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Lunar: Dragon Song Package Art
Game Arts

Lunar: Dragon Song

I'm a fairweather RPGer. To stick with an RPG to the bitter end takes a great deal of time and patience that stems in part from interest, part from dedication. RPGs that hold my attention the longest contain the following: engaging characters, depth of leveling and a story with some good twists and turns. For the most part, Lunar: Dragon Song held my attention.

This being a prequel to Lunar: Silver Star Story (remade as Lunar Legend for GBA a few years back), Lunar: Dragon Song takes place before the events of Silver Star Story, focusing on two young and intrepid delivery workers, Jian and Lucia. As you might expect, other party members are picked up along the way. These party members include both humans and beastmen (and beastwomen): a proud, strong race who consider themselves far superior to humans.


Lunar is played from a three-quarters perspective with graphics looking no better than 16-bit. This isn't to say that Dragon Song ain't pretty; on the contrary. Environments, including maps, interior and exterior locations are all varied and lushly detailed.

Character sprites, NPCs and enemies are all lovingly animated. Each enemy has its own animation in battle: blob enemies hop to attack whereas more sophisticated baddies of the Vile Tribe warp into thin air and melt, puddle-like. Each has an animation true to its character.

This is starkly contrasted with character images, which are not animated at all. While you're talking to select characters, such as in shops or during the introduction of a new party member, the top screen displays only still character artwork. The drawings are so nice that it's a shame there isn't at least a different pose or two. This would have injected life into the scenes of conversation and introduction that is present everywhere else in the game.


The music that flows from the DS's stereo speakers is both beautiful and memorable. In fact, so memorable that at times I found myself whistling the whole of the haunting title screen melody after having only absently listened to it a few times through. I went so far as to hook the DS up to larger stereo speakers (which I've only ever done before with Electroplankton) just to enjoy the variety of music to be found throughout Dragon Song.

Apart from ambient bird and insect tracks that accompany the more serene woods and quiet shrines, battles are where you'll notice most sounds. Sound effects are lighthearted and comically cartoonish at times. Your typical magical-recharge WHOOSH accompanies each visit to an Althena shrine. The WHAP of a normal hit and the BOFF of an exceptional one provide aural feedback in battles, after which you'll find yourself hoping to hear that brassy tout announcing a level-up.


Lunar: Dragon Song has a balance struck between likable and questionable gameplay mechanics. For example: When running, your health drops slowly. Arguably realistic, this can also be somewhat of a pain. Balancing this is the fact that you can save anywhere. Anywhere!

Apart from healing, rationing your magic for special attacks and defenses, there is not much strategy in battles. You can't even select targets. You can, however choose an "Auto Attack" mode, perfect for those mindless battles where you're just leveling up.

Speaking of which, there are two different battle modes that you must balance: Virtue Mode and Combat Mode. In the former you only gain experience, the latter only gives you cards and items. The intriguing, comparatively fast-moving storyline is balanced by slow, uninspired delivery jobs to earn money. As you need money to buy better weapons and armor, this is a painfully necessary task. Overall, good and bad all balance each other out, leaving an average gameplay experience.

An attempt was made to integrate the DS's unique features, with varying levels of success. The dual screen use is great. The action is on the top screen while menus are on the bottom, alleviating some of the menu bog-down generally associated with RPGs. The touch screen is fully implemented, though most useful in menus. It can also be used for movement, though I found that more difficult than just using the D-pad. The microphone is of most questionable use: you can blow into it to run away in a battle. So, are the characters running from your breath, or what? It works but is just plain goofy.


Like Lunar Legends, there is a card swapping game included in Lunar: Dragon Song, though I was not able to test it out with another person.


Why the departure from Silver Star Story's animated conversation images and customizable battle formations? Dragon Song's average mix of gameplay turned me instead to the story. Beefy enough for me to enjoy, if not completely original, a boy meets girl and takes on evil forces threatening to swallow the world as we know it. The learning curve is gentle enough for first time RPGers while the scale of the story should appease RPG veterans. At the end of the day, fans of Lunar or Final Fantasy should find enough to love in Lunar: Dragon Song.

final score 7.0/10

Staff Avatar Paul Starke
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"In Japan this was named a 'trouble bug.' (...Is it really a bug?)"

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