Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lunar: Dragon Song's Final Showdown

Amongst the many, many accolades for atrocity one can attribute to Lunar: Dragon Song is the fact that this game may have the lamest final confrontation of all RPG history.

Here’s the deal. The sad sack villain of the game, Ignatius, is sitting in his Final Boss Castle, right? Jian, the “hero” of the game, if such he can really be called, and Jian’s faithful bland companions, must go through the castle to save Lucia, a human reincarnation of the goddess Althena who actually manages to make even Lunar 1’s Luna look interesting by comparison, from Ignatius’s clutches. Ignatius, you see, intends to awaken Althena within Lucia, and use her, as well as his powers as the Dragonmaster, to take over the world, because he’s evil, and also a transparent rip-off of previous Lunar series villain Ghaleon. It’s like the LDS writers just copy-pasted Ghaleon into the game and changed his name.

Okay, tangent here, but I’d like to note that I can still barely believe how lazy a villain Ignatius is. I mean, the Ghaleon archetype wasn’t exactly unknown in RPGs to begin with, but in Pandora’s name, Game Arts, what the hell is wrong with you? It’s one thing when a series like, say, Final Fantasy has villains that seem suspiciously similar to one another. Final Fantasy has over 30 distinct titles. The Lunar series has 4. And Ghaleon already acts as the major antagonist in half of them! How can the writers at Game Arts be so staggeringly lacking in basic human creativity that they cannot write more than one single villain?

Tangent over. So, as you can see, the stage is set at the end of Lunar: Dragon Song for a pretty standard face-off between Ignatius and Jian. Tried and true RPG formula’s in full swing. It’s not exactly creative, and given all that the player has suffered from LDS already, it sure as hell ain’t going to be enjoyable, but at least the player knows what’s coming and is prepared to ride the generic finale out. It’ll even be a bit of a relief, to finally be done with this wretched title. This is a finale to look forward to, if for all the wrong reasons. Right?

Nope.

So, you go along through the final dungeon, and have another confrontation with Gideon, the large, persistent monster follower of Ignatius whom Jian and company have already had previous run-ins with. No surprise there. You beat him, and you go on for a while more, fighting through legions of lazy palette-swap copy-enemies and lazier copy-environments because hey, who wants to spend the time designing new textures and tiles? Certainly not Game Arts. You get to the last part of the castle, and have to beat Gideon yet again. Stupid git don’t stay dead.

With this most recent victory over Gideon, you move on to the final area, which is your standard divine staircase set against a background of stars and space. I’m fairly sure, being RPG players, that you are familiar with this sort of setting. And the first thing that happens is that Gideon comes up from behind the group and attacks once more. Well, it’s annoying, but eh, annoying recurring boss henchmen will be annoying recurring boss henchmen, right? So it’s time to put this monster down once and for all. It’s a tough battle, but eventually, Gideon is defeated. With Gideon dead, there is nothing between Jian and the showdown that his long, trying journey has been leading up to! Now, the party can finally confront Ignatius...Ignatius the head honcho, Antagonist Prime, Ignatius the power-hungry manipulator of the Vile Tribe who seeks in his hubris to usurp a goddess’s power for his own selfish ends!

Oh, and hey, congratulations on beating the game.

No, that’s not me expressing confidence that you can do so. No, I’m not accidentally putting that sentence too early. The game’s over. You won. Killing Gideon for good was the last battle in Lunar: Dragon Song. There is no final battle with the villain of this game. This is a game that denies the player the most basic, intrinsic aspect of a story’s finale. Lunar: Dragon Song flies in hundreds, really thousands of years of successful storytelling in order to deliver you the lamest finale possible.

But hey, hold on. Can I really say that, just from not having a final fight against Ignatius? I mean, just because the player himself does not take part in defeating the villain, that doesn’t mean Ignatius’s defeat has to be bad, right? It could still be fine just watching Jian beat Ignatius instead of taking part in it ourselves. Most of the important points and narrative of an RPG are told through cutscenes anyway. Right?

Sooner or later you’re going to wise up and stop giving this shitty game the benefit of the doubt.

You want to know how Jian takes Ignatius out? You want to know how the villain of the game, the mighty Dragonmaster* who commands violent legions of exiles and has entrapped a goddess within his clutches, is defeated?

He falls down.

In what may be the first time in history that any important RPG character actually dies from a fatal drop, Ignatius is overcome by losing his footing. See, it goes like this. Gideon’s finally beaten. Ignatius enters and shows Jian that he’s brainwashed Althena-Lucia, because apparently, as the game explains, reawakening as a goddess leaves her with no memories of her human life just like being reborn leaves her with no memories of being a goddess. Perhaps realizing that this makes no damn sense, the game hurriedly moves onto Ignatius waxing idiotic on how love only hurts people, or some such pretentious stupidity, and then offering to finally settle things with Jian, as, y’know, you’re expecting to happen. Jian makes some emotional bid to Althena-Lucia to remember him and go back home with him, which would be touching if you had any investment in their relationship, but you don’t. Ignatius decides to hit Jian with a rather underwhelming fireball which manages to drop the stupid kid to his knees, and then Jian goes...ugh, look for yourself:

“Ignatius...You still don't get it, do you? We can't solve this by fighting! I may defeat you, or you can defeat me, it does not matter! One of us will end up defeated!”

Yes, I think that’s what the man had in mind, Jian.

Captain Tautology tries a bit more to persuade Ignatius, for some reason certainly not related to anything we know about Jian’s character, Ignatius’s history, or rational thought. It doesn’t work. Ignatius, perhaps annoyed that someone else is spouting ridiculous pseudo-psychological drivel that means nothing, decides to lightly tap Jian with another fireball, and Althena-Lucia picks that moment to run out from behind Ignatius to get in the way of his attack and save Jian.

She runs out from behind Ignatius to get in the way of his attack.

Runs out from behind Ignatius to get in the way of his attack. Runs out from behind Ignatius runs out from behind runs out from behind Ignatius to get in the way of his attack.

Doesn’t use her advantage of being behind Ignatius to attack the jerk before he can shoot the fireball to begin with! Doesn’t use her power as the reawakened goddess of all of Lunar to stop the fireball in any way! Does not even push his arm a little to the left so he misses since she’s right there beside him! Runs out, from behind him--runs out ALONGSIDE the fireball as it flies! This fireball is so slow that she is able to keep pace with it and OUTRUN IT so she can throw herself in front of it! This isn’t like your standard scenario where someone throws themselves in front of someone else as a gun fires or a sword comes at them or something. In those situations, the person sacrificing him/herself is close enough that he or she actually COULD get into position to act as a body shield. Althena-Lucia is further away than the attack itself! It’s like if you had a scene where a truck is bearing down on someone in the street, and the heroic savior who wants to shove the would-be roadkill out of the way comes running from behind the truck to do it!

Sorry. Tangents. I do them. My intent was to point out how lame this finale is, but I suppose I can’t help but draw attention to the fact that it is also very, very stupid.

Anyway, Althena-Lucia’s down for the count, and Jian and company are pissed off at Ignatius. Given that this situation only came about because Jian is such a sucky fighter that he can’t anticipate and dodge an attack he was just hit with a minute ago that’s also so slow that someone wearing a ball gown can outrun it, I really think that he and Ignatius should share the blame 50-50, but no one consulted me, so whatever. Ignatius laments over losing control of Althena after all that work (if she can be taken down by a single fireball that wasn’t even enough to kill a regular human earlier, exactly how much use could she possibly have been to him?), and then Ignatius once again indicates that he’s ready to fight Jian. As she’s dying, though, Althena-Lucia tells Jian not to fight Ignatius, and urges him to remember what he learned during the Dragons’ trials,** telling Jian to instead forgive Ignatius.

Good message and all, but maybe not the right one for when a dude wants to kill you and conquer the world.

Althena-Lucia goes on to blabber about not being needed any more, a conclusion that comes from absolutely nowhere whatsoever and is utterly invalidated as a personal revelation by the previous games in the series that have existed for 20 damn years, and fades away, with Jian telling her she can’t go because he loves her. I guess it’s good that he mentions it, because she, like anyone else, would never have picked up on it otherwise.

With Althena-Lucia gone, Ignatius reaffirms his plans to rule the world, making the player once again question why he bothered taking control of her to begin with if he felt completely capable of fulfilling his plans without her. He says he’s going to kill them all now, and then the place begins to shake. Everyone is surprised by this, including the player...usually, final boss dungeons don’t start shaking themselves apart until after the villain is dead. My guess is that even the scenery is in a hurry to get this shitty game over with. The screen goes black for a second, and the next thing we see is that the floor below Ignatius apparently fell away and he’s holding onto the edge of where Jian and company are standing for dear life.

Yes, this game can’t be bothered to animate changes to the background, not even for its grand finale. Sigh. Take it away, Robot Chicken.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkiJP9s4QHU

Jian’s holding onto Ignatius, trying to help the guy back up, while Gabby and Flora just stare mutely, probably struck dumb by the unfathomable stupidity of it all. Ignatius asserts that he doesn’t need Jian’s help, and then immediately proves himself wrong by falling to his death as Jian backs off.

And that’s it. That’s it! This may not be the worst finale ever (fuck you, Bioware), but it sure as hell is the lamest. Your final battle in this game isn’t with the actual villain, but his lackey. The expected fight with the villain himself is teased several times in the dialogue--dialogue that takes its sweet time to say absolutely nothing and is punctuated by sad, slow little fireballs that devastate the hero we’re supposed to believe is strong--but that fight never comes. And then, after an off-screen moment because the game can’t be bothered to animate itself properly, the villain just falls down.

That’s how Ignatius, evil Dragonmaster and self-styled overlord of all of Lunar, prominent antagonist of Lunar: Dragon Song, is defeated. Killed by scenery.












* Not that the fact that he’s a Dragonmaster is ever given any real weight in this piece of trash game. LDS clearly expects you to have played previous Lunar games to know that being a Dragonmaster is a big deal; here it’s a name drop whose significance is never explained. Look, guys, you don’t need to go into huge detail about every part of your lore in a sequel, but you can’t just assume that every player is going to have played the 20-year-old games that came before this one and not explain ANYTHING. Come on, now.

** Trials which Jian passed by fighting the Dragons.

9 comments:

  1. Not 100% related, but I actually had the misfortune of playing through the original version of Lunar 1 on the Sega CD some time ago. The PS1 version expanded on the original's story greatly, improving the game almost as much as Curse of the Sinistrals ruined the original. Which probably makes it worse than Dragon Song overall (well, gameplay non-withstanding).

    Also, it looks like it didn't really make a huge difference linking http://shmuplations.com/patreonsurvey/ since Grandia 2 got 3 more votes last month and will probably get translated next month or January even without your vote (well, if you decided to do that $5/month thing).

    I saw you mention Undertale on the previous rant's comments and wondered how good it is? There's been a lot of praise for the game, but I wouldn't want to have unrealistically high expectations for it since that'd limit my enjoyment.

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    1. Wow, given how subpar Lunar was even with the PS1 plot expansion, I can only imagine how lousy it was originally.

      Unrealistically high expectations are dangerous. That said, though, I definitely encourage you to play Undertale. It's going to be taking a place--and a reasonably high one--on my list of Greatest RPGs, for sure. It's fun, it's funny, it's beautiful, it's touching, it's dark, and it's disturbing, all while being more Earthbound than, well, Earthbound. It also deconstructs a lot of the morality of the RPG formula, and uses RPG mechanics in extremely original ways within its lore--like Breath of Fire 5, or Embric of Wulfhammer's Castle, only way more. I plan to do a rant on the game soon (shooting for end of October, though it might wind up being some time in November), if you want to wait and see me talk about it in more detail, but really, it's just going to be me repeating this comment. Ultimately, I say go for it.

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    2. The original Lunar 1 lacked parts like those three girls that assisted Ghaleon (although that's not a great improvement), any defining traits to any of the side cast (like Kyle being a drunkard or Nash being arrogant), no mention of romance between the cast other than Alex/Luna, Alex is a literal silent protagonist in the original and Jessica's only noteworthy development scene where her father was turned to stone isn't there. That's only really scratching the surface, and the only good thing about it is probably this.

      Yeah, I tried the demo (lasts up to the scene the hero wants to escape to their own world) out on Steam and it seems humorous and like it has the potential to be an emotional journey. I'm mainly waiting for a DRM-free version at this point since your first playthrough apparently affects subsequent ones or something of the sort (so parts of your "good" playthrough leak into an "evil" one, which doesn't sound like a great idea on paper and that feature's supposedly enabled by Steam's cloud-saving option.

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    3. You can get the game through the developer's website to get it without submitting to Steam's subpar methods, but it's still going to keep track of what you do on your playthroughs. That's a major part of the game's point: that actions have consequences, and for once, the Reset button doesn't just magically absolve you of all moral responsibility. If you have the ability to honestly care about the characters and moral of an RPG story--and you're here, talking to me, so I imagine you must--then Undertale is a game that forces you to really consider what you want your legacy as the player to be. I like the concept, and the game does it well.

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    4. RPG characters and occasionally morals are one of the aspects that I enjoy about the genre, but I'd like to experience what the game has to offer without any limits. I'll probably end up getting Undertale in a few weeks, though.

      Anyway, I think you enjoyed Defender's Quest, so maybe http://www.fortressofdoors.com/defenders-quest-2-uematsu-music-battle-art/ would be of interest to you.

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  2. I never heard of an RPG where the Final boss was unfought unless they heel face turned or the bigger bad showed up. Obviously the producers made this game drunk and used DMCA to have Quality assurance not look at the product.

    Oh yeah remember about Indivisible? They finally told more of the lore though a livestream Q&A

    write ups can be found

    Here:
    http://skullheart.com/index.php?threads/indivisible-lore-what-we-know-subject-to-change.8282/

    http://skullheart.com/index.php?threads/indivisible-lab-zeros-upcoming-action-rpg.7880/page-80#post-324428

    Livestream (If you want something to listen to when your grinding lvls) Here:

    http://www.twitch.tv/labzero/v/20458104
    http://www.twitch.tv/labzero/v/20458445

    Sorry if I'm bothering you with this.

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    1. Now, see, that allays my fears somewhat. Still don't really have a solid promise that the lore will translate to a strong story, but now I can see that there's a decent level of thought and world-building going on, and that at least implies that there will be a similar level of attention put toward the actual story and character depth. I also feel a lot more confident about the eastern culture inspiration thing. Thanks; I may just back it after all.

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  3. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on Undertale, TheRPGenius. I recently began to play it and so far, I'm enjoying it immensely (though I wish the game would let me save whenever I wanted to, instead of relying on checkpoints).

    As for Lunar: Dragon Song, I've never played it and to be honest, nothing I've heard about the game makes me eager to. I did read a Let's Play of it on the Something Awful forums awhile ago though.

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    1. I either respect or greatly pity anyone who does a Lets Play of Lunar: Dragon Song. Either they're doing the gaming equivalent of throwing themselves on a live grenade to save everyone around them, or some traumatic past event in their lives caused them to be unable to distinguish pain from pleasure and they simply stumble through their gaming lives in an anesthetized stupor.

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