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Lunar: Silver Star Harmony - Humor With Character

February 3, 2010

Lunar: Silver Star Harmony - Humor With Character
By Joseph DeLia

A look at how the upcoming PSP update of Lunar succeeds where many other games fail

As video-game technology has progressed to the point where massive open worlds are the norm, each character is multi-faceted and intriguing, and controllers are becoming unnecessary thanks to the advent of motion-sensing wands, it amazes me that humor is still the soup that's never quite warm enough. Oh sure, games try from time to time, but very few developers have been able to deliver engaging, witty dialogue that's laugh-out-loud funny while also staying relevant to the interactive action.

The Lunar games have always stood out to me in that regard, as its one of the rare series that doesn't made me groan at every failed attempt of humor. With Lunar: Silver Star Harmony hitting PSPs on February 23rd, I thought that a look back at the series' light side would be fitting.

Being a Japanese role-playing game, Silver Star Harmony contains enough text to fill a 32-volume encyclopedia. Unlike many other similar titles however, not a word is wasted in the games' rich, detailed world. Even the most insignificant background characters seem to have a story to tell, with all of the playable heroes having defined motivations and clear-cut character quirks. The problem with humor in many titles is that they still stubbornly ape the Duke Nukem model, where a beefy, badass chump offers a mouth full of douchey puns in place of a brain or heart. Conversely, Lunar's protagonists are overflowing with intelligence, personality and wit, and the frequent laugh-out-loud commentary is a direct result of that.

 

Almost all of the humor in Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is based around your familiarity with the young adventurers. Whenever the main character's rotund, money-grubbing friend Ramis opens his mouth, you expect him to start talking about how they are going to be filthy stinking rich or the legends of their time. When the brash, boastful Nash begins to speak, you can almost guarantee that your furry, flying companion Nall will bring him back down to reality with a sharp, biting jab. More than any other game in recent memory, Lunar fills the air with conversation, most of which has no clear aim. The characters, like real people, enjoy chatting with each other as they wander from town to town, and their personalities shine through in each of these moments.

This makes the humor feel very natural, as it comes out more though lengthy, flowing conversations than the brief, awkward exclamations found in titles like Gears of War.

The main problem with humor in games is that many writers treat the product as if it's a movie or TV show. Unlike those mediums, a video-game player is in charge of steering the ship, which makes comedic timing a bit more tricky to plan. By focusing on memorable personalities and playful relationships, in-game humor can be given a little space to breathe, feeling like a natural extension of the characters that are growing on you as you play. If nothing else, the humor of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony offers a welcomed break from the jockish grunt humor of Marcus McKillsalot and Brutus Bigahugen - one that will also consistently plant an ear-to-ear smile on your face as you explore the whimsical fantasy world. A welcomed relief, indeed.

Gw
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