Save State Enjoys the Indie RPG Adventure LunarLux

Welcome back to Save State, where I’ll play anything except Mega Man Battle Network, it seems. Over the last few weeks, I’ve played and enjoyed a game by the name of LunarLux, which I originally picked up for under $13 back in November or so of last year. It’s difficult to explain why I originally decided it was time to pull the trigger on the title other than the fact that it was on sale, I loved the artwork, and one of the screenshots looked very reminiscent of Mega Man Battle Network. I booted the game up on my Steam Deck after having some GPU related troubles with my desktop PC and discovered that LunarLux had a lot more to offer a veteran RPG fan than I had originally anticipated.

LunarLux is a sci-fi JRPG where the player takes control of Bella, a bright and cheery pink-haired girl. In Bella’s spacefaring society, there exist dangerous creatures called Murks that threaten humanity and appear with seemingly no warning, requiring specialized warriors capable of protecting humanity from their ever-present threat. Even more unfortunate for cheerful Bella is that a comet made of antimatter is threatening to hit humanity’s current home, and a being known as the Murk Slayer continually stands in her way.

The story of LunarLux is actually significantly better than I had expected. You have stakes, a sense of urgency to get certain things done, and even some intrigue where things are not as they seem. There are some very cheesy and nonsensical moments, but that’s typically par for the course for a JRPG. What really brings LunarLux together are all the side quests and side character dialogue available, which do quite a bit to make the world seem thought out and multi-dimensional (no pun intended, considering you literally breach dimensions multiple times in this game).

LunarLux is a turn-based JRPG, but the way it approaches combat is a little different than you’d expect. You select your attacks from a list of commands that expands considerably as you progress through LunarLux, with many of Bella’s active skills providing special bonuses like status effects or bonus damage if you correctly do the action command. On top of your active skills that function as your attacks, you can select from randomly drawn support skills, which can provide bonuses to your attacks like additional damage or gain shields to use during the enemy attacks phase. You also have a super meter called Lux that fills up when you attack, and once full you can select 3 active skills to fire off at once at your enemies- selecting specific combinations of active skills can yield powerful Lux Combos, which reminded me a lot of Program Advances from Mega Man Battle Network- and are just about as powerful, too!

What makes LunarLux so interesting, in relation to its combat, is how you avoid taking damage from enemy attacks. Enemies have a wide variety of moves and after you’ve finished attacking, the enemies will obviously get their chance to damage you. Some attacks will require you simply have a shield and present a basic timing challenge of “Press B before the blast hits you.” Others will have you move up or down along 3 tiles to avoid enemy vines or fire. Some may even give you a full Mega Man Battle Network style grid to move around on, so you can dodge a barrage of attacks that way. There’s even an Undertale-esque dodge sequence where multiple fireballs or lightning will encircle a heart which you can move freely using the analog stick to dodge the enemy’s attacks.

The variations in how you dodge contributes a lot to what keeps combat in LunarLux entertaining. It’s not simply that you pick your moves, your enemy does theirs, and then whoever has the higher statistics wins. You can win fights underleveled quite easily if you’re good enough at dodging. In fact, the game outright rewards you for this by giving you more items after battle if you manage to finish the fight unscathed, and this is especially rewarding for clearing bosses without getting hit. The important thing is that no matter which dodge mechanic you have to use to avoid an enemy’s attack, you always have the option to use a shield in the event you don’t believe you can avoid it.

Beyond combat, exploration in LunarLux is packed to the brim with things to discover. Nearly every single thing you can find, you can interact with in some fashion and get some kind of reward for being inquisitive, whether it’s just a few space bucks for your wallet or something as major as items that can upgrade your 40 active skills and 30 support skills (there’s a lot of skills). Beyond item rewards, LunarLux will give you multiple lines of dialogue for just about anything you click on, which is very impressive considering pressing A on a trashcan may result in an entire conversation between Bella and her little robot helper that gives you some humorous dialogue you otherwise would have never seen.

On top of this, LunarLux is absolutely riddled with pop culture references. A painting on the wall may resemble the side of MegaMan.exe’s helmet, while another looks like the Term tattoos in Xenoblade 3, the painting eloquently titled, “Endless Now.” You’ll see many references, including ones from Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Gurren Lagann, Super Mario, The Simpsons, and Azure Striker Gunvolt. Thankfully, all of these references are out of the way, and if that’s not your thing, you don’t have to engage with them.

LunarLux’s combat system is actually one of my favorites in recent memory. You have action commands for your attacks like what you’d see in games like Paper Mario or Bug Fables, and when you’re on defense, you can be forced to block damage like Super Mario RPG’s timed defense, dodge around the attacks like Mega Man Battle Network, or avoid a quick bullet hell like Undertale. Bosses will utilize a wide variety of different kinds of attacks, too, which really means you need to stay on your toes when the enemy attack phase comes.

Both the visuals and music of LunarLux are amazing. The character portraits are beautifully drawn and extremely well rendered on screen, and the GBA style pixel art and color palette are just gorgeous with energetic animations for all of the characters. Even the little expressions on their pixeled faces are well done, which shows an impressive level of attention to detail.

I actually had a great time in LunarLux, finishing it in roughly 12 hours, including mastering all of the player character’s skills and using every possible Lux Combo. More than likely, it’d take around 20 hours to fully complete the game, do all of the extra events and boss battles, which is a great run time considering the low buy in price of $20. While some of the dialogue can be a bit long in the tooth, the way in which LunarLux encourages you to explore through referential humor and items being everywhere, plus the excellent combat system that combines elements of many of my favorite RPGs, more than makes up for the voluminous dialogue.

That said, I think we can now bring this entry of Save State to a close. Now that I’ve got my new GPU installed, there’s a very good possibility I may delve into more graphically intense titles that I had originally been putting off. Alternatively, I may just play more pixel-based RPGs because that’s what we all do- we buy big, expensive hardware just to play Stardew Valley with even more mods. There really is just no telling, but I hope you’ll come back and visit in two weeks’ time!

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