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Lunar: Eternal Blue
Lunar: Eternal Blue was a massive improvement on its gameplay/aesthetic structure. While the format was still very much confined to the tropes of its era, their execution was impressive. On the aesthetic level, the slicker production allowed for a better-focused story complete with polished cutscene quality, battle animations, and soundtrack. On the gameplay level - combat was still a little dull, but was made a little more tolerable by both the aesthetic appeal and QOL improvements, and its now-heavily linear format was enhanced by some additional challenge and more elaborate dungeon design. Having refined its style, the comical personality of Game Arts' previous entry was accentuated by goofy pop culture references, memorable characters, sarcastic quips, and for the first time - poignant subplots and moments. Lunar's witty mannerism had reached its peak.
A globe-trotting adventure set in modern times featuring a nondescript boy, a blonde guy with guns, a pink girl (x2), and a martial artist monk, all of whom boast psychic abilities and team up to defend Earth from invading aliens… Released only two years after MOTHER 2 (and just a few months after it came West as EarthBound), this is surely the first MOTHER fangame in history. Though where EarthBound leans absurdist, G.O.D. examines the consequences of that absurdity hyper-literally. The alien invasion witnessed at the top of a hometown mountain is not a mystical start to a fairytale, but a grizzly armageddon that immediately wipes out the significant majority of human civilization. Aliens with goofy, surreal designs approximating real-world creatures are met with justified confusion and terror. Firearm-bearing militiamen attempt to take back the world from these invading forces through a decade of war – a fight they’re nearly on the brink of losing. Even something as unassuming as staying at a typically RPG-styled inn has a mature, lasting ramification on the narrative. That’s not to say it handles all of this particularly well (unfortunately, the aforementioned globe-trotting nature of this adventure leads to repulsively frequent cultural stereotypes and racism), but to see G.O.D. actually applying these ideas of “What if EarthBound was like, realistic, dude,” before a South Park-loving American preteen could even get their hands on a cartridge at all is historically fascinating. MOTHER fangames – or even just indie games in general – have grown similar thesis statements, and yet I’d struggle to say many are as successful as this was (barring the racism, of course… if that even needs to be said). Hell, G.O.D. even beat Yoko Taro to some of his most famous narrative punches by 15 years – note for note, the exact twists that NieR would go on to accrue so many accolades for can be found in almost identical form here. To play G.O.D. is to see a shockingly forward-thinking condensation of borrowed ideas that would unknowingly predict the cultural zeitgeist decades into the future with crystalline accuracy. I just wish it, uh, wasn’t so racist!!
P.S. ~ Batty is the funniest character in any MOTHER-inspired video game
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