I reviewed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete for the original PlayStation a while back (which you can read here) as well as the original Sega CD version (here), so I was always going to end up reviewing the third major version of the game, wasn’t I? It just so happens that my random game selector system (that the awesome Retro Game Rater helped me come up with) has selected it as today’s review.
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is the PSP remake of the PlayStation remake of the Sega CD, rather than being a direct remake of the original. It took the elements of the PlayStation version and attempted to update and improve them with the (at the time) modern hardware capabilities. But did it end up being an improvement? Let’s find out!
Okay, so to start off with, the storyline hasn’t really changed that much. You follow the same events as you do in the other versions of the game, but that’s not a negative by any means. For anyone who hasn’t played the other ports of Lunar, the storyline is fantastic! Sure, it starts off a little cliche for a J-RPG, with a young man and his friends heading out on an adventure to save the world. However, it certainly doesn’t stay cliche the whole way through… Or even for that long at all, really.
The plot is full of neat little twists and turns as you progress, sometimes making you question loyalties, motives and even the actual relationships of the various characters. It is a well thought out and planned story that starts off slow but ramps up in intensity at a near-perfect pace. You won’t find yourself getting bored with any Lunar version, and Silver Star Harmony is no different.
Pacing can often be an issue in J-RPGs, as the storylines are epic in scale so you need to keep the player interested between major events long enough for them to be invested in the game. That is exactly what Lunar does in general. Thankfully, that wasn’t lost in Silver Star Harmony. In fact, the developers even added little extra bits to the story that build up the world and history. So, I dare say that from a storyline perspective, Silver Star Harmony is probably the version you want to play.
One of the things that I loved about Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete was just how unforgiving it was, without being infuriating. In fact, you can see exactly how hard the game can be by watching my Weekly Retro video of it here. This will likely put a lot of players off the game, but I loved it. Sadly, I don’t have that same level of love for the gameplay in Silver Star Harmony.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t like the gameplay, though. I just prefer the PlayStation version’s over Silver Star Harmony’s. Why? Well, they made the PSP version far easier. In fact, it is a lot easier than the PlayStation version. Enemies are easier to kill, boss battles don’t take as much planning, strategy and thought, and the dungeons have been made considerably shorter. For example, the very first dungeon you get to, the White Dragon Cave, is a full length dungeon that takes a lot of time to navigate in the Sega CD and PlayStation versions. However, in Silver Star Harmony, it is just a few small areas with a handful of map changes. If you wanted to, you could make it through the entire cave in about 5 or 10 minutes.
They even removed the need to equip healing items in order to use them in battle, and the limited number of items that you could carry. This does make the game feel more like a generic J-RPG, but it doesn’t really detract from everything else.
Despite the fact that the developers made Silver Star Harmony easier to play, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Plus, for those of you who don’t like unforgiving games, it also makes this wonderful storyline accessible to you now. So that is a definite positive, in the end. I still prefer the PlayStation version in terms of gameplay, but the PSP version is still fun, enjoyable and well worth playing.
Unlike the previous version of the Lunar game, Silver Star Harmony doesn’t keep the pixel art based graphical style. Instead, we have a more modern style of graphics, reminiscent of mobile apps (being honest). For the purists out there, this can be a big turn off… But you know what? It actually looks really good! With each version of Lunar that came out before, you could just tell how much the developers cared for their creation, in all aspects of a game.
This is completely true with Silver Star Harmony as well. They have loving crafted new designs and visuals for every part of the world, characters and even the UI. In fact, I actually prefer the menu system in Silver Star Harmony than in Silver Star Story Complete! It’s far more pleasing on the eye.
The character models also offer more detail, meaning that they each feel more unique, individual and alive. I was also happy to see that the developers kept the anime cutscenes from the PlayStation version, as they help to grow the characters and immerse you in the world of Lunar. All in all, the graphical change might not please everyone, but it has been done very carefully and extremely well, without actually taking away anything from the game.
And That’s All Folks
In the end, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is a great game. For me, the PlayStation’s Silver Star Story Complete is still the better version of Lunar overall, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love and enjoy this version either. If you’re like me and you prefer games to be very challenging, then I would recommend playing Lunar on the PlayStation. However, if you prefer to just experience an awesome storyline without any stress, then Silver Star Harmony is for you.
The graphical improvements also make it far more accessible, too. So whilst it may not be my favourite version of the game, I’m just really happy that more people will get to experience the genius that is Lunar.
Have you played any of the Lunar versions? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!