I often wonder how my most loved older games would hold up if I were playing them now for the first time. Would the classics that defined my childhood and teenage years endure without a strong foundation of nostalgia? In some cases, they wouldn't. Despite Final Fantasy VIII being my favorite in the series at the time, playing through it recently revealed how genuinely bad a lot of the writing in the game really is. That said, some classics really are just classics, and judging from how many times Lunar: Silver Star Harmony has been remade, I guess it's supposed to be one.
For a newcomer to the series, the PSP edition of Lunar is well done . . . to a point. First and foremost, the visuals and audio are lovely. Graphics this gorgeous are what all 2D games should aspire to. Looking up screen shots from the original and comparing them to the new version, you'd think they were entirely different games. Environments are lush and colorful, where character sprites stand tall and actually resemble their more detailed anime-style avatars. With the revamped look of the game reflecting some honest-to-goodness care, it's nice to hear the sound is similarly excellent. While the voice acting is cringeworthy, Lunar boasts a fantastic soundtrack. The incredibly well-orchestrated music almost always suits the occasion.
Beyond that, Lunar presents itself as a fairly typical JRPG. You have the young, plucky hero from a small town who heads off to find adventure, friends in tow. One of them has a secret power they are just beginning to discover, and of course the world falls under the threat of an evil that you have to defeat. Even without having played any of the previous renditions of Lunar, I was able to predict almost everything in the game well before it actually happened. This lack of mystery, which is more the fault of the countless games that have copied this formula since, was something of a mood killer. Lunar: Silver Star Harmony still boasts a charming cast of characters whose dialogue is often genuinely amusing. The twists and turns of the plot might be predictable, but it's still worth the trip.
The most problematic section of the remake is the combat. For the most part, it's very solid turn-based battles with a few clever twists, despite its age. My issue with the gameplay is that the developers just made it way too easy. Gamers with almost no knowledge of RPG mechanics will plow right through the game. You can very effectively mash your way through most minor battles, and if your fingers get tired, it features an auto-battle option that will all but remove you from the process. If I wanted a lengthy, quirky fantasy anime, I'd watch one. When playing an RPG, I'd like it to demand a bit of my attention, and in that regard, Lunar fails.
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is a good remake overall. The production values are a stark contrast to the original version, fleshing out the game's world with a lush vibrancy. That said, other aspects that could have used some updating, like the the story and difficulty, drag it down. This is a fair game that will likely be enjoyed by new gamers and fans alike, but it's a title that could have been great if things had been done just a tad differently.