So, I have been playing Lunar: DS...

For discussion of Lunar: Dragon Song (Lunar: Genesis), the only Lunar game on the DS
User avatar
Maus
Student of Vane
Posts: 80
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2016 2:41 am
Location: Redwood City
Contact:

So, I have been playing Lunar: DS...

Postby Maus » Sun Dec 25, 2016 9:18 am

And honestly, I can't say it is all that bad.

But before I begin rambling non-stop about why the game doesn't suck as much in my eyes, I need to address something:

Image

This is one of the best-looking covers that I have ever seen (and yes, I do care about that sort of thing). And, if anything, I would buy the game just to have that on display somewhere... it is THAT good.

But yeah, about the game... I knew from the start that I was fighting an uphill battle with this one, and that totally proved to be true, even on the technical level. I mean, I expressed before how unwilling I was to try and hunt down a copy of a game that was made infamous for the defectiveness of some of its carts, so I decided to play an emulated version first... and boy, what a mistake that was.

For starters, I was forced to choose between two emulators (DeSmUME and No$GBA) and each came with its own quirks. The first one offered excellent audio quality and superb screen/display options, but suffered from a terrible sluggishness when it came to the battle scenes (which, sadly, ARE kind of important for this kind of games). The other emulator offered massively improved speed, but the audio quality dropped (and got chopped) to the point of resembling a chip tune from the nineties, I... wish I was kidding. I was also restricted to just one tiny screen size which totally burdened my eyes after reading a few hours of dialogue (and no, using No$Zoomer didn't work, as it ALSO came bundled with nuisances). The speed factor won the race, though, and I stuck with good, old Nocash (as long as it stops crashing, that is!)

That alone would have been enough to throw me off the game entirely, but it also had quite a surprising effect: By being forced to restart the game half-a-dozen of times or so in search of the optimal configuration, I had to sit thru the entire intro far too many times... and that made me appreciate the main theme quite a lot (it's become one of my all-time favorites just because of sheer insistence, how about that?). Unfortunately, this infinite loop of awesome music also had the negative side-effect of making me realize how weak the writing in this was (and probably was going to be). I don't think I have ever seen such a vague intro and i still can't quite believe how it manages to say absolutely NOTHING in the -relatively long- time it lasts.

Jian's introduction didn't do much in terms of improving my poor first impression of the writing either. Again, I'm amazed by how much they messed him up in what little dialogue he has. I get it that the bits about how he might or might not have something for Lucia are there to make him come across as charming, relatable or just to establish some of the character relationships right away, and that's fine, but the way he says it is what totally throws me off... he sounds like a mid-schooler talking about a girl in his classroom. I know that I'm reading WAY too deep into this, but I have expectations and things like that help demolish them.

Lucia's introduction sits a lot better with me because it isn't as foolish. She's supposed to be mad, she's mad. Nice and clean... ish.

But yeah, I realize that I'm bashing this game way too much, even though I said that I didn't think it stinks as much as everyone says it does. So I'm gonna talk about the bits -few as they are, considering that I'm only one mission in- that I really like.

I adore the music to this game, to be honest (even when massacred by No$GBA). I like how they chose a ton of upbeat tunes to make traveling a joy and how they were smart enough to make the serious areas either silent (I loved that) or have another set of -equally as good- music. I also have a soft spot for the artwork to this game, especially the character portraits. Those are some fine-looking worlds and the level of immersion they provide downright surpasses many other RPGs that I have played (even on the same console).

I also like the many gameplay tweaks, like the ability to buy things in batch with just the tap of a button, the fact that you can actually run from time to time, and -best of all- how you can see the enemy paths, so you can avoid fights by maneuvering between them. This especially felt glorious after enduring Eternal Blue's insanely high encounter-ratio. Whatever else I might say here or in future updates to this thread, they really cared about the looks, feels and functionality of things.

This is getting long, but is there anything else that I liked so far? Yes, there is. I really do like how delightfully useless (and kinda rude, actually) everyone is. They don't need to help you, Jian, you are just the courier. Now, get moving.

Now, I hate to end in a bad note (sort of) but I found myself working out the solutions to some of the problems presented to me even before I knew what said problems were, and I'm not sure if that's a sign of quality of the game.

But the golden question is, will I keep playing it? Why of course! It made me curious enough to see what happens next and I'm still not getting "horrible game" vibes from it. As long as neither of those change, I see no reason to stop.

Besides, my playthrough of Eternal Blue could really use a break anyway.
Image

User avatar
Maus
Student of Vane
Posts: 80
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2016 2:41 am
Location: Redwood City
Contact:

Re: So, I have been playing Lunar: DS...

Postby Maus » Tue Dec 27, 2016 8:14 am

Despite having a lot of shortcomings and some of the most backwards design choices that I have ever seen (SURE, I LOVE to being forced to choose between gaining XP from a battle or getting some items that might become crucial for the quest, every other game should do this) I found myself enjoying this very much.

There's no avoiding it at this point, though: the writing to this game is HORRENDOUS, and I think that it would be safe to assume that literally everyone on this board could do a far better job writing these characters than the actual writers did. This really holds back the game and it is almost a sin to see such a dispassionate and bland writing carrying the Lunar name, since I think that every other installment on the series has had excellent stories and characters. Really, Dragon Song has one or two things holding it back, but those are so massively important that the whole game suffers a lot as a result... I mean, I can appreciate the idea of having your equipment break after a while, but that becomes an increasing pain when you are forced to do lots of fetch-quests just to get the money to buy replacements. Most RPGs want you to fight, but Dragon Song kind of wants you to play resource manager... and it is way too extreme to ever become enjoyable, as there isn't any real strategy (that I know of) to it either. You just kind of upgrade your gear and pray that it lasts enough for you to keep getting money to do it again. It's frankly not fun, and the more of that I did, the more I focused on leveling up instead (also... did the monsters steal my gear? Come on).

Honestly, the game seems designed to hinder my progress... it likes to make sure that I'm always running low on money and supplies, that I burn thru all my healing objects and that my characters are always at the very verge of dead. And you know what? I bet that, if I could gather enough supplies, I could rush thru the whole thing with ease.

But despite me bashing it like crazy a few lines back, I gotta say that there's one part of the writing that I loved: The Beastmen. I enjoy reading characters being mean just for the sake of it, and these guys are delightfully relentless in that aspect. I'm definitely gonna remember their insanely high levels of racism. And out of all the memories that I'm gonna have attached to this game, this is gonna be one of the fondest. I liked it so much.

I had lots more to say, but I'm literally falling asleep as I type :P Maybe I'll polish this later, but for now, these are my thoughts and experiences with the game as they happen. Enjoy -if you can-.
Last edited by Maus on Thu Dec 29, 2016 4:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Image

User avatar
Sonic#
Pao Tribe Chieftain
Posts: 4522
Joined: Thu Dec 26, 2002 3:27 am
Location: Here, there, everywhere
Contact:

Re: So, I have been playing Lunar: DS...

Postby Sonic# » Wed Dec 28, 2016 5:33 pm

On reflection, based on your writing, I think I could have forgiven the bulky combat systems and random equipment breaks if the writing were better, and I could have forgiven the bad writing if the gameplay were fun. It's common for me to set aside RPGs without beating them, but usually I still have a lot of good will for those games - I don't regret the hours spent with FFVII, though I stopped on Disc 3; I never beat Lunar SSH due to a recurring glitch, but I genuinely liked it.

The beastman stuff is fascinating! I think the lore of Dragon Song is interesting, and I've liked past posts that have dwelled on what the game could be. But it's ultimately a game I'd rather read about than play, and it joins a list of other games, TV shows, books, and films I'd rather read about than peruse.
Sonic#

"Than seyde Merlion, "Whethir lyke ye bettir the swerde othir the scawberde?" "I lyke bettir the swerde," seyde Arthure. "Ye ar the more unwyse, for the scawberde ys worth ten of the swerde; for whyles ye have the scawberde uppon you, ye shall lose no blood, be ye never so sore wounded. Therefore kepe well the scawberde allweyes with you." --- Le Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory

"Just as you touch the energy of every life form you meet, so, too, will will their energy strengthen you. Fail to live up to your potential, and you will never win. " --- The Old Man at the End of Time

User avatar
Alunissage
Goddess
Posts: 6937
Joined: Thu Dec 26, 2002 10:31 am
Contact:

Re: So, I have been playing Lunar: DS...

Postby Alunissage » Wed Dec 28, 2016 10:58 pm

Sorry for late reply; I was out of town for a few days and all my Lunar notes are on the laptop I didn't bring with me. I didn't think you'd start DS this soon!

I was skimming over some of the dialogue, and actually, I think the writing could've been OK in more attentive hands. IIRC, the English release was barely a month after the Japanese one, so the localization was as rushed as everything else about the game. And there's actually some kind of interesting stuff with certain main characters; I found a bit I'd written comparing the DS villain with the EB villain that I won't post just yet because we now have someone who is playing both of those games for the first time. :)

Here's some general advice from my notes:
Since there are only three party members max (who mostly can only attack one enemy directly) and up to eight enemies, counterattacks are highly beneficial for speeding up the battles. Jian comes with a counterattack accessory by default and several boss battles reward him with more effective versions. Counterattacking also means dodging the attack that would have landed, so this can also be a defense accessory of sorts. Best to keep one on Jian at all times except perhaps for magic-only boss battles or areas which are primarily magic attacks.

Since the game doesn't allow you to select your targets anyway, the AI (AT) option is actually really useful if you want to do something else at the same time as playing (this can be a feature).

It's generally worthwhile to go through areas the first time in Virtue Mode to gather EXP and items, then on subsequent pass-throughs in Combat Mode. The first continent (Caldor) will require lots and lots of this, but the dungeons in the next two areas (Wrick and the Frontier) only require going through once and aren't revisitable after certain boss battles. It's pretty much always a good idea to hold off on fighting the boss or reaching the event location until playing through in Combat Mode and gathering cards and sundries. If you're close to levelling up, you can always switch back to Virtue Mode for a battle or two, then back to Combat.

There are quite a lot of beneficial cards, some of which have the same effect as some of Lucia's and Flora's spells (usually stronger, at least at the beginning). However, you'll probably want to conserve the cards for times when you don't have your spellcaster. Some of the most useful cards are not findable in the Frontier, which is a gauntlet of  four dungeons and three back to back bosses without healing/restoration in the middle, so you'll want to have cards saved up for then.

(added years later) Also, I don’t think there are any places you can buy Mental Gum / Mental Drops (the MP-restoring items), so chests are it. Possibly enemy drops?

---

I really cannot emphasize the need to use the cards enough. I got through the entire game -- 77 hours!!! -- in Japanese without using them and I strongly advise you not do this. A key card is Termite, which prevents equipment breakage.

What else... well, if you like text, most houses and buildings have one thing in them that you can examine for a line of dialogue -- a window, a suit of armor, a table, etc.

As far as the two modes of combat are concerned, I've been thinking about this a bit when trying to sleep. It kind of follows naturally from another idea in the game, that the protagonist actually has a job and earns money that way, rather than the standard RPG thing of monsters just carrying money around. This is one of the many examples in this game of a neat idea that suffers from its implementation. Thing is, if Jian is constantly fighting monsters to get materials (sundries) for his delivery jobs, he'd end up WAY overlevelled if he were getting normal EXP at the same time. So they decoupled spoils from EXP. They also used the separate idea of monsters being a manifestation of "evil" and so you're doing good by eliminating them, which you can (temporarily) in Virtue Mode, and you get rewarded in EXP, healing, and rare goods (in the blue chests) for that. Having two battle modes isn't really that bad a solution to wanting to implement these two somewhat contradictory ideas -- protagonist as heroic eliminator of evil, and protagonist as person who does an actual job earning money -- but by making it entirely either/or, you end up with lots of extra fighting when you want one thing but not the other. I think tempering it by getting a tiny bit of EXP in combat mode and a tiny bit of drops (or maybe just the cards) in virtue mode would've made it less tedious.

User avatar
Maus
Student of Vane
Posts: 80
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2016 2:41 am
Location: Redwood City
Contact:

Re: So, I have been playing Lunar: DS...

Postby Maus » Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:33 pm

Thanks a lot for the input, both of you :)

@Alunissage: I really didn't think I was going to start the game this soon either, as I was just trying the emulation for later... but oh well, it grew on me.

Still, I'm currently about to face the Red Dragon's trial and my brain keeps begging me to go back to Eternal Blue instead. If Gabryel wasn't such an interesting character on this, I'm not sure if would kept playing, actually.

Thanks a ton for the notes, too!
Image

User avatar
Alunissage
Goddess
Posts: 6937
Joined: Thu Dec 26, 2002 10:31 am
Contact:

Re: So, I have been playing Lunar: DS...

Postby Alunissage » Sat Dec 31, 2016 11:00 pm

If your brain wants you to go back to EB, then do that. You'll have more to talk about with knowing that game! :)


Return to “Lunar: Dragon Song”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests