LUNAR : DRAGON SONG / Ubisoft / Nintendo DS
When Lunar came out back in 1992, it was exciting and a breath of fresh air. Ironic, then, that it has become the archetype for the Generic Animu RPG, an irritating breed we have seen in greater and greater numbers as both RPGs and Animu have become mainstream in the West over the last decade.
That isn't Lunar's fault, of course, but it's sad when the franchise is revived after a long period of dormancy, and it ends up coming back as a Generic Animu RPG that's just as unimaginative and boring as all the clones that have flooded the gaming market over recent years.
If you are not familiar with the Generic Animu RPG, it's basically a band of chipper tweens, usually headed up by a male who has a harem of women who quietly adore him (but with whom he never actually Has Secks), and usually accompanied by some kind of sassy talking animal, who go on a Magical Upbeat Cute Quest through Fantasyasia that falls back on just about every fantasy anime cliche that has ever existed en route to fighting the Dark Foozle who is hell bent on world destruction because he had a bad childhood or something. Lunar : Dragon Song is that to a T, and this time out, it doesn't even have the benefit of Working Designs' perverted humor to at least make it interesting for those of us over the (emotional) age of 13.
Aside from having a generic and turgid story, there are a lot of hinky design elements. First of all, the entire second screen is used for menus and text. This just ends up leading to the game telling you a lot of stuff that it could really just be showing you instead. The game also penalizes you for running - you gradually lose health as you do! Guys (talking to the designers here), running is used to skip through tedious areas where there is nothing else to do. Taking it away from the player means they have to do a lot of slow shuffling through boring areas, which cripples the pace of the game, and frankly a lot of your game areas are very boring.
Also, the battles are a bit goofy. They've switched the original Lunar style to something more akin to Breath of Fire, except worse. You can't target individual enemies when attacking, and the game gives you a choice between EXP or items at the end of each battle - but not both! There's really no point to any of these choices - they just make the game more annoying, and I have no idea what the upshot was supposed to be.
Poorly designed, poorly executed, generic, boring. Even the diehard Lunar fans probably won't find much to like here, as it is a prequel set a thousand years before the Silver Star, so I don't think it has very much bearing at all on the overall Lunar mythology.
* Gameplay Video