Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete

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Lunar: Eternal Blue
Developer - Game Arts & Studio Alex
Publisher - Working Designs
Release date - September 15, 1995

Lunar: Eternal Blue is a role-playing video game developed by Game Arts and Studio Alex for the Sega CD as the sequel to Lunar: The Silver Star. The game was originally released in December 1994 in Japan, and later in North America in September 1995 by Working Designs. Eternal Blue expanded the story and gameplay of its predecessor, and made more use of the Sega CD's hardware, including more detailed graphics, longer, more elaborate animated cutscenes, and more extensive use of voice acting. Critics were mostly pleased with the title, giving particular merit to the game's English translation and further expansion of the role-playing game genre in CD format.

Set one thousand years after the events of The Silver Star, the game follows the adventure of Hiro, a young explorer and adventurer who meets Lucia, visitor from the far-away Blue Star, becoming entangled in her mission to stop Zophar, an evil, all-powerful being, from destroying the world. During their journey across the world of Lunar, Hiro and Lucia are joined by an ever-expanding cast of supporting characters, including some from its predecessor. Eternal Blue was remade in 1998 as Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete.


Story

The plot of Lunar: Eternal Blue was written by novelist Kei Shigema, who previously conceived the story for The Silver Star. Working together with new world designer Hajime Satou, Shigema intended to craft a story that would not only pick up where the previous game ended, but give players a thoroughly new experience that would elaborate on the history and mythos of the Lunar world. The story begins a sequence showing a young woman emerging from suspended animation inside a deserted fortress. Walking outside, she views the vast, snow-driven landscape of her world, The Blue Star, and comments on how this could not possibly be the time for her awakening. Commenting that "something must be terribly wrong", she stares into the sky to see the distant moon of Lunar, and sees a vision of a pair of clawed hands grabbing at Lunar and crushing it between its palms, squeezing the life out of the land. Worried, she knows what must be done.

Meanwhile, on the surface of Lunar, a young man named Hiro is exploring an ancient ruin with his friend Ruby where they discover a large gem, The Dragon's Eye. Upon removing the jewel from its resting place, a trap triggers causing the temple to collapse and monsters to chase after them as they make their escape. Outside the ruins, they meet Leo, leader of Althena's Guard, an army in service to the goddess, who tells them to leave the area due to rumors of a "destroyer" Althena had predicted would be in the area. Meeting with Hiro's grandfather and prominent historian, Gwyn, the group witnesses a strange light hitting a tower known as the Blue Spire, and decide to investigate. Using the Dragon's Eye, they gain access to the spire, and upon reaching the top floor meet the girl from the Blue Star, Lucia. Claiming she has come to Lunar to stop a catastrophe, she requests to be taken to Althena, the only one able to avert what very well could be a worldwide disaster. Exiting the spire, the group is contacted by a sinister voice revealed by Lucia to be Zophar, an ancient, evil god who has apparently broken free of the restraints Althena once placed on him. Draining Lucia of her magic powers, Zophar reveals that he will soon take control of Lunar, and departs with Lucia in critical condition. Deciding to help her, Hiro and Ruby take Lucia to see Ronfar, a priest living in a nearby town. Having lost his faith years ago, Hiro must convince Ronfar to return to the temple of Althena and aid Lucia which sparks memories of his past with his girlfriend, Mauri. Haunted by the fact that Mauri had taken severely ill by a curse and Ronfar was powerless to save her, Ronfar vows not to let the same thing happen again a second time. Using a powerful spell, Ronfar manages to cure Lucia, who then travels alone to the holy city of Pentagulia where Althena is said to reside.

The character of Lunar; Eternal Blue were designed by artist and Lunar veteran Toshiyuki Kubooka.

Hiro – a young man and would-be explorer who is skilled with a sword and boomerangs.
Ruby – a pink, winged cat-like creature with a crush on Hiro who claims to be a baby red dragon.
Gwyn – Hiro's adoptive grandfather, and an archaeologist.
Lucia – a mysterious and soft-spoken girl from the Blue Star who is skilled with magic and mostly naive of the world's customs.
Ronfar – a priest-turned-gambler with healing skills.
Lemina – money-grubbing heiress to the position of head of the world's highest magic guild.
Jean – a traveling dancer with a hidden past as a prisoner forced to use a deadly form of martial arts against innocent people.
Leo – captain of Althena's guard and servant of the goddess.
While the cast's primary personalities remained intact for the English release, some changes such as colorful language, jokes, and double entendres were added to their speech to make the game more comical.

Primary supporting characters include the servants of the Goddess Althena, the creator of Lunar thought to have vanished centuries ago who suddenly appeared in mortal form to lead her people.

Borgan – an obese, self-absorbed magician with his eyes on the seat of power in the magic guild.
Lunn – a martial artist and Jean's former instructor.
Mauri – Leo's sister and Ronfar's love interest.
Ghaleon – (the primary villain killed in the previous game) the current Dragonmaster, Althena's champion, and supposed protector of the world. His final end reveals that he regrets the evil he committed and does what he can to aid Hiro.
Zophar – the game's principal villain, a long-dormant evil spirit who is attempting to destroy and recreate the world to his tastes. Although his voice is heard numerous times, he remains faceless until the final battle.


  
Gameplay

Lunar: Eternal Blue is a traditional role-playing video game featuring two-dimensional character sprites and backgrounds. The game is presented from a top-down perspective with players moving the characters across numerous fantasy environments while completing story-based scenarios and battling enemy monsters. While basic game function remains similar to Lunar: The Silver Star, with story segments being presented as both on-screen text and animated cutscenes, the abundance of these interludes has been increased to over fifty minutes of movie content and an hour of spoken dialogue. Players advance the story by taking part in quests and interacting with non-player characters, which engages them in the story as well as providing tips on how to advance.

Battles in Eternal Blue take place randomly within dungeons and other hostile areas of the game. While in a battle sequence, players defeat enemy monsters either by using standard attacks or magic, with combat ending by defeating all enemies present. In order to attack an enemy, a character must first position themselves near their target by moving across the field, or by using a ranged attack to strike from a distance. The battle system in as been enhanced from The Silver Star by including the option to position characters throughout the field beforehand, as well as a more sophisticated AI attack setting that allows the characters to act on their own. Characters improve and grow stronger by defeating enemies, thereby gaining experience points that allow them to gain levels and face progressively more powerful enemies as the game advances. The player is awarded special "magic points" after combat that can be used to empower a particular character's magical attack, giving them access to new, more powerful skills with a variety of uses in and out of battle. Players can record their progress at any time during gameplay by saving to either the Sega-CD's internal RAM, or on a separately purchased RAM cartridge that fits into the accompanying Mega Drive. In order to save at any time, magic experience points equal to Hiro's level * 15 is required.



Development

Lunar: Eternal Blue was developed by Game Arts and Studio Alex, with project director Yoichi Miyagi returning to oversee the production of the new game. According to scenario writer Kei Shigema, the game's concept of an oppressive god came from the image of Sun Wukong, hero of the Chinese epic Journey to the West, being unable to escape from the gigantic palm of the Buddha. Shigema stated that "it was a picture showing the arrogance of a god who is saying, 'In the end, you pathetic humans are in my hands.' The moment I understood that, I thought, 'Oh, I definitely want to do this,' it'll definitely match perfectly. So we used it just like that. Eternal Blue took three years and over US$2.5 million to produce, and contains twice as much dialogue as its precessor. The game's development team originally wanted the game to be set only a few years after The Silver Star, and would feature slightly older versions of the previous cast along with the new characters, yet discarded the idea when they thought the new cast would lose focus. Like its predecessor, the game contains animated interludes to help tell the game's story, which were developed in-house with Toshiyuki Kubooka serving as animation director. While The Silver Star contained only ten minutes of partially voiced animation, Eternal Blue features nearly fifty minutes of fully voiced video content.

The game's North American version was translated and published by Working Designs, who had previously produced the English release of The Silver Star. Headed by company president Victor Ireland, the game's script contains the same light humor of the original, with references to American pop culture, word play, and breaking of the fourth wall not seen in the Japanese version. Working closely with the staff at Game Arts, Working Designs implemented design and balance fixes into the American release, including altering the difficulty of some battles that were found to be "near impossible". Finding little risk in the ability to save the game anywhere, Ireland's team added a "cost" component to the game's save feature, where players would have to spend points earned after battles to record their progress, remarking that "[We] wanted to make the player think about where and when to save without making it too burdensome. In addition, Working Designs implemented the ability for the game to remember the last action selected by the player during combat, allowing them to use the same command the next round without having to manually select it. Like The Silver Star, the North American version of Eternal Blue featured an embossed instruction manual cover.




Audio
The soundtrack for Lunar: Eternal Blue was composed by Noriyuki Iwadare, who had previously co-produced the music for Lunar: The Silver Star. The game utilizes studio-quality Red Book audio for one of the two vocal songs. (Both are CD tracks in the US version.) Every other piece of music was encoded into 16 kHz PCM files. Dialogue and certain ambient effects also used the PCM format. Most sound effects were generated through the Sega Genesis sound processor. Along with music director Isao Mizoguchi, Iwadare's goal was to produce music that contained "a high degree of originality" when compared to both the previous game and role-playing games in general. While the original game's music represented a number of styles and genres, Iwadare purposefully narrowed his range of composition to give the songs a unified feel. The English version contains an original title not found in the Japanese release, named the "Star Dragon Theme". It was used as the BGM for the Star Tower dungeon. The game's ending theme, "Eternal Blue ~Thoughts of Eternity~" (ETERNAL BLUE performed by Chisa Yokoyama, is one of Iwadare's favorite compositions. An official soundtrack featuring selected tracks from the game was released in Japan on February 22, 1995 by Toshiba-EMI Records.



Voice
Lunar: Eternal Blue features spoken dialogue during cutscenes and specific points in the game's script. While The Silver Star contained only fifteen minutes of voiced content, Eternal Blue features over an hour and a half of pre-recorded speech. The game's cast consists of fifteen voiced roles, with the original Japanese version featuring veteran anime and video game actors, including RokurĊ Naya returning as Ghaleon. For the game's English version, Working Designs hired friends and staff of the game's production crew, many of whom had worked on previous projects with the company. John Truitt also reprises his role as Ghaleon, and is joined by a number of new cast members to the Lunar series, many of which would return in future games.

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