Lunar Silver Star HarmonyESRB:
Developer: XSeed Games
Publisher: Game Arts
Memory Stick Duo 768 KB
I was quite excited when I heard that Game Arts was set to bring an old classic back to the gaming masses of today. Lunar, of Sega CD fame, has finally come to Sony's PSP. The recently released Lunar Silver Star Harmony has hit store shelves courtesy of XSEED Games. Fans of the series should rejoice as it has been completely redrawn with some added extras. Hopefully new age gamers will embrace the simplistic gameplay from days gone by.
For older gamers, or fans of the series, they will immediately see how Silver Star Harmony has been redone for the PSP. In my opinion this iteration is the best looking version of Lunar ever created. The environments have been beautifully redrawn, and the character and menu art looks gorgeous on the PSP's small LCD screen. The sprites are crisp, clean, and colourful from beginning to end. The game still retains that old charm of a genre from the past, and it may seem a bit outdated to newer or casual fans. Most should know though that the early RPG's were created in a time before the polygon world that we now know. Huge 3D environments and special effects do not make an appearance here in Silver Star Harmony, but gamers should not be disappointed by this fact. The game's cut scenes also appear artfully hand drawn, in lush anime-style, like the originals. I liked the new isometric layout of the towns and surroundings; it gives the otherwise somewhat flat areas some depth.
One notable issue with Silver Star Harmony is that it has huge loading times. Every time you go through a door the screen fades to black while loading the next area. This is not a big deal early in the game, but as you venture deeper into the story this disc accessing can begin to drain the fun out of the title, as well as your PSP battery. I am not sure if downloading the game from the PS Network would help or fix the long loading times. In theory you would think it would with the game coming off the memory card drive instead of the UMD.
The games music pushes right to the forefront in this remake as it is just fantastic. The sweeping melodies are very catchy and can become instant hits. Game Arts has ensured that the soundtrack sounds as good as ever here. The audio is very nice, especially the orchestral layout of the original soundtrack.
The voice acting is also very well done although it can be over the top at times. The lip synching also seems to be off on occasion with talking happening places where there is none. It can be funny to watch and can seem a bit awkward at times, but in the end it never takes away from the gaming experience.
As with other PSP titles, and portable gaming titles as a whole, the game is best listened and enjoyed through the headphone feature. The external speakers are just fine for those who like it, but for full stereo separation and optimal sound performance headphones are the best way to go.
The story in Silver Star Harmony is pretty typical for an RPG. The world is thrown into utter chaos after the Goddess Althena mysteriously vanishes. She is responsible for keeping peace and tranquillity throughout the land. In a little village called Burg lives young Alex, who idolizes Dyne, a Dragon master and defender of Goddess Althena. The adventure continues from there with a ton of things to do. There is a wonderful prologue in the game that helps explain some of the background, which is a welcome addition if you are new to the series.
Silver Star Harmony features a simple and sometimes addictive, yet relatively unique approach to its turn-based combat and strategy. The gameplay is pure turn based combat from yesteryear. I for one love the simplified system which doles out its turns one at a time. This saves you from the sometimes overwhelming onslaught of an enemy barrage. On the flipside, this style does have its drawbacks of course as it slows the game down. Battles can vary from requiring great strategy (usually only for boss fights) to mindless grinding while out and about on the map. The latter makes up the bulk of frustration found in the game.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in needing or wanting to level up your characters, being that it is the primary way in which to do so. Battle maps are laid out in such a way that combat can become boring. You will go from one zone to another revealing an assortment of enemies to battle, all roaming in little patterns around the screen. Frustratingly, moving back and forth between zone screens regenerates all the enemies you have just finished killing and it does get a bit tedious after sometime.
The good news is that the actual combat can be pretty simple and even quick, depending on how involved you want to be with your characters actions. I like the option to have individual characters controlled by the AI, or the fact that you can even have one full turn where the AI controls everybody and everything in your party. While this may mean you can plough through dungeons of random monsters pretty quickly, it does take away from some of the customization in your characters. The AI does what it likes, sometimes without any logic, whereas when you are in control you can actually pick characters with certain attributes to battle particular enemies. Luckily you can switch back and forth if you so wish, but this may also become a bit of chore down the road. Regardless, after countless hours of repetitive battles, having the AI take over for awhile can be advantageous and a welcomed and deserved break.
In true RPG-style you explore dungeons, venture on a world map, acquire new items, and gain levels and experience. The one downside about levelling is that you have no control over what happens when your characters level up as the experience points you earn go into a collective pot enhancing them as a whole. You cannot put points into different areas like combat, magic, strength, dexterity, etc. Instead, the game automatically adds attribute points to enhance your character generally speaking.
Silver Star Harmony has no online functions to tinker or play with, but the game does last about 30 hours or so. Veterans of the genre should be able to get through faster, but most will probably need the time to explore everything.
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