The PSP has housed a myriad of classic JRPGs since its 2005 launch, but while most have been largely unchanged ports, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony has been given elaborate audio and visual facelift. So aside from the same beautifully rendered anime cut scenes, this classic Game Arts adventure has a completely new look. And while there are certainly better options on the PSP to sate your classic JRPG appetite, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is a decent game in its own right. It may have aged (and not well in some aspects), but it shouldn’t be overlooked by fans of old-school RPGs.
As far as JRPG stories go, Lunar’s can be filed under pure vanilla. The protagonist is a small-town boy who dreams of becoming an adventurer; a dream that soon become reality when he is tasked by an ancient cave-dwelling dragon to become a Dragonmaster just like his long-deceased idol, Dyne. It’s a story that flows quite well, despite some standard JRPG meanders along the way. Plus, the characters, while cliched, are charming and interesting.
However, while the story may flow like a mountain stream, the transition from area-to-area does not. Entering a new room blackens the screen and kills the music as if you were watching the final frame of an early twentieth-century film. This occurs every single time you exit and enter a new screen, so you’ll often be watching a five-second vignette of nothingness, which really hampers the flow of gameplay.
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The turn-based battle system, which is initiated by touching enemy sprites on-screen, is another dose of standard JRPG flavor. You have your typical battle options: attack, magic, special move, flee, item, etc, and it’s all decent fun. That is, save for one potentially frustrating element: stepping before executing a non-ranged regular attack.
You see, non-ranged regular attacks (sword-swipes and such) are preceded by stepping up to the enemy, so if your character (usually the one in the back) is far away from his target, he’s probably not going to connect until his second turn. This wasn’t a problem for me, but a friend of mine who’s relatively new to the genre dropped the system before even completing the game’s first dungeon. So the battles, which will be a boon for the most austere of JRPG fans, may turn away players raised on more streamlined systems.
The sound is charmingly old school and cheesy at the same time. Village themes are standard JRPG ballads, and the redone voice acting is hilariously bad. But you will feel spirited away by said ballads, and at least have chortles for the duration of these spoken-dialogue scenes.
The visuals department is where Lunar really shines, as this is a downright beautiful game. The animated cutscenes look great and are extremely sharp on the PSP’s small screen. The game’s towns, dungeons, and other landscapes, while not particularly extravagant, exude with likewise brilliance. The top-down view of the gorgeous rivers and villages spawned several nostalgia-filled flashbacks. Where RPGs were first and foremost interested in provoking warm and fuzzy feelings in the player. There’s no denying that Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is a visual feast for anyone who has played the old versions.
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony brings the best and worst of the old school to your PSP. It has that classic, yet mass-produced, JRPG story, epic, yet cheesy, soundtrack, and old-school friendly, yet potentially frustrating, battle system. There are also some terrible load times: which constitute a serious hamper to the flow of the game. But Lunar”s one of those cases, where the final product is greater than the sum of its parts. Indeed, there are better classic options for the system (especially on PSN), but none with the polish of Lunar. So, if you’re in the mood for a refurbished, lengthy quest that hearkens back to the adventuring days of old, Silver Star Harmony is a decent place to start.
Pros: Brilliant visuals, endearing characters, and a decent battle system that will appeal to the hardcore
Cons: A potentially frustrating battle-system for newcomers, horrid voice acting, a run-of-the-mill story, and bland environments