Lunar: Dragon Song
Content at a glance:
<p align="left"><b>Violence:</b> Small amounts of blood; dead characters lying around; a monster is stabbed in the forehead.</p> <p align="left"><b>Spirituality:</b> A goddess brings life to the world and plays a large role in the story; magic comes from this goddess or one of her dragons; main antagonist seeks to become a god; humanistic storyline.</p> <p align="left"><b>Adult Content:</b> Sexual content from other Lunar games is absent.</p> <p align="left"><b>Positive Content:</b> Jian disregards his own safety for his friends; his friends admonish him for doing so; friends stay together through many dangers.</p>
Lunar: Dragon Song is the first original game in the Lunar series in over a decade. Like the last game in the series, Lunar Legend, Dragon Song was published in the US by Ubisoft instead of the now-defunct Working Designs, the company responsible for localizing and publishing the rest of the series. Unfortunately, the difference in quality control shows.
Dragon Song tells the story of Jian Campbell, a courier with a talent for acrobatics, and Lucia Collins, Jian's companion and love interest, as they attempt to deliver a package, but end up on a journey with much greater implications than they could have ever imagined. The story in Lunar: Dragon Song is derivative of the Lunar games that came before it. If it happens in Dragon Song, it was most likely done in one or more of the other games, and much better, at that. The characters lack motivation for most of their actions, and those that actually have a personality seem to have more than one, behaving differently from scene to scene. All of the characters are archetypal, but lack the charm, whit, and humor that were imbued into the characters of past Lunar games. As is stands, you guide a party of walking tropes through a poorly translated story that uses bad foreshadowing, an unsatisfying climax, and a cop-out epilogue to firmly cement its standing as one of the worst RPG stories ever.
The music was slightly above average; none of it is extraordinarily good or bad. Music carries over from one screen to another, so it doesn't annoyingly start over when you move from one shop to another.
The sound effects when going through menus are pulled from the same bag of annoying clicks and beeps that many other games employ, but just because other game developers do it does not mean that it's not unimaginative. The same sound effect is used when damage is done, regardless of the method. Fists, feet, arrows, claws, swords, umbrellas, and (I can only assume) magic do not make the same sounds when hitting things in real life, and the only reason they do in a game is lack of effort.
The field backgrounds leave a lot to be desired. Most of them look like they were made with a slightly dated version of RPG Maker, and are bland beyond all reason. One forest late in the game was particularly horrible: the designers decided that the best way to show it was raining was to cover the screen with opaque diagonal lines that transition from dark blue to light. Honestly, if your graphic designers are turning out effects that look like they were produced in Windows Paint, it is time to fire them.
The battle animations for the playable characters are okay, but nothing spectacular. For every good point, there are ten jaggies. The attack animations get stale very quickly, and the few magic effects there are look stock. The designers tried to simulate 3D battles by having the camera move around during battle, but the enemies and PCs are sprites, so they are always looking either left or right. This often leads to a character looking off into the distance while they attack an enemy that is to their side. Besides this glaring error, I noticed a few instances of background tiles not matching those around them. This was most apparent in a cave that had many cracked floors: the sections that were cracked were a bright blue, while those around that tile were navy blue. Because of this, it felt like I was playing a very strange game of checkers.
One thing that has set the Lunar games apart from most other RPGs is that there are no random battles. Instead, enemies are represented on the field by “symbols,” which are gray versions of different enemy types. This is welcome, as it allows you to bypass simple battles when moving back through areas you have been to many times.
Holding B causes the party to run, but everyone in the party loses approximately 1HP per second while running. Not only that, but the developers did not want anyone to run their party to death, so they made it so that, when any of your party members' HP reaches 1/3 of the maximum, you can no longer run. So, you have the decision to either walk everywhere in a painfully slow manner, or cause your apparently chain-smoking party members to cough up their lungs. As your levels increase, this will become less and less of a problem, but it is simply terrible at lower levels. A stamina meter, or perhaps limiting it to small bursts of speed, would have been a much better and less annoying way of keeping the player from running from every battle.
You are not given many decisions during battle: you can select attack, item, or skill/magic. You are not given an opportunity to target specific enemies in this game, so your characters will attack enemies randomly instead of teaming up against a single opponent. Along those same lines, Jian is the only character in the game that can deal any significant amount of damage to enemies, so a battle with seven enemies will more often than not take seven or more rounds to complete. This led to me setting battles to automatic and holding the R button to speed the battles up to 3x speed. Unfortunately, doing this can lead to your equipment being broken by certain enemies, something that could not be avoided, anyways, since you would not be able to manually target them. As such, saving after each battle is almost a necessity.
You will not find any gore in this game, although there is a minuscule amount of blood to be found. A war makes up a large part of the story, and character sprites are seen dead on the ground, and one monster is stabbed in the forehead by a thrown sword. Another character is mentioned to have been eaten by that same monster. The violence is no more graphic than most children's action cartoons.
The game's intro tells the story of how the goddess Althena brought life to the dead world of Lunar, and she plays a rather large part in the story. There are two kinds of magic: Althena Magic and Black Magic. Althena Magic consists of restorative and support spells that stem directly from the power of the goddess, whereas Black Magic is powered by the spirits of the four dragons that are Althena's subordinates and are used to harm enemies. The main antagonist is also seeking to coopt Althena's powers in order to become a god, himself.
It is revealed later in the story that Althena decided that one omnipotent being should not rule over humanity, so she sealed herself away as a human child. The game ends with two minor characters discussing how she was right, and that humans should be the masters of their own destiny.
This game lacks the sexual humor found in the earlier games, both overt and covert. Unfortunately, Ubisoft seems to have decided to take out all humor of any kind, but I digress.
Jian is completely devoted to his friends. He is willing to go to any length in order to protect them, often disregarding his own safety for their sake. They are likewise quick to chastise him for being too ready to throw his life away, and stay by his side through many dangers.
Lunar: Dragon Song has content that is standard fair for fantasy games. Even so, it doesn't have much to offer a gamer: the gameplay is repetitive and broken, it lacks a compelling story, the humor from other game in the series is completely absent, and the game simply isn't fun.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.
About this game
- ERSB Rating:
- E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
- Japan Art Media
- September 27, 2005
- Review Published:
- August 24, 2008 / 9:00 am
- Nintendo DS
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