A Lack of Lunar, Elucidated

The first two Lunar games remain cases of RPG clichés done unimpeachably right. They button up every little part of the genre that grew old during the early 1990s, but they do it all with exceptional artwork, grand music, likeable characters, and cinematic aplomb (oh, and goofball Working Designs localizations that I still find irresistible). That’s especially true of the second game, Lunar II: Eternal Blue. In fact, in the whole skein of RPGs where plucky young heroes meet mysterious, blue-haired women, Lunar II is the best damn RPG where a plucky young hero meets a mysterious, blue-haired woman. And you can quote me on the box.

The original Lunar: The Silver Star gets most of the attention when it comes to remakes, but you’ll find that Softbank’s Lunar artbook, source of early production art and other things, grants a touch more space to Lunar II. For example, the second game gets this comic strip by artist Akari Funato. In it we see Eternal Blue protagonists Hiro and Lucia visiting their makers at the Game Arts offices.

It’s easy to follow if you have even a minor understanding of Japanese and game-development gags, but here’s a rough translation anyway.

Lucia: Welcome to the development room for Lunar II! Today, we'll check out the demo!

Lucia: “Please press button.” Press a button to begin, huh?

(Sound effect: Potch!)

Staff Member (inside building): AAAAUUUUGH! YOU ERASED ALL OUR DATA!

I like this comic for several reasons, and the precious button-jabbing onamatopoiea of “Potch!” is only one of them. It’s also a humorous glimpse of just how fragile game preservation can be. Companies were often sloppy about archiving data in decades past, and today one might hear that a small developer or major publisher no longer has the source code for a famous creation. It may well be that the original data files for Panzer Dragoon Saga or Bouncer vanished just because someone hit a button they should’ve have.

There’s even more to the comic. Since Lucia and Hiro are both characters in the game currently under development, Lucia is deleting their own existence by accidentally wiping the computer at hand. In a far more graceful handling of the concept than Star Ocean 3, this comic brings video-game characters face to face with their own digital mortality. Hiro, dimly aware of this, dashes from the scene in some instinctive attempt to outrun his impending obliteration. Lucia, however, confusedly ponders the metaphysical issues raised here.

Funato also provided this art of Hiro praying for Lunar II’s safe completion while Althena, the goddess introduced in Lunar: The Silver Star, sheepishly brushes off his intercessions. This is highly appropriate given Lunar II’s jaundiced view of religion.

The question of divine meddling aside, Lunar II came out just fine. Funato drew several Lunar manga before moving on to original titles like the Victorian murder mystery Under the Rose and Desert of Stars. She didn’t go back to Lunar comics, possibly because there was no call for them after the 1990s. As far as I know, no one actually wiped out Lunar II’s data stores, but that doesn’t matter. When it comes to remakes or PlayStation Network reissues or even new comic strips, Lunar II may as well not exist.

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