you go to the next narrative device. It's not a strong point for TSS.

I get the feeling a lot of people don't really like some of the TSS remakes but personally I find it difficult to make an argument for TSS considering SSS and even further expanded stories like with Silver Star Harmony. Sure I think for the time and the limitations TSS isn't bad, but the remakes do show a lot of what could have been, especially with the narrative. It also shows that despite the initial concepts for Eternal Blue being a more direct sequel to TSS, not a long changed once EB appeared as a remake opposed to it's Sega/Mega CD original, which one could argue it's narrative must of had some sort of stability or acceptance.

Sorry I actually had a much larger post re: "the human spirit" thing but it's difficult to word. It doesn't bother me much. I'm not religious, and so I simply see it as a plot device of sort to push the narrative. It's also not completely out of place, considering most RPGs (and particularly JRPGs) deal with the whole "human spirit" spill when dealing with a otherwordly type antagonist.


I generally don't like silent protagonists either, but sometimes cheesy not-funny dialogue ("power of humanity") is worse than little dialogue at all. Alex's dialogue when reuniting with Luna right before Ghaleon turns was not even in the JP TSS, credit goes to WD. Alex and some others like Crono from Chrono Trigger and the Prince from Suikoden V have two fleshed out sentences to choose from rather than "yes" or "no." Speaking of Crono, there is an official CT tie-in manga that only covers the beginning but Crono talks and he's pretty bratty..I'm glad he stayed silent. And I wouldn't generalize that all RPGs have that type of themes, FF7 they are fighting for a mixture of planet ecology and personal grudges against Sephiroth/Jenova/The ShinRa, Shining Force III they are fighting for the Church of Elbesem and to defeat the Vandals, and to restore peace in the land. It exists but often in a more subdued form in FF6 has it but only really at the end when everyone confronts Kefka, and he asks what they have found in the World of Ruin. Skies of Arcadia is a very positive game, but Vyse Aika and Fina never come across as corny, they're just upbeat, so I guess wording plays a role. "Never give up">"Power of humanity". Not to mention I'm an environmentalist IRL, and that phrase is just Anthropocentric.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Alunissage » Fri Sep 21, 2018 5:52 am

Yes, I've never liked the "power of humanity" theme in Lunar, but evidently Shigema does. I think it was Rebecca Capowski who commented that he probably insisted on the scene in the third story in the Vheen manga (I don't know why I can't remember their names consistently) where Ghaleon tells everyone in earshot to pray. And the bit in the Ghaleon battle in EB where everyone just regains their power/magic by sheer willpower always bugged me. I don't mind it as a battle feature, doing the first part of the battle sans special attacks and spells, but I would've preferred a better story reason to regain those abilities. And, as you note, it's annoyingly anthropocentric. It's probably intended to include beastmen and the post-TSS Mazoku, but since those are both contrasted with "human" in other contexts, it really rubs me the wrong way. Also the end of SSSC, where Alex tells Luna that they'll just have to find a way to make things work. But then, the entire Fortress of Althena thing bugs me.

Heh, I guess I'm just basically agreeing with your initial post at this point.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby ShugoHanasaki » Fri Sep 21, 2018 3:08 pm

I really loved the humanity gimmick. But I've always been a person who liked that sort of thing ^^;;
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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby AkagisWhiteComet » Fri Sep 21, 2018 3:46 pm

Alex: "I WON'T GIVE UP! THIS IS NOT OUR FUTURE." Insert- other dialogue I've forgotten word-for-word about believing in oneself and humanity.
>Alex and Luna leave Goddess tower. Tower epic-aly explodes behind them not leaving a single trace of destruction on the ground. [Later reappears intact in EBC]

My first play through of SSS I LOL'ed pretty hard at that part.

Alunissage wrote:TSS was the first RPG I played, and I played it about seven times before SSSC came out (and before I knew of EB's existence), so perhaps I just got really used to filling in the characterization.


Some of the first RPGs I had played as a kid were the old SSi Gold Box DOS D&D games (reading a "bar tale" from an instruction manual because the game didn't have the ability to put all the text on screen was incredibly "fun") and similar. I do remember playing both Zeldas back in the day but on NES I didn't view Zelda as an "RPG" per say (if anything I thought honestly it was an action game. A lot like how nowadays shooters refer to FPS games, but if you asked an 80s kid what a "shooter" was that was a scrolling shooter like LifeForce or R Type). I guess in a way I effectively never expected Link to speak and similarly did not associate dialogue with protagonists (Also the circa later cartoon ruined it for me. Same with Mario & Luigi).

I'd say the first point I realized what was an RPG was when I played FF2(4) which I played before TSS. Despite any criticisms of Ted Woolsey's translation and dumbing down of difficulty FF2(4)'s story was quite incredible for me and has shaped how I view a lot of RPG stories since, especially with the protagonist Cecil which amazed me the first time I realized you actually play as a "bad guy" at first transitioning later to the true "hero". I had never experienced a narrative play out in that manner. I found myself often comparing circa-time period RPGs to FF2(4), which was probably unfair given that the early 90s was not the absolute best time per say for later 8 bit and 16 bit RPGs (and CD based RPGs).

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Imperial Knight » Fri Sep 21, 2018 5:19 pm

It's been a while since I've played Grandia II, which was co-written by Shigema, but I seem to recall similar power of humanity type themes there. I certainly recall the story as just feeling like a blander version of Lunar EB. It definitely feels like a recurring theme in his works.

FF4 I think is a good example, both for better and for worse, of the less is more idea. The story is at its best when relying on subtext and allowing the player to fill in the gaps. Consider how much is made clear about the relationships between Cecil, Rosa, and Kain without ever having to be explicitly stated. On the other hand, I find when the story tries to go big, so to speak, it often lurches into melodrama.

There's an ongoing series of articles about the various translations (official as well as a fan translation) of FF4 and how they compare to a "literal" translation as well as to each other. It's a pretty fascinating read if you're interested in the localization process, including the many ways in which the good intentions of fan translators can go awry. It's a minor point, but I don't think Woolsey was involved much, if at all, in the localization of this game. He's not listed in the credits and the script doesn't really match his style.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Alunissage » Fri Sep 21, 2018 5:39 pm

Legends of Localization (the source of the link in IK's post) is awesome. I keep forgetting to actually read there myself, but my husband does and reads stuff to me now and again.
I do remember playing both Zeldas back in the day but on NES I didn't view Zelda as an "RPG" per say (if anything I thought honestly it was an action game.

Yeah, I wouldn't call either of those Zeldas RPGs. Action adventure is the description I've usually seen, or action RPG for the later ones when there's actually dialogue more sophisticated than I AM ERROR. Likewise with Ys.

(btw, it's "per se", not per say.)

I really should play FF4 sometime.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Shinto-Cetra » Sat Sep 29, 2018 4:55 am

Alunissage wrote:Yes, I've never liked the "power of humanity" theme in Lunar, but evidently Shigema does. I think it was Rebecca Capowski who commented that he probably insisted on the scene in the third story in the Vheen manga (I don't know why I can't remember their names consistently) where Ghaleon tells everyone in earshot to pray.

I love Rebecca Capowski's site. Very informative on various Lunar related phenomena, as well as some other RPGs.

Imperial Knight wrote:It's been a while since I've played Grandia II, which was co-written by Shigema, but I seem to recall similar power of humanity type themes there. I certainly recall the story as just feeling like a blander version of Lunar EB. It definitely feels like a recurring theme in his works.

It's even worse in Grandia II. I still liked it overall, but I wouldn't call it one of my top 10 RPGs, mainly cause of how it more or less copies Lunar:EB like you said. Prior to fighting the eye of Valmar which had manifested in the young well-meaning girl Aira, her mother addresses the party. She and Aira have been through a lot of bad experiences, and she asks the party to kill her daughter citing the people that are sleeping eternally because of Aira's (really the Eye of Valmar's) power. Ryudo is understandably angry at a mother willing to sacrifice her own daughter, but he then he says something just as bad. Ryudo: "You're her mother, but you want me to "put her out of her misery?" Ma'am, we do that to our pets, not our children!"
At least the Lunar remakes and etc don't go to that level of anthropocentrism that outright debases non-sentient beings from what I recall.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby Shinto-Cetra » Fri Oct 12, 2018 3:02 pm

Another thing: This has been discussed before, but Borgan and Lunn should not have been been forgiven in Lunar 2 considering how they owned slaves, and were basically saving their own hides. BUT Ghaleon, Xenobia and the Vile Tribe at large own human slaves in TSS, and they get killed by the party? Total double standard! Again, I blame "Power of Humanity" for this, as Borgan and Lunn are both human. Fake "Althena" was turned into a monster right before the party fights and kills her, which is rather convenient for this sort of plotline.

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Re: An anomaly in the Lunar series

Postby S.ninja » Wed Oct 17, 2018 4:01 am

TSS was my favorite version. I love the whole frontier and black dragon story arcs in TSS and I see the humor more on point. Honestly other then the graphics and a better fleshed out four hero backstory I don't see much in SSSC or its remakes. I also thought that foreshadowed events were to easily guessed.EB vs EBC however I find EBC the best my only complaint is it was too easy. I remember grinding extra levels for the Borgan fight in anticipation for a fight like EB. However the better four hero backstory made Ghaleons part better in EBC(but his face marking made more sense in TSS). In TSS in the armor shop in vane (I think it is vane) there is a Cylon head on the counter .


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