We get an exclusive look at the upcoming RPG for the DS.
The Lunar series holds a special place in the hearts of many a role-playing game fan. The franchise started in 1993 with Lunar: Silver Star for the Sega CD and has since spawned several sequels and remakes that have appeared on various consoles. The latest entry in the series, dubbed Lunar: Dragon Song, is an original game for Nintendo's DS that aims to blend a solid RPG experience with dual-screen support in one tight package. We had the chance to get an exclusive look at the game to see just how the DS's first proper RPG is turning out.
Lunar: Dragon Song's story features a cast of original characters, placed in the now well-established Lunar template that isn't too far off from the premise of just about any RPG. You'll be cast in the role of Jian Campbell, a 15-year-old boy who works as a courier in the harbor town of Searis. His companion and business partner is a 14-year-old girl named Lucia Collins. (We'll just gloss over the child labor issues, shall we?) The pair leads, by all accounts, a fairly low-key life that revolves around work. This all changes when a simple package-delivery job sends them on a continent-spanning adventure that will lead them to make new friends and save the world.
If you're a fan of the series, you may be bummed that the only similarities we've seen so far between Dragon Song and the previous Lunar games are the world and the mythos revolving around the goddess Althena. However, you'll still get to roll with beastmen and cast magic spells, so you'll definitely feel like you're on a Lunar adventure. From what we've seen of the dialogue so far, the game is attempting to hold on to one of the Lunar staples, humor, while telling its story.
The gameplay in Lunar: Dragon Song is a good mix of familiar and new elements; anyone familiar with the RPG genre, especially the Lunar games, should have no trouble diving right in. Your time in the game will be spent exploring, leveling up, and interacting with the game's eclectic cast of characters. Exploration happens in one of two ways. When you're in towns, you'll see specific spots that, if you stand on them, will let you access different areas in the town. When you're exploring on foot, you'll be able to examine objects and locations for hidden items. The only gripe we have about these sequences is that your party's health goes down if you run for prolonged periods. Although developer Japan Art Media has suggested that the minor health loss adds a touch of realism to the game, we have to say that we long for our good old-fashioned infinite fantasy running.
Leveling up your party is an interesting new feature in the game, which ties in to the battle system. The system breaks down into two mode types, virtue and combat, which you can manually select outside of combat. When battling in virtue mode, you'll earn experience that will let you level up your party. Virtue mode will also let you access hidden chests that can be opened only after you've defeated a certain number of enemies. While defeating the appropriate quota of enemies isn't much of a problem initially, you'll find this more challenging as you progress, due to a time limit. Basically, every time you defeat a foe, a box will be checked on the lower DS screen menu and a stopwatch will begin counting down. If it counts all the way down to zero, your foe will reappear; but if you manage to take out another enemy before it counts down, it will start counting down from scratch again to give you more time to hit your quota. Once that's out of the way, you'll get a percentage of your hit and magic points back. The biggest perk of fulfilling these conditions is the ability to open special chests that yield useful items.