Lunar: Eternal Blue is a role-playing video game developed by Game Arts and Studio Alex for the Sega CD as the sequel to Lunar: The Silver Star. The game was originally released in December 1994 in Japan, and later in North America in September 1995 by Working Designs. Eternal Blue expanded the story and gameplay of its predecessor, and made more use of the Sega CD’s hardware, including more detailed graphics, longer, more elaborate animated cutscenes, and more extensive use of voice acting. Critics were mostly pleased with the title, giving particular merit to the game’s English translation and further expansion of the role-playing game genre in CD format.
Set one thousand years after the events of The Silver Star, the game follows the adventure of Hiro, a young explorer and adventurer who meets Lucia, visitor from the far-away Blue Star, becoming entangled in her mission to stop Zophar, an evil, all-powerful being, from destroying the world. During their journey across the world of Lunar, Hiro and Lucia are joined by an ever-expanding cast of supporting characters, including some from its predecessor. Eternal Blue was remade in 1998 as Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete, published by Kadokawa Shoten and Entertainment Software Publishing for the Sega Saturn and PlayStation, with the latter version localized and published in North America by Working Designs.
Lunar: Eternal Blue is a traditional role-playing video game featuring two-dimensional character sprites and backgrounds. The game is presented from a top-down perspective with players moving the characters across numerous fantasy environments while completing story-based scenarios and battling enemy monsters. While basic game function remains similar to Lunar: The Silver Star, with story segments being presented as both on-screen text and animated cutscenes, the abundance of these interludes has been increased to over fifty minutes of movie content and an hour of spoken dialogue. Players advance the story by taking part in quests and interacting with non-player characters, which engages them in the story as well as providing tips on how to advance.
Battles in Eternal Blue take place randomly within dungeons and other hostile areas of the game. While in a battle sequence, players defeat enemy monsters either by using standard attacks or magic, with combat ending by defeating all enemies present. In order to attack an enemy, a character must first position themselves near their target by moving across the field, or by using a ranged attack to strike from a distance. The battle system has been enhanced from The Silver Star by including the option to position characters throughout the field beforehand, as well as a more sophisticated AI attack setting that allows the characters to act on their own. Characters improve and grow stronger by defeating enemies, thereby gaining experience points that allow them to gain levels and face progressively more powerful enemies as the game advances. The player is awarded special “magic points” after combat that can be used to empower a particular character’s magical attack, giving them access to new, more powerful skills with a variety of uses in and out of battle. Players can record their progress at any time during gameplay by saving to either the Sega CD’s internal RAM, or on a separately purchased RAM cartridge that fits into the accompanying Sega Genesis. In order to save at any time, magic experience points equal to Hiro’s level × 15 is required in the North American version.
The character of Lunar; Eternal Blue were designed by artist and Lunar veteran Toshiyuki Kubooka.
- Hiro – a young man and would-be explorer who is skilled with a sword and boomerangs
- Ruby – a pink, winged cat-like creature with a crush on Hiro who claims to be a baby red dragon
- Gwyn – Hiro’s adoptive grandfather, and an archaeologist
- Lucia – a mysterious and soft-spoken girl from the Blue Star who is skilled with magic and mostly naive of the world’s customs
- Ronfar – a priest-turned-gambler with healing skills
- Lemina – money-grubbing heiress to the position of head of the world’s highest magic guild
- Jean – a traveling dancer with a hidden past as a prisoner forced to use a deadly form of martial arts against innocent people
- Leo – captain of Althena’s guard and servant of the goddess.
While the cast’s primary personalities remained intact for the English release, some changes such as colorful language, jokes, and double entendres were added to their speech to make the game more comical.
Primary supporting characters include the servants of the Goddess Althena, the creator of Lunar thought to have vanished centuries ago who suddenly appeared in mortal form to lead her people.
- Borgan – an obese, self-absorbed magician with his eyes on the seat of power in the magic guild
- Lunn – a martial artist and Jean’s former instructor
- Mauri – Leo’s sister and Ronfar’s love interest.
- Ghaleon (the primary villain killed in the previous game) – the current Dragonmaster, Althena’s champion, and supposed protector of the world. His final end reveals that he regrets the evil he committed and does what he can to aid Hiro.
- Zophar – the game’s principal villain, a long-dormant evil spirit who is attempting to destroy and recreate the world to his tastes. Although his voice is heard numerous times, he remains faceless until the final battle.
Reviews for the Saturn and PlayStation ports were mostly positive although some were mixed. Sam Hickman from Sega Saturn Magazine commented that the game manages to be extremely creepy and terrifying despite having almost no bloodshed. He predicted that the game would be outclassed by Resident Evil (still in development at the time of the review), but concluded that D was the best horror game presently on the market. Four reviewers at Electronic Gaming Monthly commented that the Saturn version had reduced the load times seen in the 3DO version to almost nothing. They highly praised the storyline and intelligently designed puzzles, and described it as “scary enough to make you an insomniac.” GamePro staff gave positive reviews for both the Saturn and PlayStation versions, recommending it to those looking for a horror experience. Maximum staff likewise gave positive reviews to both versions, saying that D is similar to Myst (1993) and Mansion of Hidden Souls (1993) but ultimately better due to its more enticing story. They also praised the FMV graphics and cinematic presentation, but criticized it for its lack of longevity. The reviewers felt its short length, addictive gameplay, and lack of overly challenging puzzles ensured that the player will be finished with it very quickly. A Next Generation reviewer gave the same praises for the scary storyline and graphics, and also said the puzzles “are just challenging enough to satisfy and yet not so difficult as to impede your progress for very long.” However, he felt the slow character movement and lack of longevity kept the game from being truly exceptional. Staff at Game Informer were more critical in their review of the Saturn version. They found the gameplay tedious but did praise the graphics and the storytelling, concluding the “story would make a great movie or book, but not a game.”
The plot of Lunar: Eternal Blue was written by novelist Kei Shigema, who previously conceived the story for The Silver Star. Working together with new world-designer Hajime Satou, Shigema intended to craft a story that would continue where the previous game ended, while also giving players a thoroughly new experience that would elaborate on the history and mythos of the Lunar world.
On Lunar, Hiro and Ruby are exploring an ancient ruin where they collect a large gem, The Dragon’s Eye. Removing it sets off a trap and they flee as the temple collapses and monsters chase them. On their way back to their home they meet the White Knight Leo, captain of Althena’s guard, who warns them of a person arriving that is prophesied to destroy the world, known as the “Destroyer”. Despite these rumors in the land, Hiro, Ruby and Gwyn investigate a strange light that descended upon the mysterious Blue Spire tower. They use the Dragon’s Eye to unlock the tower. There they meet the beautiful Lucia, who asks to be taken to see the goddess Althena in order to avert the destruction of Lunar. Zophar, an evil disembodied spirit, appears and drains Lucia of all her magic powers. The group travels to convince the former-priest of Althena, Ronfar, to heal her. After being healed, Lucia travels alone on her quest to find Althena.
Hiro, Ronfar and Ruby grow concerned about Lucia and follow her. They witness Lucia being abducted by Leo, who believes her to be the destroyer. They rescue her from Leo’s ship, The Dragonship Destiny, and escape into a forest where they meet the dancer Jean, who is traveling with a circus group. Jean helps them escape the forest. Lucia does not understand human culture and often finds human behavior strange. As they travel she starts to learn about humanity and grows fond of people. Joined along the way by Lemina, the group travel across mountains and forests to reach Pentagulia, Althena’s holy city.
Lucia demands to see Althena. But when she meets the woman who claims to be Althena, Lucia determines her to be an imposter. After a brief fight, the group is separated and thrown into the palace dungeons. The party is freed and joined by Leo, whose faith in the goddess was shaken by Althena’s recent actions. The group determines to thwart Ghaleon, the self-proclaimed Dragonmaster who is supporting the false Althena, by returning the power he took from the four dragons. The heroes begin a journey to visit the four dragons and free them. As they travel, Lemina, Ronfar, Jean, and Leo each confront one of Althena’s strongest heroes, redeeming their past lives that they have been running away from.
The revived dragons, including Ruby, attack the false Althena’s stronghold, where she is transformed into a demonic monster that the group defeat. At the pinnacle of the battle, the group learns that the true Althena gave up her godhood after falling in love with a human. Lucia absorbs Althena’s power in order to destroy Zophar, but hesitates as this could destroy all magic and Lunar itself. Lucia is then captured by Zophar who drains her power. Lucia uses the last of her magic to teleport Hiro and the others to safety. The group trains to fight Zophar. Ghaleon appears and gives Hiro his sword, explaining that he had to appear to be an enemy but wishes to atone for his past actions (i.e., as the villain of the first game).
The group work together and defeat Zophar using their human strengths, thus freeing Lucia and restoring peace. Lucia returns to her home on the Blue Star, hoping that she can one day entrust the Blue Star to humans based on what she witnessed on Lunar. Having fallen in love with Lucia, Hiro is heartbroken by her departure. In the epilogue, Hiro and the group reunite to help Hiro go to the Blue Star to be reunited with Lucia. Hiro succeeds, and the two look towards a bright future for humanity.
Lunar: Eternal Blue was developed by Game Arts and Studio Alex, with project director Yoichi Miyagi returning to oversee the production of the new game. According to scenario writer Kei Shigema, the game’s concept of an oppressive god came from the image of Sun Wukong, hero of the Chinese epic Journey to the West, being unable to escape from the gigantic palm of the Buddha. Shigema stated that “it was a picture showing the arrogance of a god who is saying, ‘In the end, you pathetic humans are in my hands’. The moment I understood that, I thought, ‘Oh, I definitely want to do this’, it’ll definitely match perfectly. So we used it just like that”. Eternal Blue took three years and over US$2.5 million to produce, and contains twice as much dialogue as its precessor. The game’s development team originally wanted the game to be set only a few years after The Silver Star, and would feature slightly older versions of the previous cast along with the new characters, yet discarded the idea when they thought the new cast would lose focus. Like its predecessor, the game contains animated interludes to help tell the game’s story, which were developed in-house with Toshiyuki Kubooka serving as animation director. While The Silver Star contained only ten minutes of partially voiced animation, Eternal Blue features nearly fifty minutes of fully voiced video content.
The game’s North American version was translated and published by Working Designs, who had previously produced the English release of The Silver Star. Headed by company president Victor Ireland, the game’s script contains the same light humor of the original, with references to American pop culture, word play, and breaking of the fourth wall not seen in the Japanese version. Working closely with the staff at Game Arts, Working Designs implemented design and balance fixes into the American release, including altering the difficulty of some battles that were found to be “near impossible”. Finding little risk in the ability to save the game anywhere, Ireland’s team added a “cost” component to the game’s save feature, where players would have to spend points earned after battles to record their progress, remarking that “[we] wanted to make the player think about where and when to save without making it too burdensome”. In addition, Working Designs implemented the ability for the game to remember the last action selected by the player during combat, allowing them to use the same command the next round without having to manually select it. Like The Silver Star, the North American version of Eternal Blue featured an embossed instruction manual cover.
In July 1998, Game Arts and Japan Art Media released a remake to Eternal Blue, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete for the Sega Saturn, with a PlayStation version available the following year. Like the remake of The Silver Star, Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, the new version of Eternal Blue features updated graphics, re-arranged audio, and more robust animated sequences by Studio Gonzo, as well as an expanded script. This version would be released in North America in 2000 once again by Working Designs in the form of an elaborate collector’s edition package that includes a soundtrack CD, “making of” bonus disc, game map, and a special omake box complete with Eternal Blue collectibles.
The remake received positive reviews upon release. GamePro said it “may not be the flashiest RPG of the year, but it’s definitely one of the best, with its solid combination of terrific gameplay and a compelling story.”
Samuel Bass reviewed the PlayStation version for Next Generation, stating that it is “not one for the technologically fixated, but a brilliant, timelessly charming RPG nonetheless”.
|Metacritic||86/100 (12 reviews)|
|Sega Saturn Magazine||26/30|
|RPGFan (RPG Awards)||Overall Best RPG (1998)[53|