For No Reason:
"For my money, the best RPG is the one where everybody saves the world” - A rebuttal to reviews of Lunar: Dragon Song.
-By Stephen Kelley-
-Presented by DMG
-Offering up an opinon.-
-Presented 10/18/2005-

I purchased “Lunar: Dragon Song” last week even though I had read some pretty bad reviews on the game on a few websites that I will not name. But have learned to take their reviews on that site with a grain of -scratch that- bucket of salt. I was insanely ecstatic to play the first new Lunar Game in the last 10 years, but the bad reviews kind of took the wind out of my sails.  Now that I’ve played it, I have no idea what all the whining is about.

It seems that one of these sites in particular likes
to assign RPG reviews to people who do not like RPGs, a case and point was their review of “Front Mission 4.” In that review, the reviewer did not actually review the game, but compared the game itself to the opening cinematic, and was confused why a traditional turn based strategy RPG was not like a CGI opening sequence…

This would be about as logical as telling me to review a HALO game,
a game that I honestly despise for its cookie cutter plotline and unbalanced weapon selections, I would slam it and HALO fans would all tell me I am full of crap.  Why tread fate then?  How about we give a good review for the game to someone that cares?  I am not saying that was the case with this review as the reviewer stated that they liked the original Lunar games, but that is why I have grown to distrust such sites.

I have recently started playing “Lunar: Dragon Song”,
so I can not give a full fledged review at the moment. The game could turn in to a giant piece of crap at the end, but what I have played has been quite enjoyable.  Yes the game is a tad unconventional, but innovation is good.  I remember all the bad press a game called “Unlimited Saga” garnered from the gaming press.  This game was almost too unconventional for its own good, as it had no map navigation outside of a board game-like movement system and scripted D&D style encounters, as well as a slot machine driven battle and combo system.  Once you found out how the game worked it was pretty fun.  In no means was it a great RPG, but it did not deserve the 4/10 that it received from most reviewers.  It seems that in order to enjoy a game you need to really take the game in, and not expect greatness in the first 5 minutes.

Let me start out by saying that “Lunar: Dragon Song” is not for everybody.
In fact I can’t really say it’s at the top of my list of RPGs. I will even go as far as saying it’s the worst Lunar Game that has come out.  Aside from that, I would like to keep from doing what all the other reviewers have been doing: scaring people away from a game they might like.  This game is far from perfect, but if you give it a chance it is at least enjoyable.
Here is what this particular LUNAR game is all about, good and bad:
  These are the three most contested points I have been seeing about this game, and I will try to show both sides to any of the features. 

“Lunar: Dragon Song” features an odd battle system.
  The player progresses through the game in one of two ways, both are necessary to complete the game.  Combat Mode is essentially pretty standard, as you battle enemies and gain items necessary to your missions that you are on, which include finding things in the woods, and delivering them to people.  The reason you ca not keep in this mode is that once in combat mode, you will gain NO “Althena Tribute” (experience points) so you must also fight using “Virtue Mode.”

“Virtue Mode” is strange
because it is the only way you can actually progress through the game.  As you walk on to an area you will notice that an indicator on the lower screen contains a series of check boxes related to the number of enemies in said environment. Once you kill one of the Monsters, it is considered "purified." This checks one of those check boxes and a pocket watch begins a one minute countdown.  At this point you can either find another enemy to reset the clock or let the timer run out, which respawns the enemy.  Once all the checkboxes are checked in succession, you will gain 30% of your HP/MP and be able to unlock that areas blue chest which, from what I have seen so far, has usually contained powerful items.

This fighting system has it pros and cons
as it keeps players from artificially leveling up to level 80 bajillion before they should, while making you actually work for money in the game. This game apparently has the old standard of raising Boss stats as you level up, thus if you get insanely powerful too fast, really dumb bosses will destroy you without hesitation. 

As you step into an actual battle
, you will notice that the developers have stripped the ability to actually chose what monster or boss you actually attack. This is odd because, for the most part, they have not added any replacement feature as a strategic element, unless the strategy itself is that you are fighting random monsters.

This can have some bad effects
to battles as it almost always seems like a battle goes like this: In a normal battle containing the fictitious party of Satan and two butterflies (Satan is not really in the game as far as I know), Satan will always be the last thing you attack, thus meaning you have to endure more of his uber-powerful attacks than you would rather not come face to face with.  Once you level up to a substantial point, this becomes less and less of an issue as the monsters are not that hard.

Another nice tidbit is that you can hold down “R” to speed up battles,
and in order to run, you actually have to yell into the DS, although blowing into it works just fine, as screaming “RUN!” will make you look foolish in public.

This is my biggest gripe in the game:
when you walk around on the world map, you are fine, but if you decide to run, you will lose 1hp for around every 5 seconds you run, making some forested areas insanely tedious to navigate. This is alleviated by leveling up your characters to a decent point. I bet the programmers did this in order to keep people from running all the time, but I think a simple stamina bar as seen in quite a few other RPGs would have been better implemented.  At low levels this “run and you die” situation could be deadly.

The good side to traveling is
that towns/cities have been streamlined so that you do not have to walk around forever to trigger events.  A town shows up as a static picture of said town with an icon represented by you on a grid.  Move your character over to whatever spot you want and click on it to enter, or simply use the DS stylus to pick the exact spot you want to step into.

DS functionality:
 Lunar does not really take advantage of the DS
very well as the graphics are almost 16 bit and suffer from the same “re-sizing” problem that Xenogears for the PSX has with its sprites, ie they look blocky when they are shown close up. 

Here’s a list of DS Stuff you can do:
  • You can connect via wireless LAN and share rare and unique items and trade them
  • The aforementioned wireless support.
  • Town navigation and menu scrolling handled with the stylus.
  • You can save at anytime for on the go gaming. (Although, it has been this way in all Lunar games.)
  • Battles happen on both screens as flying enemies stay on top, out of reach, and land monsters on the ground, when you kill a ground baddie a flyer comes down to take its place.

In Conclusion:
And that is honestly about it, If I was not sure this was made especially for the DS, it would almost seem like a GBA game. I almost wish the programmers would have challenged themselves more, as the presentation is really what hurts this game.  Not only is the game not exactly great looking, it seems rushed, the dialog is more akin to that of old games like Breath of Fire II, than modern RPGs, and is full of typos. Because of this, the game has this “old school” feeling to it, which is actually why I like the game.

I know that I essentially just said the game was not polished,
but I remember the first few Final Fantasy games, Breath of Fire 1, and 2, etc….these games were all known for weird typos and a game that was more about the game itself than the story.  Yes, I think a more compelling story would have helped this game quite a bit, but the lack of one (so far) does not hurt it either, as this game is made specifically for a handheld system.  Quick bursts of game play here and there without being tied down by a three hour soliloquy by a character is great for between class DS breaks for me.  I remember trying to play “Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis” a few times between classes and getting into a 1 hour endless zombie battle that made me mad, more than let me have fun.

Now, I am definitely waiting
for Final Fantasy 3, Xenosaga 1& 2, or Kartia (If it comes stateside) to possibly become the first “Must have” RPG for the DS.  But everyone must remember, greatness takes time, before we had Final Fantasy VII on the PSX, we had games like “Beyond the Beyond” that were not great, but not terrible either.

Final Verdict:
Rent Lunar to see if you like it, then you can decide for yourself!        

Until next time,

-Editorial by Stephen Kelley-
-Property of