Lunar 2: Eternal Blue was not the first RPG I ever played.
I had played Zelda and Final Fantasy, among others, up to that point, but this was the first RPG that really showed me how powerful storytelling in video games could be.
Being the tender young age of 13, I had been playing games for several years, but never before had I cared so much about a cast of characters, been so engrossed in a story or been so enthralled by a soundtrack.
Eternal Blue is also not the first in its series; the first game in the franchise, Lunar: The Silver Star came out originally in Japan for the Sega CD in 1992, and Eternal Blue released in 1994. These games were lovingly ported to American consoles in 1993 and 1995, respectively, by Working Designs.
Silver Star received several upgraded ports in Japan to the Sega Saturn and was eventually released on the Japanese PlayStation in 1998, with Eternal Blue receiving the PSX treatment in 1999. Working Designs again handled the task of porting these enhanced remakes to American PlayStation hardware, receiving their current titles of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete in 1999 and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete in 2000.
As you can see the series has been through the Final Fantasy-esque gauntlet of ports.
For many of the same reasons I’m about to share, Silver Star is an excellent game in its own right, and if you enjoy Eternal Blue you may want to seek it out, too. But in my opinion, the second game is the superior one.
It makes a few references to the events in the previous title, and there are two or three returning characters, but no knowledge of its predecessor is necessary to enjoy it. For the most part, the cast is new and the story is similar but different enough.
You play as a gangly youth named Hiro (yes, the hero is named Hiro) who has a rather irritable pink flying cat as his best friend and constant companion.
He dreams of going off on epic journeys to far off lands and doing great things and after meeting a mysterious (and pretty) young girl who tells of great danger to come, he ends up getting exactly what he wants. Thus begins a grand adventure ensues that spans the globe, resulting in him and the friends he picks up along the way battling the forces of evil to save the world from certain doom and destruction.
This is as JRPG as they come. Although the remakes have eased up the difficulty considerably in several areas, these are still turn based battles with hit points, magic points and everything else.
Hope you like menus and selecting “attack” a lot.
The original Sega CD version had purely random battles, but in the remake you can see your enemies before you engage in battle and can occasionally run away from them. The overall battle difficulty has also been lightened significantly. Other than that, changes were made to how you level up and gained new magical spells. I will admit to not being a fan of many of the gameplay changes that were made, but the enhancements to the story, music and cutscene quality more than make up for it.
As much of a classic as the game sounds, I can admit it’s not all wine and roses. The visuals by today’s standards are laughably 16-bit (the cutscenes don’t look near as good now as they did back then), navigation around the game world is only slightly less cumbersome than it was back in the 90s, the story is unoriginal and if you don’t like turn-based battles, then there’s not much I can tell you.
Why You Should Play It
Which brings me to my biggest arguments for locating a copy of this gem:
First, the story, while unoriginal and overused, is told in such a way that you cannot help but get swept away in it.
The anime cutscenes used here are also very well done. The performance of each character seems a bit pretentious at times but meshes nicely with the gravity of the goings-on, and the voices fit the character models like a glove.
It is within these characters that the story shines brightest. Yes, the world is facing destruction, but as you meet each of Hiro’s companions, you get to know them, their personalities, back stories, strengths, weaknesses and fears. They are so likable and are given so much life that you genuinely care about them, and by the time you tackle each of their personal demons, you find yourself invested in what happens to them.
Lucia’s performance in particular is a notable one. Again, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in movies and games alike, but as she goes from a pure single-minded focus on her mission to someone who comes to understand what friendship and love are and the strength of the human spirit. It is incredibly inspiring.
When you finally face-off against the final boss (who has one of the best evil villain voices in gaming ever, in my opinion), you are less interested in saving the world than about preserving the friendships you have watched grow over the course of your adventure. You’re not fighting for the world; you’re fighting for them.
One cannot mention the Lunar games without mentioning the fantastic translation by Working Designs. Anyone who has played a WD game before knows what I mean. Rather than directly translate text and dialogue, they re-recorded all the voices and rewrote all the text to keep the general meaning, but inserted lots of (then) current American pop culture references and humor to make the game more relatable to an American audience.
Lastly, the musical score is good enough to run with the best Final Fantasy and Uematsu
If you’re someone for whom a nostalgic look elicits smiles instead of groans and you don’t mind selecting attack and magic menu options ad-nauseum, what you will find here is an absolute gem of an RPG with more charm, emotion and heart than you can shake a flying cat at.
Unfortunately, to my knowledge there is currently no legal digital version of Eternal Blue or its predecessor, so the only way to play these games is to track down a physical copy. These games may be old, but still hold up, especially when pitted against the current crop of new indie RPGs that are made to look old. They are well worth the effort to seek out.