Lunar: Dragon Song review in Nintendo Power

For discussion of Lunar: Dragon Song (Lunar: Genesis), the only Lunar game on the DS
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Lupin the Third
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Lunar: Dragon Song review in Nintendo Power

Postby Lupin the Third » Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:17 am

UPDATED with entire review transcribed.

Image: What looks like three party members approaching the stone pathway across the pond that Luna practices singing on in Lunar: Legend/SSS
Image caption: "The time for valor has returned again"

Banner text: "Slightly Off-Key"
----
Lunar: Dragon Song
Rating: 7.0
Publisher: UbiSoft
Dev.: Japan Art Media / Game Arts
ESRB: E-10+

I can't tell you how much the above score pains me. The Lunar series, with its memorable cast of characters and sincere story-telling, holds a special place in my heart. In fact, it's the biggest reason I'm doing this for a living. Dragon Song, while not a bad game by any stretch, comes nowhere near close to living up to that legacy. Set 1,000 years before the first game, it does tragically little to expand the saga or enrich our understanding of the Lunar universe. Instead, the story feels like merely a means of shepherding the player from one monster-filled dungeon to the next. The lack of animated cut-scenes, which are a hallmark of the series, further contributes to the underwhelming nature of the game's narrative. And though some of the characters are intriguing, their motivations are often unclear or underdeveloped (which may be the result of the inconsistent localization quality).

The game isn't terribly big, but it takes upwards of 30 hours to complete thanks to frequent enemy encounters. Before battle, you must choose between Combat and Virtue mode. The former causes monsters to drop items, and the latter is the only way to accrue experience points. While in Virtue mode, defeating all of the monsters in an area will also unlock a special blue treasure chest. It's a welcome twist to the traditional RPG formula. Unfortunately, the battles themselves can get incredibly tedious. The most significant problem is that you can't choose which enemy to target, severely limiting your strategic options.

Despite falling short of expectations, Dragon Song ultimately delivers a worthwhile adventure. The story has its moments (I'm particularly fond of the unorthodox ending), the music is quite good, and for long-time fans, Toshiyuki Kubooka's character designs lend the game a warm familiarity. The series deserves better than Dragon Song, though. Hopefully Game Arts will hand the reigns back to the original development team and recapture that lost magic.

-Steve Thomason
Last edited by Lupin the Third on Wed Sep 21, 2005 1:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Angelalex242
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Postby Angelalex242 » Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:41 am

Is that an import review, or a US version review?

Also...it looks like they should've gone back to Working Designs. Oh well. Working Designs had its points.
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Postby Alunissage » Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:47 am

US, definitely. NOA's had the game for a while. And "bad localization" should kind of make that clear.

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Postby DevNall » Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:48 am

Angelalex242 wrote:Also...it looks like they should've gone back to Working Designs.

I think WD declined; Vic doesn't seem too interested in portables.

EDIT:
Lupin the third wrote:Permission to post full article?

Wasn't the preview scanned and posted here in its entirety? I think precedent says it's not an issue.
Last edited by DevNall on Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Alunissage » Wed Sep 21, 2005 12:50 am

More likely the other way around. Ubi's heavy involvement suggests they were in on it from the start.

Vic may have declined Legend, but they may also have not been offered it.

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Postby Lupin the Third » Wed Sep 21, 2005 1:12 am

Updated to include full article.
Now that you've all got a DS for Lunar, buy "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney," please!

(I want to see the sequels translated!)

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Postby Lunar Eclipse » Wed Sep 21, 2005 1:45 am

Um, frequent encounters? I thought Dragon Song was supposed to have one of the lowest encounter rates in the series.
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Postby Alunissage » Wed Sep 21, 2005 2:24 am

It's not an encounter rate; there are no random battles, like SSSC/EBC. Each area with monsters has five to seven battles (if you're in Virtue mode), and a dungeon or facsimile thereof will have several of these areas. There are some points where you go through two or more dungeons back to back, and near the beginning (at least) yoiu'll end up running through the Weird Woods multiple times as patches of it are between your home city and everywhere else you're going for a while. However, it's not generally difficult to just dash and avoid the enemies. He may have just meant that there are a lot of areas with enemies between you and where you're trying to get to.

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Postby Kizyr » Wed Sep 21, 2005 3:38 am

Yeah, compared to SSS and EB (both PSX and SCD), Lunar: Genesis has fewer encounters. Plus I like being able to explore previously-visited dungeons without having to fight every enemy. It doesn't have the perfect balance that TSS had, but I still think the number of encounters is pretty good. KF
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Postby Rune Lai » Wed Sep 21, 2005 4:16 am

Kizyr, how do you feel about the characterization comment (regarding character motivations), since you were able to read the original Japanese? Was it bad localization or was it that way in the original?
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Postby Lupin the Third » Wed Sep 21, 2005 4:42 am

Rune Lai wrote:Kizyr, how do you feel about the characterization comment (regarding character motivations), since you were able to read the original Japanese? Was it bad localization or was it that way in the original?


Although I am sure you are already aware of this from reading his guide for the game, UbiSoft's last Lunar translation was quite half-hearted.

However, characterization seemed to be understandable and appreciable in "Lunar: Legend," from my perspective, so I'm not sure why it would be so bad in the DS incarnation....

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Postby GhaleonOne » Wed Sep 21, 2005 4:52 am

I respect Steve's opinion personally. The reviewer that is. I can vouch for him, seeing as I've known him (or rather, knew him, I've only talked to him once or twice in 5 years or so) since '97. He's a huge Lunar fan. I think he's saying much of what Kiz has said though, in that it's a great RPG as far as handheld RPGs go, just not Lunar 1 and 2's caliber. And really, was anyone expecting that from a handheld? I think this game will serve the purpose of giving us a little more history into the world of Lunar.

That said, he's the only one able to answer the characterization thing.

And Kiz, another question, were there any books to read in the game? I asked you this initially and you seemed to think so. I'm hoping the game perhaps has some material for my timeline on the site, even if it's just a little bit.
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Postby Kizyr » Wed Sep 21, 2005 5:02 am

Rune wrote:Kizyr, how do you feel about the characterization comment (regarding character motivations), since you were able to read the original Japanese? Was it bad localization or was it that way in the original?


I can see where he's coming from. Though, I thought the character motivations were all right, and the only thing I was worried about from the storyline ended up being explained well enough in the game (regarding Flora). It's not the same level of depth as in, say, TSS or EB, but I found it believable enough that each character had the same goals in mind.

Lupin III wrote:Although I am sure you are already aware of this from reading his guide for the game, UbiSoft's last Lunar translation was quite half-hearted.


I've said in a number of places that UbiSoft's translation on Lunar: Dragon Song is going to be far better. They can do really good translations if they have the right staff and editors on it.

Lupin III wrote:However, characterization seemed to be understandable and appreciable in "Lunar: Legend," from my perspective, so I'm not sure why it would be so bad in the DS incarnation....


Lunar Legend took entirely off of SSS/TSS's story. By itself the characterization was on par with Lunar: Dragon Song. But, considering that most of us here knew the characters before ever picking up Legend, there wasn't a fair way to assess the characterization.

G1 wrote:I think he's saying much of what Kiz has said though, in that it's a great RPG as far as handheld RPGs go, just not Lunar 1 and 2's caliber. And really, was anyone expecting that from a handheld? I think this game will serve the purpose of giving us a little more history into the world of Lunar.


Yeah I disagree with what he said about it doing little to expand understanding of Lunar. I thought it was all right in that regard; we got to know a bit more about Althena's multiple rebirths, the nature of Dragons and Dragonmasters, the Vile Tribe, etc. As a handheld game, and a "short" RPG, it enriched a good deal of the Lunar universe.

G1 wrote:And Kiz, another question, were there any books to read in the game? I asked you this initially and you seemed to think so. I'm hoping the game perhaps has some material for my timeline on the site, even if it's just a little bit.


Eh, that was a bit disappointing. There are a few places where you can read the books on the shelves, but in no important places. The only 'libraries' you find in the game, you can't read the books. KF
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Postby Lupin the Third » Wed Sep 21, 2005 5:36 am

Kizyr wrote:
Lupin III wrote:Although I am sure you are already aware of this from reading his guide for the game, UbiSoft's last Lunar translation was quite half-hearted.


I've said in a number of places that UbiSoft's translation on Lunar: Dragon Song is going to be far better. They can do really good translations if they have the right staff and editors on it.


And, I admit to being a "n00b" and all, I'd just like to mention that I never saw your past comments about an improved UbiSoft translation.

I am also very glad that Lunar:DS will be a significant improvement over "Legend's" odd sentence structures and occasionally confusing conversations.

I'll shut my yapper now.

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Postby Alunissage » Wed Sep 21, 2005 6:12 am

Re translation, I have to add that a friend of mine who just joined NP (a good friend of the Steve who wrote the article) told me after playing a bit of DS that the translation felt rushed. He and I got Legend the day it came out and shared opinions of its translation throughout, so if all he's saying is that DS's feels rushed then it's already better than Legend's. :P Hopefully we won't have people saying "Foo, foo, foo" or getting drunk on chocolate and apple pie in this one.

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Postby Apocalypse » Thu Sep 22, 2005 12:04 am

A seven isn't that bad, but it does make me wonder about even bothering to get the game. I'm kind of strapped for money at the moment, so spending money on a game that isn't even above average may not be a wise plan.

I suppose I'll wait for some more reviews... :roll:

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Postby Alunissage » Thu Sep 22, 2005 12:07 am

"Isn't even above average"? Unless they're using a 15-point scale, 7 is well above average. Not everyone inflates their scores.

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Postby Rune Lai » Thu Sep 22, 2005 4:45 am

To be fair though, games rarely get 1-4 on a 10-point scale. ^^ It generally only happens with something truly atrocious. A score of 7 seems to be the borderline that will make people wonder whether or not they should buy it (unless they're die-hards). So in that sense, a 7 is "good, but nothing special," or, what we might call average. Not the numerical average, but average in the sense of being ordinary or unremarkable.
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Postby Alunissage » Thu Sep 22, 2005 5:55 am

I know, but I don't think it's fair to assume that that's on that scale. And actually I just picked up a NP (for the article by the Zelda/Mario composer, Koji Kondo) and it had an index of reviews in it...I'm sure I saw at least one 3. Yeah, looking, there are scores in the mids and lows too; there's even a 1.0.

The main thing that annoys me about the reviews index is that there's a pullquote from the review of Beyond Good and Evil on the page, even though that game's review is not included in the index (probably too far back). Seeing it at first gave me a wild hope that there might finally be a sequel, especially since the quote talked about sequels. :( That's not relevant to the score thing, though.

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Postby Angelalex242 » Thu Sep 22, 2005 9:10 am

Well, I've played games like Legend of the Dragoon and found them enjoyable.

And I think that was rated 6.

This should be fine, really.
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