The complaints are out there and are never going to go away: anime has stopped being creative. Relying on remakes, sequels and adaptations; original anime stories have gradually become occasional treats rather than season staples. What’s even worse is that if the studios are just going to raid the manga and video game shelves anyway, why did they miss so many good choices? We’ve all played a game or seen a movie that in the back of our heads thought it would make a great anime series. So with that in mind, I’m taking it upon myself to point out some of the biggest missed opportunities that I’ve come across.
The first incarnation of Lunar: Silver Star came about in 1992 for the Sega CD (how many of you even remember that system? Heh). In this fantasy story, the setting is a world called Lunar once revived by the goddess Althena and later saved from disaster by four great heroes. Many years later, in the village of Burg, Alex spends all his time at the monument of one of these’s heroes, Dyne. After being talked into going on an adventure by his money grubbing best friend, Ramus, Alex and his adopted sister Luna head off into the world to begin their quest for fame, adventure and treasure. After meeting a series of friends including the foppish mage Nash, the tsundere priestess Jessica, the warrior Kyle and others; Alex will be pulled into the same role that his hero Dyne once had being pitted against the evil wizard Ghaleon. The evil wizard has a plan to revive the goddess of the planet and make her into his slave, putting the world in his control.
In the very beginning, Lunar comes across as ‘just another role playing game’. It was never the game play or technical mastery that gave Lunar its enduring reputation with fans; it was always the writing, story and characters. Within no time at all, players found themselves swept away in a story that took them to a world filled with its own history, mythology and loveable characters to share it with.
What made the story stand out from the rest however wasn’t that it just another plucky hero trying to save the girl (well, it did have that). Written in a clear, linear fashion the story and humor in Lunar felt tailored to an anime series. Early on, characters seem static and yet constantly foreshadow the twists that are coming to players. The first time fans hear ‘Wind Nocturne’ sung by Jenny Stiegel (for those of us who listened to it in English); it seems like just another wonderful insert song. As players continued forward, the emotional foreshadowing becomes more and more apparent. I will always remember those moments in my pre-adolescence when Ghaleon and Quark reunite for the last time and Vane fell from the sky.
In the late part of the 90′s, Lunar received a remake for the Sega Saturn and Playstation. Complete with cinematic anime cut scenes, fans finally got to see what could be with the Lunar series. And they were pleased. Now getting to see fully animated scenes that showed fans Luna’s boat song, the grindery being revealed for the first time, Vane falling to the planet below and the emergence of Evil Althena; fans restarted their cries for an anime series that has never come.
Since the sequel, Lunar: Eternal Blue, fans have waited eagerly for new installments to the series and jumped on anything that came out. In 2001, yet another remake of Silver Star (titled Lunar Legend) made its way onto store shelves which was followed by Lunar: Genesis (titled Lunar: Dragon Song in the US) in 2005. Despite being the first original story in over a decade, Dragon Song, felt more like a swan song for fans. As the tag line for Eternal Blue states; ‘In the darkest hour, hope spring eternal’. Will fans ever get to see Alex and Luna in their own anime series? Doubtful but as long as Game Arts sticks around, I will remain hopeful. In the meantime, anyone got a PSP I can borrow when Lunar: Harmony of the Silver Star is released at the end of the year?