Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete for the PS1 is a motherfucker.
It was translated by Working Designs, helmed by this dude, Vic Ireland. Ireland had been slowly gaining a reputation in the industry – not only for bringing over pseudo-obscure RPGs and localizing them, but for dramatically changing those games to fit his personal tastes.
At their most basic, Working Designs would often insert crude humor into their games – fart jokes, sex jokes, you name it. During a documentary included with Lunar, they boast about taking a lonely hermit character that lives isolated in a tower and making it so he has uncontrollable flatulence (it’s their explanation for why he’s so isolated).
But at their worst, Ireland had a trait he was known for: he hated strategy guides. He thought people should play and learn games organically, not spend $8+ on a guide that would hold their hand every step of the way. That’s not really such an ignoble opinion to have, especially for a game designer, but it manifested itself in an awful, awful way.
Working Designs games were often significantly more difficult than the original Japanese versions. Ireland openly bragged about his reasoning for doing this: it was to put strategy guide authors through hell. Strategy writers were required to obsessively play games before release so the guide could hit while the game was new. A guide writer would often have a month or less to make maps, figure out pointers for defeating enemies and bosses, and write item descriptions.
The harder the game, the more difficult their job was. The more difficult their job was, the more likely it would be that guides got delayed, forcing players to fly solo. So Ireland went out of his way to screw guide writers over.
The rub is that the game was still that difficult for everybody else. Ireland was likely confident that hardcore players would get through it eventually (and that was definitely true), but it didn’t change the fact that many Working Designs games were also notorious for their high difficulty level.
Which brings us back to Lunar. In most RPGs, if you hit a roadblock, you can just double back, grind out a few extra levels, and gain the strength needed to get over the spike in difficulty. It’s honestly one of the great things about RPGs; they’re only as hard as the amount of time you’re willing to spend on them.
Lunar throws that idea out the window. Bosses level up with the player. The more you grind to power up Alex (the hero) the stronger bosses also get.
Now, combine this with Working Designs’ tendency to increase the difficulty of their games when they localize them.
I was incredibly excited for Lunar. Final Fantasy VII had opened my eyes to the magic of the JRPG, the anime fad was booming, and Lunar was the right game, at the right time. Working Designs knew this, too, and went out of their way to make the game seem special. There was no $40 “standard” version of Lunar. You had to pay $70 for the special edition, which came with a cloth map, soundtrack CD, making-of video feature (see above), and a hardcover instruction manual that contained its own mini strategy guide that walked you through the game up to the first boss encounter. On top of that, Working Designs also warned: Lunar wasn’t going to be around forever. One year after release, they were going to put the game into “the vault,” never to be seen again, so buy now.
Rarely had I been so excited for a game. I was locked and loaded, ready to love Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete with all of my heart.
Two and a half hours later, I reached the third boss. Alex and Luna have to gain entrance to a floating city of magic. Wizards were allowed in, but non-wizards (our characters) need to prove themselves in The Trials. The boss at the end of this dungeon is a giant living mushroom with one huge cyclops eye called the “Truffle Troubler.”
I couldn’t kill it. The issue is that he has this lighting attack that hits both Alex and Luna simultaneously for a good 70% of their health. It would take two rounds for Luna to heal everyone back up to survive the next attack, but this mushroom guy gets three turns for every one of yours. It’s not uncommon for him to zap and murder your party before Luna can do anything.
I tried, and I tried, and I tried. A dozen times or more. Since I was only two hours in to the game, I even deleted my save file, started over, and tried a second time to “play smart.” Hoard gold. Hoard healing items. Buy the best of everything. All to prepare to face this one boss.
But you can’t grind past bosses in Lunar. You aren’t supposed to. You clench your teeth and you fight through it, while Vic Ireland laughs at you.
I couldn’t do it. I didn’t do it. What happens past the third boss in Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete? I don’t know. I’ll never know.
But what I do know: I’m glad Working Designs went out of business.