It’s very rare that I bring up the Lunar series and people know what I’m on about. As far as classic RPGs go, the main talking points are nearly universal: Final Fantasy, Persona, etc. They spring immediately to mind for good reason, as they were indeed incredible games far ahead of their time. Inexplicably, Lunar often gets left out of the discussion.
Lunar is, at its heart, a story about faith. Revolving around two Goddesses that are reincarnated at different points in the story, across different games, each Goddess represents a beginning and an end to the plot. Althena, the first Goddess, goes to war against a great evil to save a world that her war eventually destroys, setting the events of the series in motion when survivors are relocated to a new planet. To her further detriment, the survivors become overly dependent on her. Rather than solve their own problems and rely on their own strength to survive, they pray to her for salvation at every turn, stagnating in the shadow of her benevolence and power. In response, Althena relinquishes her Godhood to live and die among her people, rather than reign over them.
Enter Lucia, Goddess reborn as an amnesiac priestess with vast, unexplained abilities connected to power she spends much of sequel game Lunar: Eternal Blue unaware of. Throughout her journey, Lucia is joined by a diverse cast of characters each with their own struggles and agendas, and this is where it gets especially interesting. Unlike many other RPGs, the cast stories and side-quests are as important as the prime directive. All who meet Lucia carry the weight of their own baggage into the branching story, and grow not just physically but emotionally as the game progresses.
With one exception, party members are not especially majestic or epitomize some heroic cliché; these are deeply flawed characters burdened by dark pasts and secrets. Jean, for instance, is a beautiful dancer with blood-soaked hands as a once-child assassin, now trying and failing to bury her deeds behind the anger and retribution she seeks against her former master. Ronfar is a tragic gambler who was once a holy man, his lost faith and pain punctuated by his battle cry, “You always hurt the ones you love.” Lucia herself begins the story nearly robotic, but gains her humanity through the struggles of her teammates and a budding romance with the aptly-named Hiro, aforementioned exception to anime cliché. The story of Lunar is written to foster lasting connections with characters and a world that are immediately, deeply missed as the credits begin to roll.
Unfortunately, short of abundant remakes, that world would never be fully realized again. The series went dark until the botched Lunar: Dragon Song, which sought to reinvent the wheel when it should have focused on the storytelling the series was previously so well-received for. Following the heavily critical reception of Dragon Song, the series went dark. It’s been over a decade, and developer Game Arts has remained lukewarm on the idea of a new game in the series, instead content with constant remakes of a story that doesn’t change. Legal and financial troubles plagued both Game Arts and Studio Alex, the developers responsible for the game, eventually leading to the bankruptcy of the latter in a legal battle against the former. This has led to fan speculation that the Lunar series will never again see the light of day thanks to a gutted studio and botched foray into non-derivative works with Dragon Song.
The biggest shame is the bittersweet way in which Lunar: Eternal Blue ends, alluding to a new future colonizing the Blue Star. Lucia, Hiro, and others supposedly continue their journey on a nearly new world. For fans of the game, however, that chapter remains closed, with only our imaginations and fan-fictions to fulfill a lasting need to revisit the Stars.