Lunar: Walking School review.

I dunno about anyone else, but Lunar is one of the only series of any kind that I would consider myself a ‘fan’ of. So, it’s safe to say I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. So, if you didn’t know: The Game Gear version of this game is in English now. Have fun, if you decide to play it.

I wonder what compelled Game Arts, after two successful installments of the Lunar series on Sega CD, to release a third one on Game Gear. Sega CD was likely one of the most powerful pieces of gaming hardware at the time of its release, and the first two Lunar games took advantage of the superior audio, graphical, and storage capabilities that the Sega CD had to offer. Suddenly downgrading to a portable version of an old 8-Bit console seems like the worst way to deliver a new experience that could equal or surpass its predecessors.

And yet, for all my whining about it, it happened; Lunar: Walking School was the third game in the series - the only one to not receive a North American release in any capacity - and it was released on the Game Gear in 1995. Also, regardless of how inane the idea is to me, Walking School wasn’t half bad. I guess that’ll teach me that just because I think something is stupid doesn’t make it a bad idea. …Probably not.

Lunar: Walking School is a pretty huge departure from it’s older brothers in the way that it’s not of a particularly epic scope; while the other Lunar games wound up being huge 'round-the-world, save-the-world adventures that deal with personal growth, Walking School’s story is episodic and of a minor scope. We start out with the two main characters, Ellie and Lena, being invited to study at the school of magic, Iyen (for all you Lunar fans, this is NOT Vane; Iyen floats around on the water, not the sky. Vane is specifically referred to in the game a few times). They reluctantly accept the invitation after talking it over with their parents, and head off. After one of the most bizarre, contrived entrance exams ever, the two begin their adventures at Iyen.

About 99% of the game takes place on Iyen, so naturally, the game’s story is mostly about Ellie and Rena’s crazy hijinks. Together, they find a magic teacher to study under, after miserably failing several of the teachers’ entrance exams. They blow up an entire building, hilariously them the moniker “The Freshman Bombers.” They even investigate absurd urban legends about the school. This is mixed in with some random episodes concerning long-time series bad guys, The Vile Tribe, to make a complete story.

To the game’s credit, the game has wonderful character interaction (as did the first two games, I suppose). Ellie, the main character, is boring out of necessity, so that the hyperactive Lena can play her foil. It’s fun to see them plan out their excursions, argue with their rivals - the decidedly brash Ant and his cronies, Rick and Kule - talk about boys, and other assorted things. In fact, the funny situations and funny reactions are the main reason to play the game; it certainly isn’t the random, tacked-on nonsense about the Vile Tribe, which gets in the way of the really entertaining stuff.

The gameplay is quite a departure from the Sega CD games, but that is likely out of necessity more than anything (the fact that Walking School’s Sega Saturn revamp has the classic gameplay style lends credence to this). Sadly, the game’s combat winds up being most like your standard, vanilla turn-based RPG. On the bright side, the game does a lot to make combat go as quickly as possible, and there are a lot of neat conveniences. The two big things which caught my attention were the fact that, if you fail to run away, you don’t forfeit a turn, and the fact that, when a character dies before performing their action for a turn, they’ll do it as soon as they’re brought back to life. These neat touches made me slap my head and think, “Man! I wonder why other RPGs don’t think to try this?”

There are other cool little things, like the system where combining items with special concoctions can make even better consumable items, or that spells are learned by talking to various magic professors after leveling up. However, it’s sort of irrelevant in the end, because the gameplay ultimately holds no challenge whatsoever; ironically, this is because of the importance of magic in combat. Physical attacks are useful early on, but become completely obsolete about halfway through the game. So, you need to make sure you get stronger attack magic and use it all the time.

The game designers must have realized this, because they made sure that recovering MP was as easy as possible; buying MP-restoring items is very cheap, and creating powerful MP-restoring consumables is equally easy. Even worse (better?), Ellie and co. can restore their MP at any time by standing still and waiting. This practically negates the need for any consumable items whatsoever, because at any point in a dungeon, you can heal your party to full HP with magic, let the game sit there for a minute or two while you make a sandwich, and come back to a fully-restored party. This touch made me slap my head and think, “Man! Of all the things to take from this game! Why did Golden Sun choose the most terrible original idea?”

Even if that weren’t the case, though, the need to rely on magic attacks hurts the game’s difficulty because the power of magic spells do not scale as the characters level up. To that end, if you don’t level up and remember to get the new magic spells, you’ll fight bosses with magic spells that don’t even hurt them. However, if you have the most current magic spells, you’ll make quick work of them; so, any point in time, the game is either mind-blowingly hard or mind-blowingly easy - choose your own adventure!

While I do lament the lack of challenge, let’s face it: one probably won’t be playing this game for the challenge. Hell, even the old Lunar games weren’t THAT damn hard. Someone that plays Lunar: Walking School will probably be doing so because they’re a fan of the Lunar series, and want to check out the only game in the series that never made it to U.S shores, now that it’s finally been translated to English. For those that try the game out, it may be a nice surprise - it’s not made of all the things that made Lunar: Silver Star and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue the outstanding gems that they are. But, it’s quick, short (and I mean SHORT, like ten hours, tops), painless, and very entertaining. When I first found out about this game at the age of fifteen, I thought I’d die waiting for it to be released in English; I thought I’d be completely content. But, now that I’ve played the game, I feel the same excited sensation as I wonder if anyone will ever translate its Sega Saturn counterpart. I suppose, with that in mind, Lunar: Walking School is a success.

I actually read a transcript of a Manga based on Lunar: Walking School many, many years ago- so I actually know the characters of Ellie and Rena. As a Lunar fan, I really wanted to play this game, but I too assumed the odds of it coming here were very small. I’m glad to see it did make it after all. From your description, this sounds like a Lunar game in name only- I’ll bet things like the Four Dragons, Althena’s transformations etc. do not show up. It sounds more like Sega wanted to make a different game and just linked it to Lunar to increase its chances to sell. But hey, as long as the game is good, who cares?

You’re right that the Lunar games are easy- I’m pretty sure I could’ve beat them even without guides (though those guides were so cool they were worth getting on their own.) But as you said, that didn’t really matter because they were FUN, from all the inserted jokes to the characters that you really got to know and care about.

Btw, if I’m correct, this game came out before Harry Potter, so no, they weren’t ripping that series off- then again, its success around the world probably helped get this game back in circulation.

Well, it’s certainly different in a lot of ways, but it has its ties. Vane is definitely referenced (it’s said that exemplary graduates of Iyen get invited to study at Vane), one of the four dragons shows up in the game, and there are definitely references to Althena; specifically, about how she is resurrected in human form every few hundred years. Also, I’d say it’s still a Lunar game in the way that’s most important to me, which is the excellent character interaction.

Also, I’m curious if I said anything in my review that insinuates that I thought Lunar was a Harry Potter ripoff. I didn’t intend to, but if I said something that made it seem that way, I’d like to know so I can word it better.

Not exactly, but any contrived school aspect pulled by this game can’t possibly match some of the bullshit HP pulls like Quidige (or however its spelled) or that house point thing.

I wonder what compelled Game Arts, after two successful installments of the Lunar series on Sega CD, to release a third one on Game Gear. Sega CD was likely one of the most powerful pieces of gaming hardware at the time of its release, and the first two Lunar games took advantage of the superior audio, graphical, and storage capabilities that the Sega CD had to offer. Suddenly downgrading to a portable version of an old 8-Bit console seems like the worst way to deliver a new experience that could equal or surpass its predecessors.

Probably the same thing that compelled Nintendo to follow up LttP with that nonsense GB game despite having the sublime Virtual Boy siting right there in front of them (well ok, the VB didn’t come out a year and a half after LA did, but for the sake of the argument let us suppose it did).

Your sarcasm fails before Link’s Awakening.

SG: Which of the Four Dragons shows up? The White and Red ones were co-stars in the first two Lunars, which leaves the Blue and Black ones.

Oh, and sorry if I gave the impression that you had suggested the game was based on Harry Potter- that was me telling the audience it wasn’t a correct (thought logical) assumption. Really, the concept of magic schools is waaay older than HP, but that’s like telling people Superman wasn’t the first superhero.

Oh, and I forgot to ask… Why is it a “Walking” School? Do you have to walk a lot around it? Do you learn to WALK there? :stuck_out_tongue: Or does it get up and walk away from time to time? :hahaha;

The blue one.

Coincidentally, this pretty much sums up the game, and is funny in of itself (note: spoilers).

Originally Posted by Rigmarole
Your sarcasm fails before Link’s Awakening.

You can’t tell me that four shades of yellowish green is visually superior to VB’s red and not red. Especially when you consider the headache inducing perception of depth that it included. The VB was truly an advanced system way ahead of its time. Why they didn’t make a Zelda game for it is beyond me.

Haha, that’s what one of the main people behind the fan trans jokingly suggested :stuck_out_tongue: Uh, the other translation I’ve heard is “Strolling School”. I wonder if “Moving School” isn’t appropriate, because Iyen is an island that moves around from place to place; and yet, it can sort of anchor at certain places if it gets close to land.

Haha, I guess that movie is KIND OF what it’s like…my favorite touch is how Lena’s attack magic is crappy; this joke is in the Game Gear version, but it’s really hard to notice thanks to spell animations, and spells that are too weak to do damage say “Miss” instead of “0”.

Still, more than half of the game deals with stuff completely non-related to the Vile Tribe. I honestly wish that part of the game happened the way it did in the anime; all the stuff related to the vile tribe in Walking School is really lame.

Nintendo was a pioneer in hallucinogenic video games.

I remember reading about this game sometime back. It’s been bothering me that I can’t remember where or in what form. Kinda annoying. Anyways, it sounds pretty decent.