Lunar: Dragon Song (known as Lunar Genesis in Europe and Japan) is an isometric Eastern RPG released in 2005 for the Nintendo DS, and represents the first original installment (excluding remakes) since 1996 in Game Arts' Lunar series. It was developed by Japan Art Media, who also developed the remakes of Lunar: The Silver Star.
The story takes place one thousand years prior to the events of Lunar: The Silver Star, in a world divided between two races: the strong-bodied Beastmen, who have built magnificent cities, and the weaker but more ingenious humans, who dwell in quieter locales. The main character is Jian Campbell, an acrobatic human who loves to stand on his head. He and his partner, Lucia Collins, work together as couriers for Gad's Express to deliver packages to customers and fight off troublesome monsters. Being an intrepid pair of kids, they end up attracting the attention of the ruling beastmen and thereby get caught up in their war against the malevolent Vile Tribe.
This game is the oddball in the Lunar series; it introduced a number gameplay mechanics not found in the games that precede or follow it, mainly because they're all designed to make the game seem longer than it is. For example, the combat system toggles between two modes — Normal Mode for collecting items and Virtue Mode for gaining experience. No doing both at once like in any other RPG. This, combined the game's scanty plot, lead to poor responses from fans and critics alike.
Tropes in this game:
- Audience Participation: Lunar: Dragon Song is a North America-exclusive Market-Based Title which was chosen through a contest. Fans picked from possible titles such like Ashen Dawn and Dark Skies, but they evidently thought Dragon Song fit the atmosphere of the series best.
- Artificial Stupidity: Player characters choose their targets automatically, and they tend to focus on the strongest target. This sort of tactic seldom pays off and usually only lengthens fights, increasing opportunities for your heroes to take damage.
- Big Bad: The leader of the Vile Tribe, Dragonmaster Ignatius.
- Black and White Magic: In this game, humans are only shown using white magic, or "Althena Magic." Jian eventually learns some black magic while qualifying to be a Dragonmaster.
- While the game was in development, the lack of black magic among humans was a plot point, but it is all but unmentioned in the final version.
- Breakable Weapons: Certain monsters have attacks that may break or steal a character's weapon or armor. It can effect any one piece of equipment a given character is using. There's no way to repair any of them either.
- Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": Experience points are called "Althena's Conduct."
- Courier: Jian and Lucia support themselves by delivering items to people.
- Curse: Jian gets hit with the curse of Unstable Equilibrium, which prevents him...from standing on his head. Yes, that's all it does. It turns his attack into a one hit combo instead of a three hit combo as a result, since his third attack has him do just that. Why the second one is gone is a mystery.
- The Dragon: Gideon — the big, dumb right-hand monster to Ignatius. Gideon inflicts Rufus' Mentor Occupational Hazard as a demonstration of his threat level, and in design drafts he was even supposed to literally disarm the poor guy.
- Fantastic Racism: Between the humans and the beastpeople.
- Fight Like a Card Player: Monsters randomly drop collectible cards that have special effects when used in battle. Some of them counter equipment-breaking moves, making them pretty much essential.
- First Town: Port Searis, Jian and Lucia's home base.
- Good Morning, Crono: Jian is getting up after oversleeping as the game opens.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Inverted; this hero does not, though his rival Rufus does.
- Implacable Man: Gideon, to the point that he usurps the position of final boss from Ignatius, who is never fought properly at all.
- Improbable Weapon User: Jian and Lucia use shoes and umbrellas, respectively. Justified in Jian's case, since his fighting style is purely kick-based.
- Inevitable Tournament: Eager to prove himself and demonstrate the power of humans, Jian enters a tournament which involves a series of gladiator-style solo fights, which culminates in taking on Beast King Zethos alone.
- Level Scaling: Like Silver Star Story/Harmony, foes get stronger as the player characters gain levels, but this game expands the effect from just bosses to all enemies.
- Mordor: The Frontier, home turf of the Vile Tribe, is a lifeless wasteland.
- Money Spider: In a departure from the rest of the series, this is averted. Money is not earned directly through battle. Instead, monsters drop Sundries — low-value junk like whiskers, rusty kettles, and whatnot. Individual Sundries are worth next to nothing; the real money comes from filling a customer's order for a bunch of items.
- Musical Pastiche: Unlike all the other games in the series, the Dragon Song soundtrack has no input from composer Noriyuki Iwadare. However, many of the songs are basically well-executed variations on songs Iwadare wrote for prior Lunar games.
- Musical Theme Naming: Characters Flora Banks, Lucia Collins, and Gabryel Ryan share components of their names with Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Peter Gabriel...members of the band Genesis.
- Oddball in the Series: Dragon Song attempted to update the series gameplay, but its storyline and characterization are rather sparse. This seems an odd path to take with a series that's known for old-school gameplay and well developed stories and characters.
- Overly Long Fighting Animation: Battle animations, particularly for monsters, are quite intricate. Lovingly intricate, even. Individually they aren't gratuitously long, but in aggregate (and in combination with fight-lengthening Artificial Stupidity) it can get boring. It was enough of a problem that the developers added a speed-up button to the English-language releases.
- Purposely Overpowered: Near the end of the game, Jian single-handedly holds up the party's offense. His damage output is greater than all the other characters combined.
- The Reveal: Ignatius, ruler of the Vile Tribe, is the Dragonmaster. He's supposed to be Althena's protector but clearly something has gone wrong.
- Also, Lucia is actually the goddess Althena in human form. Turns out she periodically turns mortal to live among mortals and avoid having to rule over them, preferring instead to let them rule themselves (however she has no idea she's a goddess whenever she's mortal).
- Save the Villain: Jian attempts this unsuccessfully with Ignatius when the floor collapses beneath his feet.
- Sprint Meter: Identical with the Life Meter — because running depletes your health. Characters start panting at about 2/3 HP, and your party can no longer run if a member hits 1/3 HP.
- Taking the Bullet: Althena runs in front of Jian to protect him from a fatal magic blast from Ignatius. She appears to die, but ends up reappearing in the ending as Lucia again.
- Super Title 64 Advance: Ubisoft got folks to change the game's subtitle to Dragon Song.
- The Unfought: Subverted with Ignatius. Although technically you do get to fight him, it's an unwinnable fight. When you think you're confronting him for real at the end of the game, he's defeated in a cutscene instead, via the floor crumbling beneath him. Possibly justified in that Ignatius appears to easily handle Jian again in said cutscene, despite having just become a Dragonmaster himself.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Continuity Nods that fans were hoping to see never show up. The Magic City of Vane appeared in early design docs for the game, but was evidently cut get the game out the door sooner. The game features two Dragonmasters but Althena's Sword is nowhere to be found.