Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete

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Developer - Game Arts
Publisher - Working Designs
Release date - May 28, 1999

Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, originally released in Japan as simply Lunar: Silver Star Story is a role-playing video game developed by Game Arts and Japan Art Media as a remake of 1992's Lunar: The Silver Star. While the overall plot remains true to the original, accommodations are made to the game's story to allow for a larger, richer cast, as well as additional scenarios.

Initially released on the Sega Saturn in 1996, the game has gone through several variations, beginning with enhanced video support in conjunction with the Saturn's MPEG graphics add-on in 1997, and later being ported to Sony's PlayStation in 1998. The PlayStation version was released in North America by Working Designs, who had also produced the English adaptation of the original game, in May 1999.


The plot of Silver Star Story Complete remains true to the original Sega-CD version written by Kei Shigema. Novelist Keisuke Shigematsu was recruited as the remake's scenario writer, and was tasked with expanding the previous script written by Shigema to make the game more current. As in the original version, players assume the role of Alex, a young boy who hopes to become a great hero like his idol, the legendary Dragonmaster Dyne. At the insistence of his fortune-hunting friend Ramus, Alex travels to the nearby Dragon's Cave with his cat-like companion Nall, and sweetheart Luna, to seek a precious gem. When the team reaches the cave's interior, they find Quark, an aged, wise dragon who sees hidden potential in Alex, and beckons him to travel the world and become its protector as the new Dragonmaster. Returning home, the group expresses mutual interest in Alex's quest; Ramus wishes to sell the dragon gem at a large city, Nall wants to find out what he is, and Luna merely to protect Alex. The group sets off across the frontier to the port town of Saith to continue their journey.

The cast of The Silver Star all return for the game's remake, retaining their original designs by anime and manga artist Toshiyuki Kubooka. Players assume the role of Alex, who is joined by a menagerie of playable and supporting characters who aid him on his quest.

Alex - a young boy from a small town who dreams of becoming an adventurer like his idol, Dyne.
Luna - his childhood friend and sweetheart.
Nall - a winged, white, cat-like creature with an uncertain origin.
Ramus - son of the town mayor with dreams of becoming a rich businessman.
Nash - a boisterous magician-in-training from a prestigious magic school.
Mia - quiet daughter of the magic guild's headmistress.
Jessica - a tomboyish priestess.

Kyle - a self-absorbed vagrant and ladies' man as well as Jessica's strained boyfriend.
Each character's personalities were expanded for the new version to make them easier for the player to relate to, and give each of them more presence in the game's story. As the game’s designers felt that Luna was lacking presence in the original game, she was included in the player's party for a longer period and her past was expanded by giving her confounding dream sequences.

Ghaleon, a dark magician who seeks godhood, serves as the primary antagonist, and initially appears as an ally to Alex's cause. In the new version, Ghaleon's personality is altered to make him a more sympathetic character. Motivation for his plans to rule the world were shifted from revenge to misplaced concern for humanity not having a true leader. He is still undeniably ruthless and cruel, however. Game Arts added new villains to the story, feeling that the game's opposition lacked enough characterization. These include Royce and Phacia, two powerful sorceresses who are sisters to Xenobia, Ghaleon's top general who appeared in the original as his sole underling (who, in this version, actually has romantic feelings for him).


Silver Star Story Complete is a traditional, top-down role-playing video game featuring two-dimensional character and background graphics. Using the Sega Saturn and PlayStation's advanced hardware, many elements of the original game's presentation have been altered, including a larger color palette, more sophisticated visual effects, and improved sound quality. Throughout gameplay, the story is interspersed with fully animated cut scenes designed to give the game a cinematic feel, and allow the player to get more involved in the game's plot. Players advance the game's narrative by completing story-based objectives and interacting with non-player characters. In the original version, players encountered enemy monsters randomly every few steps when traveling in a harsh environments, while the remake now makes enemies visible, with combat ensuing only after a character has come in contact with one.

Many of the game's new battle features were adapted from Lunar: Eternal Blue, including the auto-battle feature that allows players to set moves and actions in advance. While in combat, a player may choose to attack an enemy, move about the battlefield, use magic or items, stand their ground and defend, or flee the battle entirely. Silver Star Story Complete retains the original version's movement feature, which requires characters to be within a certain distance of an enemy before it can be attacked. Battles are won when all enemies are defeated, yielding experience points that allow characters to gain levels, making them stronger as well as allowing access to better abilities. By gaining levels, as well as finding or purchasing increasingly more powerful weapons and armor, characters can battle increasingly more powerful enemies as the game progresses.


The remake initially began as Lunar: Silver Star Story, developed by a collaboration between Game Arts and Japan Art Media. Immediately after producing Lunar: Eternal Blue for the Sega-CD console in 1994, much of the original staff expressed interest in remaking the first Lunar title on current, more advanced hardware. Displeased with many aspects of the original game's design, Game Arts sought to improve the original version to coincide with their initial vision of the project, including more sophisticated animation, better quality CD music, and a more engaging script. Silver Star Story was headed by producer Youichi Miyaji, who had previously worked on the first two Sega-CD Lunar titles, who enlisted help from the staff of Japan Art Media to aid in the heavy-cost production of the game.

While the original game contained roughly ten minutes of animation produced internally, the remake features fifty minutes of new, fully animated cut scenes by Studio Gonzo. For the game's first release on the Sega Saturn in October 1996, in-game movies could only display in quarter-screen and low fidelity due to the system's video limitations. This was corrected for the game's second release in June 1997 with the introduction of the Saturn's MPEG card adapter, which allowed for full-screen playback at better quality. Both Saturn versions would be published by Kadokawa Shoten. In May 1998, Silver Star Story was ported to the PlayStation system in Japan, this time published by Entertainment Software Publishing. This version, while retaining all the extra features of the second Saturn release, including full-screen movies, was unable to produce the same high-fidelity playback as its video card-enhanced predecessor.

In late 1995, California-based software company Working Designs, who had previously provided the translation for the original Silver Star, signed on to produce the English-language version. The company originally expressed interest in localizing the Saturn version under the name Lunar: Silver Star Story Director's Cut to be released in Fall 1996. The initial project was dropped due to internal conflicts between Working Designs and Sega of America, and work began on the PlayStation version in 1998. Silver Star Story Complete was headed by company president Victor Ireland, who also served as head translator and localizer. Like the original game, the English version features a lighthearted, non-literal interpretation of the original Japanese script while retaining the same basic story, which now includes American pop culture references, breaking the fourth wall, and slapstick humor. Working Designs kept in close contact with the original Japanese team, adding several new features to the North American version including DualShock controller support, the ability to switch between memory card slots on the save screen, and the ability to create up to fifteen save files instead of three. Programming and production difficulties stifled progress, resulting in numerous delays and changing release dates until the game's eventual release in May 1999. A stand-alone demo version of the game was distributed to several game stores across the United States which preceded the final version, as well as a Ghaleon punching puppet available with pre-order of Lunar 2 Eternal Blue.

Silver Star Story Complete was initially released in North America as a limited collector's edition which included two game discs, a hardbound instruction manual, a soundtrack CD, a "Making of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete" special disc, and a cloth map of the Lunar world. The package retailed for $60.00 to cover the cost of the elaborate extras. Working Designs would also publish their own strategy guide for the game, also billed as a collector's item. Ireland's team would add an easter egg to the "Making of" video disc in the form of a minigame based on Atari's arcade game Warlords called Lords of Lunar accessed by using a code found in-game. In February 2002, a special "Fan-Art Edition" of the game was released featuring disc artwork by contributors to the Working Designs website, which lacked the extras of the collector's edition. A Windows-based PC version of Silver Star Story was released in Japan in December 1999 by DigiCube featuring higher resolution graphics and video playback. Working Designs had expressed interest in bringing this version to North America in 2002, but claimed that the English version was too buggy and unstable to be released.


The music for Silver Star Story Complete consists of entirely new background themes by Noriyuki Iwadare. While Hiroshi Fujioka, Isao Mizoguchi, and Yoshiaki Kubodera collaborated with Iwadare on the Sega-CD version, only Iwadare would return for the remake, composing nearly one hundred new songs. When creating the music for Silver Star Story Complete, Iwadare drew from his own experiences, admitting that he was trying to put a personal touch on his work and "express [myself] through [my] honest emotions". Music director Isao Mizoguchi claims that the music process was "a little different" than the companies' previous works, with the game's main themes being composed before they viewed the scenes that required them, making adjustments as they went along. Each song was divided into four categories: town or village, dungeon, battle, or field; each with their own pacing and emotional direction. Iwadare described the game's music as "very well received" according to fan feedback. The Japanese version features a new opening theme, "Tsu·Ba·Sa" (TSU
BASA, lit. Wings) performed by Kyōko Hikami. An intermediary song, "Kaze no Nocturne" (風のノクターン Kaze no Nokutān?, lit. Wind's Nocturne), also called "The Boat Song", was added to the game to heighten the emotion of Alex and Luna's departure into the world, which was kept at Mizoguchi's insistence even as material was being cut for time.

For the North American release, Victor Ireland had expressed interest in replacing many of the new themes with ones from the Sega-CD version, including the original opening theme "Fighting Through the Darkness". After translating the game, however, Working Designs was left with very little extra space on each game disc, and the idea was abandoned. Many of the arranged songs meant for the English release were included on a special soundtrack packaged with the collector's edition. The English version features the opening theme, "Wings", performed by Jennifer Stigile, who also performs "Wind's Nocturne". Additionally, Working Designs' arrangements of classic Lunar: The Silver Star pieces were used to replace the new music in two animation sequences, "A Trinity of Terror" and "The Green Earth".

Silver Star Story Complete features twenty voiced characters, four times the original version. The characters' voices are used in pre-designated cut scenes, animated interludes and when using special attacks in battle. The English cast was composed of family and friends of the Working Designs staff, as well as local talent from the area. Ashley Angel, Jenny Stigile (Magallanes), Rhonda Gibson, Jackie Powers, Hal Delahousse, and John Truitt reprise their roles, and were joined by a number of talents to fill out the game's expanded speaking roles. Working Designs had considered replacing Angel, as Victor Ireland felt he may have aged too much to convincingly play a young boy, but reconsidered after his rehearsal, commenting that "the players have all aged a bit since the original, so Alex could have aged a bit, too". Jenny Stigile (Magallanes) sings the intro song as well as the "Boat Song" in the English version. While the English cast returned, the Japanese version was completely re-cast from the Sega-CD original, bringing in several established anime and game voice actors, including pop idol Sakura Tange. A four-volume sound drama album series, Lunatic Festa, was released in Japan between August and November 1996 featuring the Japanese voice actors performing skits and songs in-character, as well as arranged music tracks from the game.

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