Bringing Harmony to the PSP
October 16, 2009 – These eyes of mine have been scarred by many, many unforgettable Japanese RPG images. The furious hatred of Edge in Final Fantasy IV as he confronted the monster who not only killed his parents, but paraded their ghosts before him; the cathedral in Xenogears that showcased statues of a pair of one-winged angels, each embracing the other, their flight possible only through cooperation; the twelve fighters from an obscure title, Vandal Hearts, who stood shoulder-to-shoulder against the might of an entire corrupt nation, who sacrificed everything for their beliefs, and in the end achieved… absolutely nothing. I’ve seen a lot in my time playing Japanese RPGs.
But I’m looking forward to the remake of the original Lunar a little more than I would a remake of those other titles because, well, I’ve never played a single Lunar game in my life. There have been a lot of them. I successfully missed every single one. Fortunately this remake, called Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, is the perfect entry point for people like me who are 1) new to the series and 2) prefer their PSPs to their ancient PS1s (and Sega-CDs, for that matter) but would still like to begin the series at its actual beginning.
This remake will include new, enhanced graphics, a remastered soundtrack, and some new story elements not included in the original – although, let’s be reasonable, someone who has already played the Sega-CD and PS1 version of Lunar probably won’t gain a new understanding of the series from the addition of a few extra plot points. During combat, character position and movement will add a tactical element, which I much prefer to the standard RPG lineup. There will also be some other added gameplay features, though it’s not apparent whether or not this incarnation of the series’ introductory chapter will contain gameplay innovations capable of shocking RPG veterans who have seen it all (twice).
The Lunar series’ claim to fame back in the day was its inclusion of voice acting during cutscenes. This feature will be included in the PSP remake, which is great, though it means I won’t be able to use my trick of reading everyone’s lines with Darth Vader’s voice in my head. I’ll get over it. The original dialogue was much beloved because the translators took the time to truly “localize” the dialogue, and even inserted pop culture references, rather than strictly translate word-for-word and thus end up with something as indecipherable as the “spoony bard” situation in the notorious Final Fantasy Tactics translation (the PS1 version, not PSP). The dialogue is going to see another translation, so the pressure is on for XSEED to produce noteworthy results.
Thankfully, there will be no random encounters; battle only occurs on contact with enemy icons. So it seems one of the worst clichés from the RPG playbook has been left behind in the abandoned, looted strip mall that is the 90s. Good riddance!
Though the setting may be reminiscent of a lot of other Japanese RPG settings, there is an interesting twist worthy of note. The story takes place on a world called Lunar, which orbits the Blue Star, a devastated and barren world abandoned long ago. Apparently the people of Lunar, the so-called Silver Star, wear cool-weather outfits appropriate for a cold, Northern environment. Now, this isn’t necessarily hard sci-fi about the descendants of those who colonized our own moon, but it is an interesting, fantastic analogue. The series’ script writers could have just set the events in any generic fantasy world, but they did not, and I appreciate that from the perspective of someone grateful for even a thimbleful of creative originality.
GOOD LORD, A REMAKE.
I know what some of you might be thinking. “Here we go, another remake in a genre whose originality is hamstrung by the idolization of “classics” which are sometimes not even ten years old. “Let’s have some originality, please!” This grievance is understandable, but I would argue that remaking noteworthy titles every two or three hardware generations could benefit the medium. We all know that original ideas are rare, and are sometimes outright scorned, whereas new games that are blatant knock-offs of older, more original titles come out pretty frequently and, personally, enrage me to the point of stalking game developers and planning “accidents” for them during my off time.
Plus, video games change so drastically every year that it makes sense to remake the classics, to bring back the fire and re-forge the parts that are ancient, worn, frayed at the ends. How exciting would it be if, on top of this Lunar remake, we also had a remake of Earthbound (or Mother 2) that involved a richer color scheme and animated enemies during the psychedelic battles, or a remake of the original Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain that took us back to the dark fantasy roots and medieval, Eastern European fog-shrouded atmosphere, and also acted as an apology for all of the subsequent sellout titles in the franchise? And I won’t even mention a graphics update and re-release of the first two Fallout games… although, I guess I did just mention it.
I say bring on the remakes. This is cyber-mythology ver. 2.0.