The Lunar II That Almost Was

I prefer Lunar II: Eternal Blue to the original Lunar: The Silver Star. I could attribute this to playing Eternal Blue first, which made The Silver Star seem repetitive. Yet Eternal Blue is also a shade less cliché, with better character development and an ending that cruelly toys with the player. It’s the more interesting of the two RPGs, and the same goes for its unused ideas.

Lunar II was originally going to carry over the cast of The Silver Star, and its preliminary designs reflect that. Game Arts changed plans, however, and Lunar II got a mostly new lineup of characters. Some characters, including standard-issue protagonist Hiro and gallivanting monk Ronfar, didn’t change all that much from their initial concepts. Other characters did.


One of the biggest alterations: royal knight Leo and his priestess sister Mauri are beast-people in the final game, but they were first designed as centaurs. I suspect this was changed for two reasons. One: Leo would be harder to animate during battles if he were a horse from the waist down. Two: the romance between centaur Mauri and the fully human Ronfar would’ve raised all sorts of questions.


Leo still went through more redesigns, growing less bestial in each phase. That’s his near-final look on the right. Character designer Toshiyuki Kubooka abandoned a more leonine face in favor of a snout and horn.



Kubooka also played around with several hairstyles for Lunar II heroine Lucia, none of which really improves on the final incarnation.


Here's a near-final look at Lucia, though her hair's blonde instead of blue.


The most notable piece of early Lunar II art is the human form of Ruby, Hiro’s tiny pink dragon companion. Nall, the yipping white dragon sidekick from The Silver Star, can transform into a human in Lunar II, and Ruby could presumably do the same. The drawings are also labeled "Mink's human form," reflecting Ruby's original name.


Ruby never becomes human during the game, not even in the expanded PlayStation and Saturn remakes of Lunar II, so this was as far as the whole idea went.

Game Arts probably won't revisit Lunar II again. My preference aside, the first Lunar is the favorite among most fans. It gets remade every few years to a modest reception, which pushes the Lunar name back out of the spotlight and thereby starts the whole cycle over again. But Lunar still gave us two decent RPGs—and a few curious early designs.

4 comments:

parish said...

I miss '90s anime design. Maybe it's just that I see Ruby's human form and it feels unfettered by the fetishy baggage that accompanies contemporary underaged character designs.

Post-script: Lunar II was a much more interesting game than the first, and I wish Game Arts would have the decency to remake it whenever they dredge up the original.

arnoldrimmer83 said...

If they did remake Eternal Blue instead of the original, maybe it would actually sell.

Zigfried said...

Thanks for posting this -- I had never seen this artwork before. Kubooka's art is attached to both the original Lunar games, and to Giant Robo... what a frighteningly cool legacy. But anyways, yeah, I agree with you that Eternal Blue was better. I'm not too keen on seeing a remake, though, since GameArts' track record on remake quality has been poor.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for posting this! :-) I'm a HUGE fan of the lunar series for over a decade and I have both Lunar I+II art books. I don't speak or read Japanese and finding out Ruby's name was originally going to be Mink was surprising to me! It's too bad Ruby never got a human form in the sega saturn or playstation games. I know in some manga adaptations Ruby is shown as a young girl (around age 6) in stories such as Childhood's End. But that's about it.

I really hope someday they will remake Lunar 2 EB for another gaming platform like they have for Lunar SSS. Like you, I like Lunar EB better because of said reasons. :) I found Lunar 1 to be somewhat immature compared to Lunar EB and just less interesting overall. Also, I've seen gameplay for Lunar SSH on youtube and the graphics look astounding, However, I'm debating whether to buy it or not. If buying it would help bring about a Lunar 2 remake then I'm all for it! But if it means more Lunar SSS remakes then I'd rather not go with it. I keep hearing from fans of a rumor about a 4 heroes game in the works.