Thursday, April 24, 2014

History of Swick's RPG Extravaganza (part 2)

Want to know what the hell I'm talking about? - here's PART 1

After playing the three games mentioned in PART 1 of this series, I went into my 'Working Designs' period where I fangirled and obsessed over everything that came out of the now defunc- Working Designs studio. They are most noted for their Lunar series, and the Arc the Lad series. These series were both J-RPGs that were remastered for the states on the Playstation, and since the collector release have stayed in my heart and in my possession for two very different reasons. Both of them share the same anime style graphics that Japan is so well-known for, and this was my beginning ventures into the world of anime. After watching characters on Toonami, I went to the local video store and bought my first animes.... Legend of Crystannia and Magic Knight Rayearth... but we'll talk about those in a different history series.

The first official venture was the famous Lunar: The Silver Star 

Lunar: The Silver Star was memorable for me due to its very light-hearted characters and uplifting gameplay. Granted, there were moments where you felt like the heroes weren't going to success, there was always 'hope' driving the gameplay and the music emphasized that the heroes would indeed succeed in the end. I was a little in shock having just tailed from Final Fantasy 7 where good and bad blur to this very linear game where there's an obvious good and bad, and a more traditional story plot. The second thing that made this game memorable was its soundtrack. This was the first game I had purchased that included a soundtrack with it, and I remember listening to the short instrumentals over and over again. There were vocal tracks too; the lyrics seemed genius when I was a kid, and I was afraid to listen to it as an adult for fear that it would be too corny... and it is a little corny, but it's also translated from Japanese. Any song in English translated from Japanese is going to sound a little weird. The third and final memorable part of this game are the anime-like cutscenes. There were times where it really enveloped you in its story; it feels more like playing a movie than a game in some parts, and I began to realize what I like so much about RPGs. In the beginning, it wasn't about gameplay and making my own choices, it was about listening to a good story.

I eagerly snatched up a copy of the sequel to this game, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, thinking that it would be another adventure with the same characters that I had grown to love in Lunar: The Silver Star, but I was wrong.

Lunar 2: Eternal Blue takes place in the same world as Lunar: Silver Star except that it is several hundred years in the future where the gods present in Lunar: Silver Star are assumed to be dead. As the storyline would have it, this isn't the case and once again a teenage hero and a band of misfits are relied upon to save the world from total annihilation. I will give the sequel one thing; it did a much better job of character development than the first game did. Lunar: Silver Star was plagued with stereotypes where Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, the characters feel more organic and even the unimportant characters have more organic dialogue and add more to the story as a whole. There were brief cameos of the first game's characters, but they were only spoken of as if they were a legend. It wasn't what I expected, but I certainly had a good time playing it. Like its predecessor, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue's overall theme is 'hope.'

As I hoped in vain for a Lunar 3, I snooped around until I found out that Working Designs had another series of JRPGs released for the Playstation : Arc the Lad Complete Collection, and after an argument with my mother (since it was rated M for mature), I was able to get it, and went at once to playing it. My memories of the first and third Arc the Lad games are very vague, but my memories of the second one are a little clearer.

All of the games have the character 'Arc the Lad' but the protagonists are all different dudes.
My biggest memory of this series is that the battle system was much different than other JRPGS I had played at the time. In Final Fantasy and Lunar, it was simply these guys vs. these guys, point and click which one you want to attack when it is your turn. But Arc the Lad has a much more tactical battle system. This was the first game I played with a grid where you selected where to walk on the battlefield and which enemies were in range determined what you should do.... area attacks, vantage points, weapon range. All of these things taken into account. As a preteen, I was a little overwhelmed by this. I had been playing RPGs for story but now in order to get story, I also had to have strategy??? - I also remember being able to tame monsters and breed them and fight them which was also cool. This game came out just a few years after Pokemon Red and Blue were released, so I was pretty excited about anything monster related, but more on that genre later.

.... see the thrilling third installment in History of Swick's RPG Extravaganza 3!
Rated B for blog. Only on PC.

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