And lo and behold, just when I post about us being definitively safe from a prospective Lunar 3, I learn from a visit to Tumblr that there is a fan group out there that is attempting to create an official Lunar 3. I value my sanity too highly to Google for details, but I can make two guesses as to who's behind it:

  1. Whatever SoMoGa, that company that ported Vay and later the first Lunar to the iPhone long ago, ended up becoming.
  2. LunarNet.

If it's SoMoGa: yes, I know that even the typical mobile emulated pastiche of a hundred different pixel resolutions requires technical prowess to bring to life. It absolutely does not entail any degree of the vast array of creative talent required to create an entirely new installment in a storied series. As for LunarNet: their most significant contribution to the Lunar narrative has been to take one of the franchise's greatest claims to historical importance, TSS's groundbreaking creation of one of the first video game villains with complexity and a motivation founded in ideological and moral objections, and try their level best to bury it with a ridiculous substitute fan plot to avoid hurting the feelings of an associate who had written several fanfics while misunderstanding the story and didn't want her fanfics invalidated. A Lunar 3, particularly a Four Heroes story, written by this crew would make Dragon Song look like a masterpiece of plotting. The very worst thing that could happen to Lunar - yes, even worse than nothing new and official being published ever again - would be it falling under the control of a bunch of petty fans who have a history of putting fragile egos and in-group politics above the characters and world they've charged themselves with caretaking.

I know Streets of Rage 4 has had an extremely positive reception in most quarters, but I have to wonder if it isn't going to have a ruinous effect far beyond its independent merit. It's set an example for every overconfident Western fan out there with a sense of entitlement and money to burn to try to turn their favorite childhood gaming franchises into extensions of their personal brands. It's the big dream to try to prove that you're every bit as good as the Japanese creators you once idolized, tinged with the "ha ha, what can Japan produce that I can't improve" white-man's-burden attitude that's been part of the localization scene for a long time. It leads many to underestimate massively the time and talent it takes to bring any title, much less a worthwhile one, to life. You can't pay those tolls through accidents of birth or popularity within your clique.

For all the frantic defenses of games as art in recent years, we seem to have forgotten that games are the products of artists, and artists are not interchangeable. Kei Shigema hasn't been significantly involved with the gaming industry for ten years. Toshiyuki Kubooka, as proven by the PSP port, can't reliably draw in the Lunar style anymore. Akari Funato, commissions aside, wants nothing to do with the franchise. Yes, I can doodle on my fast food placemat and pay some unscrupulous individual from the van Rijn estate to call it a Rembrandt, but it's not going to be a Rembrandt, any more than the product of this vanity project is going to be Lunar 3. A cheap knockoff won't reinvigorate the franchise any more than Dragon Song did.

You want to prove yourself a worthy successor to the creators you admired? Start by acknowledging that works of art are the unique products of certain individuals, in a certain time and place - and that it's OK for some stories, even the ones you love very dearly, to end.

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