A couple years ago, I started a run through the first Lunar game, The Silver Star on Sega CD, with the intention of looking back on it after all these years. That project fell by the wayside, leaving Alex and Nash stranded around Lann. I did, however, take a bunch of screenshots from that first part of the game - which the emulator saved as Targa files, for some reason. (I have converted them to gifs for our convenience.)

Anyhow, in the course of discussing Lunar Week, pandorkful mentioned that it was hard to find actual TSS quotes instead of stuff from SSS misattributed to it. So I give you: a bunch of TSS screenshots! In the wild! With commentary! From the first part of the game exclusively, but some are better than none.

There was a period of time in the early '90s, with the spread of Starbucks and coffeehouse culture, that the idea of a coffeehouse and specialty coffees was considered inherently hilarious. (See: So I Married an Axe Murderer.) Coffee? From anything but the office Mr. Coffee with Sweet 'n' Low and Coffee-Mate? It'll never catch on! I mean, with foam? In non-standard mug sizes?? OMG! This skepticism is completely forgotten today, but it was rampant when TSS came out, as demonstrated by this bit about the barkeep turning his pub into a coffeehouse (can you believe it?).

The awkwardness of Alex romancing his adopted sister has been duly noted by others, but it's an extra level of awkward for the townsfolk to go out of their way to browbeat Alex into this relationship. Kind of uncomfortable that everyone's going out of their way to encourage a romantic relationship between Alex and his adopted sister.

This text box genuinely surprised me when I reencountered it. You never hear about Alex's mother. She's completely unimportant and ignored in all incarnations of the story. This version, at least, cared enough about her for Alex to learn his trademark non-combat skill, the one he uses at the climax, from her through an apparent extended apprenticeship. It surprises me that the BE A MAN, HULK incarnation of Silver Star (see below) cared this much about Alex's mother-son relationship or had a woman be a mentor for the main male character in any way. It's a pleasantly surprising sweet, tender touch.

Milder WD humor.

The only text box Alex will ever have or need.

A question: What the hell is the thing in the center of the image? The thing that dangles above the altars where you receive the Dragon equipent? It kind of moves tentatively up and down as you move about. Looking at it here, maybe they were going for a crystal? Back in the 90s, though, it looked like to me some sort of inexplicable slime blob or cocoon hanging from wherever the ceiling was here.

Shocking revelation! "Dragonboy" didn't originate with Ghaleon!

During my replay attempt, I posted this screenshot to Tumblr, captioning it: "Could someone please translate 'double bamm bamm' from early '90s for me?" Someone took the rhetorical question and answered it straight, explaining that it probably meant Nall was pleased at recent plot developments. Everyone who subsequently reblogged the post included that comment, as if agreeing: "yes, this addition is invaluable information that must be reblogged. Clearly we would all otherwise be confused, as was the poor woman who posted this originally." I'm saying that we have to do better as a society.

One detail that fell by the wayside as the story changed over time: green eyes being the special symbol of a Dragonmaster. Also, contrary to this claim, Dyne does not have green eyes in any incarnation.

And here's another. I've written about this at greater length here, but one of the big themes of the TSS incarnation of the story is becoming a man, proving your manhood. SSS and later versions of Silver Star turned the theme into children growing to inherit the world from their parents, which proved to be a more fertile theme, one that allowed the other PCs' stories to be incorporated and one that could be explored from different perspectives, as with the Vheen Hikuusen manga. In TSS, though, becoming a man is *the* major theme of the story.

There's no shortage of juvenile or dated jokes to criticize in Working Designs games, but the flavor in these few text boxes illustrates how WD's scripts also set themselves apart from other games in a positive way. This NPC just serves to deliver expository info on the Four Heroes, but he's written not as a textbook info-dump but as a real person chattily remembering info (the "he's dead now" afterthought). Profess knowledge of the Four Heroes after speaking with him, and instead of regurgitating what he would have said had you chosen the other option first, he gives a self-aware "yeah, I just told you." Characters said a lot of stupid stuff in WD scripts, but they also spoke more naturally.

I had a memory of Luna being depicted as hyper-jealous, but I believe this is the only incident of her acting as such from her time in the party. She's an active presence for such a short period, though, that anything colors her characterization. She dates from that era of media where the primary way for a young woman to show romantic interest was through jealousy and nagging. WD broke some barriers, but not all of them. (Perhaps things weren't that different in the original script, though, and a realization led to Luna's expanded time in the party and the boat scene.)

Another self-aware touch to NPC dialogue that would be rote elsewhere.

A mention of Alex's father's name.

Three notes here: a) It crossed my mind not a few times upon playing TSS in modern times that with the '90s 'tude, everyone - even our heroes - comes off as a bit nasty. (Maybe Alex is smart to keep quiet.) b) In this poll of Japanese fans regarding SSS, Nash is the most hated character, and I can kind of understand why here. He's not even remotely tolerable when he first appears in TSS. The remakes try to varying degrees to sand off this edge by giving him a "lovable loser" aspect and making him pathetic in some manner. c) Looking at this, it occurs to me how, over the years, I've come not to care about the PCs of Silver Star. Jessica and Mia are a bit better than the rest, but Alex, Kyle, Nash here - I just have utterly no investment in them.

The '90s.

The colors here are nice 'n' bright, but the still here is a real visual mish-mash palettewise. Lunar is somewhat known for bright color, but the Sega-CD incarnation of the first game is a very gray-beige-brown game and really did not have it together on the color front whatsoever.

Also, remember traveler's checks?
...Wait: like "shyeah, right", many people reading might actually *not* remember traveler's checks. Unlike other stuff around in the '90s, traveler's checks have gotten completely memory-holed. (I can't remember the last time I thought of traveler's checks.) Traveler's checks were like money orders that, theoretically, only a designated bearer could spend. Issued by Amex (for a nominal fee, of course), they were supposedly a way of carrying large sums of money while traveling for extended periods before the debit network had spread. "Don't leave home without it" was the ad slogan, which was everywhere before the checks themselves became obsolete. This line consequently aged like milk.

What counts for subtlety for WD.

Dicey terminology there, but: Some of the beastmen depicted in TSS are significantly smaller and have a much more pronounced animal side than, say, Mel, Leo, or Senia. Are they trying to say that the beastman race itself is "mixed" by having the characteristics of humans and animals, or are they saying that Mel is "mixed" and not fully beastman as traditionally held - that he looks more human because he's not pure beastman like these furrier folk?

Lollllllllllllllllllllllllllll sure he did.

Come for the CD technology; stay for the extremely-tortured Mutual of Omaha jokes.

What do they mean by "tribes" here? We know of two: Dragon and "Vile"/mazoku/magic race. Maybe three if you throw in the beastmen. I didn't know races had power rankings.

Despite appearances, I don't think this is a deliberate Zelda reference on WD's part. It's not heavy-handed enough. Also, knowledge: definitely the trait I associate with Dyne. (I would say he is wise, though.)

I don't know what prompted this. Nall quoted a Tootsie Roll ad shortly before; maybe this person was getting tired of the pop-culture references.

Uh.

Yeah, he's only about 150, he wouldn't have had the time.

Studious mazoku erasure.

Here's the Magic Empire story. This gets brought up whenever Lunar fans cite pieces of lore they wish, say, Dragon Song had explored. Despite most of my favorite Lunar characters being mazoku, it's never held much attraction for me.

Probably Vane propaganda. I don't recall this factoring in elsewhere.

With another game, I'd guess this was a list of production babies or something. With WD, who knows.

Yeah, they ignored their little brothers and everything. It was awful.
On another note, the "evils of technology" theme is another TSS-specific plotline that fell by the wayside in subsequent versions of the game. It doesn't show up that much in actual TSS beyond the presence of Taben and the Grindery, as I recall, but if you look at TSS backstory materials, it's all over the place.

Uh-huh.

True, but: that sigil in back. What is it? It's a mark of Vane, yes, but what does it symbolize? It seems like an M and an S together, or an S superimposed on some mountains. It wouldn't seem to correspond to anything in Japanese; "magic" is "mahou," yes, but "guild" is just "girudo." The magic academy on Yen has a similar emblem, with seemingly a different letter in front.

It fucking has not.

Hmmm....

The Four Heroes myth as per TSS.

More lore unique to TSS, in which Althena's reincarnation is something that happens on a regular basis instead of something extraordinary and world-shaking.

A reminder that magic in the Lunar series is based, at least in part, on greeting and requesting the assistance of spirits. We see this in "Kokuhaku Suru Kioku."

Hey, remember Glumm? I wish they'd done a little more with him. Cool name, in an interesting position storywise as Ghaleon's assistant in Vane, but he's caught just as flatfooted as everyone else when the twist goes down.

Hey, remember Star Search?
...No, seriously; do you remember Star Search? It was a '90s syndicated version of American Idol, kind of. (Wait; do you know what "syndicated" means?) I was going to add "without the fame or contracts," but I see that it actually brought Tiffany, among other people, into the public eye.
Wait; do you know who Tiffany is?
Working Designs was controversial in its day for (among many other things) its use of pop-culture references. Games writers are more willing to defend that nowadays, but I have to say: the references WD's choosing in this section of TSS aren't ones that stand the test of time, like, say, Terminator or Star Wars or other properties still popular today. It's '90s slang and insurance companies and outdated forms of currency and hey, isn't coffee funny.
I might note that the debate about the appropriateness of the use of pop-culture references in works that would probably outlive their relevance wasn't unique to video games and Working Designs. When Aladdin came out, there was concern that Robin Williams' riffing made the movie less timeless than the average Disney feature. It hasn't, really, but how many kids recognize, say, his impression of Arsenio Hall?

On the other hand, we have:

For a farewell, have a cute Mia:

Comments  

#2 Arawen 2022-06-23 17:04
I found my way over here from your phantasy star translations.
A miracle happened and we now have scanned almost all of SPEC.
https://segaretro.org/Sega_Players_Enjoy_Club
We would love to have you join our classic phantasy star community if you're interested.
https://discord.com/invite/phantasystar
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#1 pandorkful 2022-06-21 19:42
Man, I guess it has been about 10 years or longer since I got stuck in TSS (first floor of the Grindery wiped my ass ahahaha) but I super forgot about a BUNCH of the books and conversations from Vane! It's weird, cuz I was playing around with constructing some deeply-buried "Magic Empire" lore for the comic I'm working on, but I thought I was just bullshitting. That it was actually a half-formed idea in TSS already completely slipped my mind. My version's pretty different, tho. (As in it's truly ancient history and never made it off the Blue Star. I kinda like headcanoning a Lunar that has scraps of myth about kingdoms and stuff, but has never actually experienced feudalism. After leaving the Blue Star, Althena maintained a tight theorcratical grip over the survivors. But yeah all headcanony stuff :3) This was great fun!! HAPPY LUNAR WEEEEEEK!!!!
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