Lunar was the first game that I played, where I absolutely fell in love with the whole package: the world, the story, and its characters. Unfortunately, my family was poor so we couldn’t afford to actually buy a copy. Even after I returned it half-finished to the rental store, though, I would think back on the game and remember moments that had stuck with me.
Fast forward a couple of years, to the last quarter of 1995. For my birthday, my older sister drove me around to two or three different stores, because I had read in a magazine that a sequel to the game that I had loved titled Lunar: Eternal Blue was being released in the United States. I had to have this game.
Eternal Blue ended up becoming not only the first video game that I ever purchased with my own money, but also the first RPG I ever completed. It will always have a special place in my heart for this reason.
Flash forward a few more years, to my mid-teens. I was working odd jobs when I could at the time to earn some money. I had finally earned enough to buy myself a PlayStation 2! The first game that I would buy for it was the limited-edition remake of the game that started it all for me: Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete.
For weeks, I poured myself into that game, rarely stopping until I the villainous Magic Emperor breathed his last. Finally, I saw it: the happy ending for Alex and Luna that I had been waiting literally years to experience. And for years afterwards, I would tell anyone who would listen for even half a second about this amazing game series.
Now, here we are around the 20th anniversary of Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete’s North American release. For many, this was the game which finally did justice to the epic story and characters that so many of us fell in love with years earlier. It’s on this occasion that I would like to state, with absolutely zero doubt in my heart or mind, that Lunar is the best anime that we, as fans, never received.
The story of Lunar: The Silver Star begins like pretty much any run-of-the-mill JRPG; a young man named Alex lives in the tiny village of Burg. Burg is a tiny village, in the middle of nowhere, though it has some fame for being the home of the late hero Dragonmaster Dyne. Alex basically worships Dyne, and wishes to embark on an adventure as he had. Living with his family and a girl named Luna, whom Alex’s parents found as a baby over a dozen years ago, Alex believes that he’ll never get his chance at adventure. That all changes one day, when his best friend Ramus presents an opportunity for fame and fortune. He intends to travel to the White Dragon cave near Burg, with the goal of retrieving a rare diamond that can be sold for a king’s ransom.
Alex and Remus set forth, along with Luna. Together, they battle fierce beasts and fight their way into the deepest parts of the cave, where they encounter the White Dragon, Quark. While they do get the diamond they seek, the trio of would-be adventurers set events in motion that would lead them on a grand journey. Far-off lands, like city of sorcerers Vane, the metropolis run by the former hero Mel called Meribia, and many more await them. More importantly, this adventure will introduce them to the Vile Tribe, who are attempting to take over their world with the help of a mysterious Magic Emperor.
To boil Lunar down to the barest of elements is to do a serious injustice to one of the most endearing stories in video game history. It all starts with the mythology that the series’ world is based on. The realm of Lunar is orbited by a planet known as the Blue Star, and watched over by the goddess Althena. After an untold number of years of peace, the world was beset by a great war, in which the goddess had to be protected by four heroes: Ghaleon the sorcerer, Hell Mel, heiress to Vane’s Magic Guild Lemia Ausa, and the last known Dragonmaster, Dyne.
Together, the party fought back the forces of evil, to return peace to the world. In the wake of the conflict, though, Dyne mysteriously vanished, as Althena departed from the world. In the years that followed, towns would erect statues of the goddess, to which weary travelers could pray to receive her blessing. Lunar builds on this base to craft a lush, full world, and an exciting story starring a lovable group of characters.
At the start, we have our main characters, Alex and Luna. Alex dreams of being a Dragonmaster like his hero, while Luna just wants to live a quiet life in Burg with her beloved Alex. Luna can’t help but feel torn, as she wants to support Alex’s dreams of adventure, but she wants little more than to return to that quiet life. On more than one occasion along the way, she finds herself hesitant to continue on the journey with Alex. Somehow, though, she’s repeatedly convinced to keep pushing herself further.
Supporting these two are Nash and Mia, a pair of magic users from Vane; a rebellious priestess named Jessica; and a loud-mouthed barbarian named Kyle. Of this bunch, Nash is the arrogant firebrand while Mia is very quiet and humble. Together, their own story forms a wonderful undercurrent over the course of the adventure, as Nash’s feelings for Mia slowly reveal themselves to the audience, and the two begin to grow into unique individuals, casting aside the roles that had been set for them.
That’s to say nothing of Kyle and Jessica. If one were to describe Nash and Mia’s story, it would have to be puppy love.” The love story between Jessica and Kyle, though, could easily be called “‘pitbull love.” Jessica and Kyle are two of the strongest personalities in the franchise. Never afraid to say exactly what is on their minds, these two butt heads on a constant basis. One thing is never in doubt, though: the feelings that these two feel for each other are some of the most real in the game’s world.
Where Nash prefers to show his affections towards Mia by keeping her safe and protected, Jessica and Kyle share their own attraction by actually being there and believing in each other when it matters the most. When Mia volunteers to adventure with Alex, Nash reluctantly agrees to come along as well, in order to protect his love. When Jessica is tempted by the fake visage of her father outside a haunted forest, meanwhile, Kyle breaks through a literal petrification spell in order to defend her from the enemy.
Speaking of the enemies, the myriad villains that oppose the heroes are fearsome, indeed. Much of Lunar: The Silver Star’s greatest threats are members of The Vile Tribe: a mysterious band of misfits who hail from a harsh land known only as The Frontier. Under the guidance of the Magic Emperor, three sisters named Royce, Phacia, and Xenobia lead the charge. As they are slowly introduced throughout the game’s opening chapters, it quickly becomes obvious that something is not quite right with them.
When it’s finally revealed that they are working with the Magic Emperor in order to kidnap girls from around Lunar with beautiful singing voices, it becomes a cause for concern. When Luna is snatched away from Alex immediately after a horrific event between the hero Ghaleon and White Dragon Quark, this curiosity becomes a gut punch. It’s a true “top ten anime betrayals” moment, which leads to even bigger twists that truly signal the beginning Alex’s quest to become the next (and last) Dragonmaster.
What makes these villains so plausible, though, is their motivation; all they want is to restore their place within society, which was snatched from them by Althena many years prior. At the same time, they want revenge for what happened to them and will bluster about that quite frequently. Beyond that, though, the fact remains that the Vile Tribe really just want to have a home that they can call their own.
Over the course of forty-plus hours, Lunar: The Silver Star shares a moving and rich tale of love, adventure, friendship, and triumph over adversity. Though there are plenty of stops along the way, this is a linear story that moves along at a steady forward pace, which would have translated very well to television screens. The fact that it never was adapted into an anime series breaks my heart to this day.
Because of this, I have to argue that Lunar: The Silver Star is the best anime series that we never got. Filled with action and just the right amount of humor along the way, it could’ve been so much more than a small blip in JRPG history.
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