Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Women of Lunar 1

Opponents of gaming, as we as those uninvolved with our culture, like to make the claim that women's roles in gaming are limited. They claim that women can only be sex objects, damsels in distress, or pieces of background furniture. They also claim that femininity and strength in gaming are opposites; a strong female character is JUST a male with breasts. Those of us involved in gaming, however, know better. And today, I want to introduce a few female characters from that GROSSLY under appreciated game franchise, Lunar. This entry will focus exclusively on the heroines of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, but future entries may focus on the girls from Lunar 2, as well as the villains of both games.
image taken from the Lunar Wiki, uploaded by user Strawberry Flower.

Let's start off with the main heroine of the first game: Luna. The role Luna plays is that of a Damsel in Distress: she gets kidnapped, and it's up to the hero to save her. But is that ALL there is to her? No! Not even close!

Luna doesn't get kidnapped until halfway through the first disc of the game. Before that happens, what's Luna's function in the story? First, she's Alex' adopted sister/love interest (let's not think too hard about this), she's the village songstress, and she's the healer of your party. But even then, there's so much more to her!

Luna's personality is where she truly shines. She's usually sweet, well natured, patient, and kind to all. That said, she's also feisty, easily gets jealous when Alex shows interest in any other woman, and is not afraid to get on the front lines to fight alongside Alex. Even considering how in the original game she stayed behind when Alex left for Meribia (around two hours into the game), she still joined him for his adventures through the White Dragon Cave, the forest west of Burg (a rather dangerous place, to be sure), and everything that came before Alex' departure.

I've spoken before, in greater detail, on how Luna helps re-define the role of Damsel in Distress, which you can read here: http://vidgameanalysis.blogspot.com/2014/06/damsel-in-distress-done-right-lunar.html. For those of you not in the mood to do some long reading, a quick summary: Luna takes the role and transforms it from an archetype and into an authentic character. She does this by bringing in all the necessary depth that ANY character really needs: a goal, personal relationships, a history, and a personality.

Luna is Alex' girlfriend. She's also a dear friend to Nall, Ramus, is friendly and patient with Nash, deeply admired Ghaleon (before he turned evil), and quickly befriended Mia and Jessica. Luna's rescue wasn't important to just Alex, it was also important to their mutual friends as well. The fact that Luna was also the goddess Althena wasn't revealed to them until MUCH later, when the party had already traversed most of the known world just looking for her,

Let me talk to you about Jessica. When you think Healers, do you think about squishy, frail women who have to be kept in the back row so they won't die, and are only good for healing? If so, meet Jessica, the girl who SMASHES those preconceptions to the ground.

Jessica is your main healer for most of the game, replacing Luna once she gets kidnapped. However, in gameplay terms, Jessica is NOT another Luna. First of all, Jessica's heals are also top notch; she can heal for a flat amount, heal over time, get rid of bad status effects, she can even revive your fallen characters! But what sets her apart is that she's a front line fighter, able to take a hit while giving as good as she gets. Jessica is, simply put, your third best melee warrior, surpassed only by Alex (who has legendary Dragon powers and equipment to back him up) and her boyfriend Kyle (whose entire kit is designed to be a melee warrior and equips swords and heavy armor). Even if we include Laike, Jessica is STILL the fourth best warrior in the game, because the only people to surpass her are either Dragonmasters or the guy whose entire kit is designed to get him up close and personal with the enemy.

In terms of personality, Jessica is the full package. When you meet her, is she tending to a child's wounds, or playing mommy to some little kids? NOPE. She's standing on top of a table, looking DOWN on the men of a fishing village, criticizing them for not taking action against a bully of a bandit who is using his magic to torment and terrorize their village. Jessica isn't waiting for a hero; she's seeing an injustice and she's ready to THROW DOWN! When she sees that Alex and Luna came to do something about this bully, what does she do? She says "cool, I'm coming with." Now THAT is gumption!

But there's more to her than just gumption. She can be feminine if she wants to be, especially around her father. Jessica is a daddy's girl. She does whatever she can to please him, ranging from being on her best behavior around him, to becoming a priestess of Althena, just like her late mother. Jessica's love for her father is such that her journey to save Luna is just as much a journey to save her father, who was turned to stone by Ghaleon's forces.

And then there's her relationship with Kyle. Kyle's a bit of a bad boy; a womanizing mountain bandit with a body most men would give their nuts to have. Does Jessica act like Bella Swan, all gaga over this boy and excusing his less than savory qualities? Hell no! Jessica has a love-hate relationship with the oaf; she clearly loves him, but she does NOT love his attitude. She ain't putting up with no womanizing drunk! She makes it clear: if you want this fine, fine priestess, ya gotta clean up your attitude and start going straight!

Ya know what? I'm gonna gush a bit here. Jessica is the kind of character that feminists should clamor for more in games. A strong character, female. A character with a goal, an independent streak, rough and ready but sweet and tender. A character who can be tomboyish AND feminine, emotionally strong yet vulnerable, who can save her man and still let herself be saved by him once in a while. More Jessicas, please!

In any RPG, the mage tends to be one of the best, if not THE best character in your party, especially come the late game when he/she has all the spells unlocked, the best equipment, and the MP to use said spells. In Lunar, that mage is THIS little cutie right here.

Mia is one of a kind: she's demure, sweet, polite, kind, the sort of girl a man's mother would encourage him to date and bring home. She's mostly girly concerning her hobbies, though she has an odd sense of what she thinks is "cute." For example, she gushes on about how a type of monster, inspired by the DnD Beholder, is cute.

She's also not one to raise her voice, is slow to anger, and is quick to apologize for anything that goes wrong. She usually blames herself for anything that goes wrong, such as how she blamed herself for failing to open the door to the Blue Dragon's cavern in Lytoon.

But besides Alex, perhaps Mia is the one character to undergo the biggest transformation. At the start of the game, Mia is a sheltered girl, who's crying because she feels her mother has changed too much and she can't do anything about it. She confuses Alex for someone from her magic school, and tries to pass off her pain as being a physical ailment, Yet when her mother (actually the villain Xenobia in disguise) captures and jails Alex, it is Mia who rushes to his rescue. Mia helps Alex rescue Luna from Xenobia's clutches, and frees her REAL mother.

Much later, Mia joins Alex and crew when it's discovered that Ghaleon is the Magic Emperor. Her aid proves indispensable to the crew, as her magic is, beyond a doubt, the strongest in the game. As the journey goes on, Mia grows a bit more confident and much more mature. When Nash, the guy she was falling in love with, betrays the team and claims to be doing it for her safety, Mia SLAPS the guy and lets him know, in no uncertain terms, that she is NOT OK with what he did.

Mia's crowning moment, however, is when she directs the Magic City of Vane in a counter attack against Ghaleon's moving fortress, the Grindery. Guiding the magic of Vane, she focuses all her energy, as well as that of the floating city, into one huge attack that stops the Grindery in its tracks, preventing it from attacking Althena's Tower, and thus bringing in the end of Althena herself. Doing this allowed Alex to enter the Grindery, and begins to spell the end for Ghaleon's plot. Of course, the man still has an ace up his sleeve, but that's neither here nor there.

Mia is the second best character in the party; only Alex, the main character, is stronger. Mia's spells hit fast and hard, but she can also buff up her fellow party member's Attack and Defense values, making them stronger as well. That she can't take a hit, or that she's next to useless without her MP are to be expected from being a mage. But trust me, Mia is someone whose absence is felt if she ever dies.