GameSpite Journal 12: Lunar – Eternal Blue

With Lunar – Eternal Blue, Game Arts and Working Designs finally managed to deliver the RPG they’d surely intended to create with its predecessor. While the sequel didn’t vary radically from the original Silver Star, the degree of polish Eternal Blue applied to the basic Lunar structure created a real sense of transformation. The battle system did little new: Positioning still played a small factor in combat, adding the most meager degree of variety and strategy imaginable to an otherwise limited combat system. The story still dabbled in RPG clichés (in this case a resurrected evil from 1,000 years past and the inherent monstrosity of organized religion). And the main character, Hiro, wasn’t even that different than Alex, all the way down to his fluffy flying “kitty” companion.

Oh, but it’s the little things. Eternal Blue expanded the anime-style cutscenes, bringing a stunning degree of detail and animation to the artwork while running in a bitmap format that didn’t suffer the usual video compression of CD-based animation. The writers took pleasure in subverting expectations surrounding characters: The healer wasn’t the usual staff-wielding teen girl but rather a skeezy middle-aged man with a gambling problem. The bruiser on the team was a female dancer. And Hiro’s journey didn’t result in him becoming Dragonmaster—that role instead went to the least likely candidate, a returning figure from The Silver Star.

While Eternal Blue hit on many of the same story beats as The Silver Star, it did so with more panache, more enthusiasm, and more grace. The comedy dabbled less in the lowbrow (though slapstick fans were hardly left in the cold) and more in the offbeat: See also “Mystere.”

Genuine RPG sequels were as rare in the mid-’90s as they are today, which allowed Eternal Blue to leverage its predecessor’s story in interesting ways. Besides the Dragonmaster’s identity, the central plot revolved around the question of what happened in the wake of Lunar’s goddess Althena (aka Luna) choosing to live and die as a mortal rather than maintaining stewardship-through-resurrection over the world in the event of that long-sealed evil’s return. Players visited familiar locations, changed radically over time; presumed allies and enemies showed up on the wrong side of the line in the sand.

In short, Eternal Blue excelled as both an RPG and as a sequel. The game wasn’t without its share of controversy, though… most of it stemming from Working Designs’ tweaks. Emboldened by their success with the original Lunar, the company began implementing more dramatic changes on their selections, which in this case meant the addition of a cost for saving games: Players were forced to spend experience (you know, the stuff that made characters stronger) in order to save their progress… which, combined with occasional unexpected spikes in difficulty (hello, Borgan) created a sense of save file frugality that often came around to bite players in their behind. Despite the added frustration, though, Eternal Blue remains one of the Sega CD’s true stand-out releases: The sort of game you’d feel good about buying a doomed add-on for.

Article by Jeremy Parish

GameSpite Journal 12Lunar – Eternal Blue

15 thoughts on “GameSpite Journal 12: Lunar – Eternal Blue

  1. I love this game so.

    I like it more than the original, even. And the trope-subverting characters (in addition to the drunken gambling lech of a priest and Kyle being replaced by a dancer, don’t forget the mage being a sort of insane money-grubber) play a big part in that.

  2. It’s a bummer that Eternal Blue only got a small fraction of the ports and remakes it’s predecessor did. I liked Silver Star Harmony and would like to see what happens next, but the last system EB came out for is the PS1.

  3. I’ve only ever played the PS1 version, but Eternal Blue is one of my favorite games. It twists the usual cliches just enough to feel completely familiar and fresh at the same time. I have half a mind to go play it right now.

  4. Oh, Lunar. I love this series so very much. Eternal Blue in particular is such a fantastic example of the JRPG genre, easily on par with the likes of Chrono Trigger and the better Final Fantasy installments. The Saturn/Playstation remakes were good too, but the Sega CD originals felt so ahead of their time in the mid 90’s.

    For one, the way they use the battle system as a storytelling device is sort of brilliant. The most obvious example is Lucia. She’s AI-controlled, which helps establish her other-worldliness, and the way the AI controls her directly parallels her behavior in the story. She’s introduced as an invincible badass from outer space, is swiftly de-powered to a weakling with 1HP, and as she slowly regains her strength and becomes more attached to her new friends over the course of the game she also slowly transitions from only defending and running from enemies, to attacking those that target her, to casting occasional buffs and heals on Hiro, to eventually being a full-on team player that deals major damage to large groups of enemies and will act as an emergency healer in a pinch. So while Lucia becomes more attached to her companions as the game progresses, the player becomes more attached to her as she becomes more and more useful in combat, which makes her character arc feel all the more real.

    Jean is another great example of the battle system being used as a storytelling tool. At one point she goes through a drastic transformation of her own, getting a new character sprite and a whole new set of karate-based combat abilities. But when she’s later dropped into a solo boss battle it’s her dance ability that saves her hide (namely the final spell unlocked in her dance category, Dopple Dance, which subverts his most powerful attack). The message is clear: Jean’s training as an assassin gives her strength, but it’s her newfound positivity through her passion for dance that truly makes her more powerful than her evil former karate master, and the player must embrace that part of her and train her otherwise-lackluster dance abilities to make her an effective party member.

    And then there’s the epilogue. The main game’s story ends on a bit of a downer note, with one major character gone and another character vowing to track them down somehow. Afterwards, a new “Epilogue” file appears on the load screen, and you can begin a new, shorter adventure with a few bonus dungeons and the ability to travel across the world again and see how the people of Lunar are adjusting to the change brought about in vanquishing the cosmic horror Zophar.

    I really could go on and on. Did I mention that I love this game?

  5. I got the Silver Star Story Complete for PS1, loved it despite its cheesiness. Would buy Eternal Blue on PSN in a heartbeat, but who has the rights?

  6. This is THE game to own a Sega CD for. Yes, there’s other good stuff on there (including the previously posted Snatcher), but nothing holds a candle to Lunar 2. It’s just a solidly built RPG that oozes with likeability.

    The magic experience for saving wasn’t too bad, except in the early going. I barely noticed it later in the game. Which, of course, begs the question of why bother in the first place, but hey. Working Designs. They just can’t help themselves, I suppose.

  7. I actually bought the Sega CD off of a friend just so I could Play Lunar 2 (never got around to buying the first game though). I would say it was worth it. It might have been the first game to leave me choked up at the ending.

    BTW, thanks for all the sega cd coverage lately. It makes me want to dust it off and boot it up. Is the Popful Mail article coming soon? :D

  8. My biggest sin as a long time gamer and RPG fan is that I have YET to play Eternal Blue! I’ve had and beat every iteration of Silver Star (Original Sega CD is still my favorite, though I will admit freely the PSX version is the best) but I continuously miss out on Blue. I have no freaking clue why. . .just too many games in my collection over the years I guess. . .

  9. Chicago Frank, Popful Mail was great, too. I must confess that I didn’t play Keio Flying Squadron, though, especially given that I’m mostly an RPG nerd. Well, I try to be, but time constraints make it really, really hard these days.

  10. I’ll also add that Eternal Blue is better in almost every conceivable way. It’s up there with Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III, Phantasy Star IV, and Lufia II as one of the best of the era, at least for me personally.

  11. Considering that Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III, Phantasy Star IV, and Lufia II are my favorite RPGS, now I HAVE to play Eternal Blue! I’m an RPG & SHMUP guy myself.

  12. There’s really nothing like Eternal Blue. I was one of the rare people to play it first, before the Silver Star, and the sense of enjoyment and wonder I got out of its world and its history speaks to the effectiveness of the game’s design (to say nothing of the charming main story). So very few RPG’s grant a true sense of HISTORY. There are of course anecdotes about the past (usually an ancient evil that has been sealed away, and often stolen conceptually from Eternal Blue), but the library books that fill the towns with tales of past millennia, the appearance of just a few members of the original game and their fond references to the grander days of the past, and the abundance of ruins and old records really fills you the same sense of excitement towards history and archeology that is held by the main character. To this day, I think that only Phantasy Star has ever accomplished something similar, and lo and behold, that’s also another one of the most intelligent RPG series, also on a Sega system!

  13. I remember enjoying Silver Star Story Complete on PSX, but unfortunately I never got to Eternal Blue. Although I’m not sad to miss the XP-to-save thing, which sounds like one of the worst in a line of questionable balance-tweaking decisions. But the rest sounds aces.

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