Know Your Role #2-Lunar Eternal Blue

Welcome friends (and enemies, Nick Stephens!) to this, my 2nd edition of this new incarnation of Know Your Role, where it’s all about RPGs and there’s something I neglected to say the last time around about this review column and the other, The Handheld Chronicles, which I’ve brought back from the dead just in time for Halloween. Both article series, while featuring some games I am personally fond of, are also my journey into, at least for me, uncharted waters. While I have always been a fan of the RPG genre, obviously my knowledge is limited to those games afforded to me as a child, as well as those I have grown a fond love for. In deciding to bring this column back, I wanted to dive into new games for the first time, so please join me as I do so, and most of all, don’t laugh at me too much when I gush over a new RPG I wish I had during its peak because chances are I was either poor, uneducated to its awesome powers, or both. I will say this is ESPECIALLY true of today’s subject matter, Lunar Eternal Blue on the Sega CD.

Yes, the Sega CD, a console I never owned, and has become as rare as a Loch Ness sighting of ol’ Nessie drinking Crystal Pepsi while bouncing on Moon Shoes. Trust me, there will be many times during this column and The Handheld Chronicles where I will be reviewing before posting and thinking to myself “Why didn’t anyone tell me this existed? Why, OH SWEET GIBLETS, WHY?!”

I’d like to note, before I begin with the review, that as someone many people know as having more than enough words to say, I was left like this during the majority of my time playing Lunar Eternal Blue:

“What is this mystical thing, Spongebob?”
“I don’t know, Patrick. I don’t know.”

I’ve always believed that the very best RPGs almost play out like a book, or a really good movie, and Lunar Eternal Blue is no exception, and perhaps may be a prime example of that idea. It also seems to me that the best games in the genre always have some amazing, breathtaking music to accompany it, and once again, Lunar Eternal Blue shines bright in this regard. This is especially important to state because while there are games in any genre that have well crafted music, at times the music doesn’t always match up with the environment or the feeling of that current moment in the game. Well composed music always captures that moment in time where, if you’re connected to the story, you feel something along with these characters, and I think that’s why I was so impressed with the music in this game. It fits better than many RPGs that have good soundtracks. The music is so good, but what really impresses me is how the music was used. The sound effects are definitely in the background as far as in comparison to the soundtrack, but I don’t have a problem with that, because the sound effects aren’t what’s going to keep you coming back, it’s going to be those songs you want to hear again and again. The two games that have such amazing music, some of my favorite in the genre, are Chrono Trigger and Legend Of Mana, but I’d definitely put what I heard in this game right there with those two, if not a notch higher.

Graphics: 10
It’s easy to look at the use of FMV in this game and exclaim “Zoinks! Eye candy!” but in truth it isn’t the breathtaking visuals but the use of them in a sequence that is both pleasing to the eye and smart to those gamers looking for an all encompassing adventure they don’t want to step away from, like a good book you can’t put down. While I am not a fan of such an art style, it was done so well I felt less like I was watching anime or manga (don’t know the difference, sorry) and more like I was watching a really good cartoon on some obscure branch off channel from Cartoon Network. Lunar Eternal Blue hits you with a terrific story and it is done largely through these cut scenes and what’s clever here is while you are focusing on these amazing visuals it occurs to you that you’ve stepped into a world that’s full of some amazing characters, a world that you’re going to enjoy playing through. What’s more is there were so many games during the era of this one that relied so heavily on the use of FMV that the graphics you encounter as you actually play the game are dismal in comparison, making you feel like you were duped into purchasing a game with little substance, but thankfully Lunar spares you the same fate. Yes, these graphics are nowhere near as good as the FMV clips, but they don’t have to be. They are good enough to keep you engaged, and isn’t that what all good developers want?

Gameplay: 10
While critics of Lunar say that the menu system is only adequate in comparison to other RPGs of the time, as well as the use of pop culture jokes and comic relief in stark comparison to other dark, brooding RPG themes, including portions of the game itself, but as a fan of Earthbound I’m all over such use, and feel it creates a nice mix of emotions the gamer can latch onto. I think one of the main reasons Lunar Eternal Blue has earned such rightful fanfare is because of the world created, this universe with a vast history, plots that are both RPG staples and others far more mind boggling, all creating this melting pot of an adventure you just have to take. I know I usually poke fun at Rob Luther, but I will use him as a prime example here of why gamers come back to RPGs like Lunar Eternal Blue. Rob plays Shining Force on the Sega Genesis every year, not only as tradition, but also because it is a game he genuinely enjoys coming back to. He enjoys the story, the characters you love revisiting like old friends, and an adventure that’s worth taking as a gamer. At a time where most RPG staples and cliches were being beaten like a dead horse, Lunar Eternal Blue both pays homage to those aspects while also taking what we know and turning it completely on its head by offering us just that much more to stand out from the crowd. These are deep and compelling characters, and you know developers worked hard on this because even the NPCs are those you actually want to talk to, not just skip past to get to the main story. How many RPGs can you say have made you feel that way, that even the usually uninteresting characters are those you want to actually interact with? That’s saying something. Yes, there are bosses in this game that are hard, VERY hard, but isn’t that something that makes so many good RPGs compelling? You want a challenge to go along with everything else, and Lunar Eternal Blue gives you that as well.

If Lunar Eternal Blue’s developers made a weapon out of all they offer gamers in this RPG. Sweet key holder.

There are moments in a gamer’s life where they will remember that moment they stumbled upon special, and even though I’m sure I’m SUPER late to the party here, Lunar Eternal Blue has restored my faith in RPGs, but also opened my eyes to the Sega CD, something I often dismissed as just a minor accessory for the Genesis and not something that carries its own weight in the gaming world. Modern gamers often ask me why I still choose to play games like this, nearly 2 decades after its release, and I always return with the same answers:

“Why not?”

“I don’t like RPGs that rely solely on bells, whistles, cut scenes, or eye candy.”

And that’s the most honest truth about this game. It has beautiful scenes in it, but it doesn’t rely solely on that one feature. It isn’t resting its laurels on that, and I think that impresses me personally the most. Few RPGs can get it all right, and even though to many this includes Lunar Eternal Blue, I’ll be one of the many to stand up, applaud, and say, without question, that it comes damn near close.

Wow. Such a fun game! Next time I’ll be taking a look at another game that’s brand new to me, Shadow Hearts Covenant on the Playstation 2.

Until then, enjoy the splendors of autumn, and be sure to ALWAYS know your role!

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