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 12: Lunar – Eternal Blue