Lunar: Walking School (aka Lunar: Sanposuru Gakuen) is a Game Gear exclusive handheld RPG first released in 1996. It is a spin-off/side story from the main Lunar series published by Game Arts. This ‘Walking School‘ edition was developed by Ehrgeiz and written by Studio Alex.
Again: thanks to the efforts of fans a number of translation patches exist to make the game playable to non-Japanese speakers/readers.
In Walking School the hero is a girl called Ellie who enlists into a magic school and discovers that an ancient evil is trying to resurrect itself. Which eventually she’ll have to stop. Thankfully she doesn’t have to do this alone and various characters will join (and leave) her party as the story progresses.
The game features old school random battles in dungeons, levelling and experience, magic and spells, boss battles and all the usual RPG malarkey. Not to mention a few unusual flourishes. Combat is turn-based, shown from a first-person perspective, with menu options shown down the left hand side of the screen. You can also push the d-pad left and right during combat to examine your characters or your enemies, which is neat.
Once you’ve completed the opening two chapters you’re then enrolled into the magic school and can then learn new magic spells from tutors. Each different character has their own set of spells and the higher-levelled spells only become available to learn when a certain level has been reached, or a significant event happens.
There are also characters who’ll sell you healing items such as potions and herbs, or buy your excess items from you. Lunar: Walking School seems to focus primarily on magic during combat, and weapons and armour don’t seem to feature, which at least simplifies the gameplay.
Lunar: Walking School is a superb miniature RPG with excellent pixel graphics, catchy, jolly music, and plenty of nice touches – like the red curtains dropping down between chapters – and absorbing, challenging combat. The game has well-designed characters and dialogue that is often humorous; the developers don’t seem to have cut any corners in making this game. I’d say that it’s definitely one of the best RPGs on the Game Gear.
An enhanced remake of Lunar: Walking School, for the Sega Saturn, called Mahō Gakuen Lunar!, was released in 1997, but only in Japan. At the time of writing the Saturn remake hasn’t yet had an English translation, but give it time and it will come… In the meantime the original Game Gear version is still well worth playing today.
More: Lunar: Sanposuru Gakuen on Wikipedia
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