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Throwback Review: Lunar Knights DS

Sword of night, and gun of sun. Say goodnight, vampire scum!

I thought that since Halloween is around the corner, an old DS game about a gritty, Gothic horror setting would be perfect to talk about, like Lunar Knights. I personally don’t have much love for the horror genre or getting scared at monsters trying to kill me. However, taking the fight to those smug jerks is a very good catharsis factor in my book.

versus Margrave Rymer, the first boss

Lunar Knights is an action RPG that, like most DS titles, makes use of both screens to expand the unique gameplay. In this case, Lunar Knights borrows from the original Boktai’s concept of using sunlight but without a mandatory need to actually be outside in the day to play.

You start the game as Lucian, a blue-haired demon hunter with a cursed sword and cat-like terrenial spirit named Nero. He is driven on a revenge quest to kill vampires, who have such authoritarian control on the world they use satellites to cover the Earth in eternal darkness. It is Lucian’s actions against the first vampire that cause a chain reaction that gives the people of Earth a fighting chance.

The second playable character is Aaron, a rookie Solar Knight who gets hope that the world is finally seeing sunlight for the first time. As Solar Knights use the power of the sun to fire their guns and fend off undead monsters, this is a big deal. With the help of the sunflower-looking terrenial named Toasty, Aaron later teams up with Lucian on their mutual goal to stop the vampires.

I ain’t afraid of no vamps!

some stealth gameplay like in Solid Snake

You move around your player character from the bottom screen, top down view, through a maze of areas killing monsters for parts and gold. Lucian is the close ranged expert starting with a sword and is powered by moonlight. Aaron fights from a distance with a charge gun and  is powered by sunlight. Using the two in tandem is the key to victory, as some enemies and bosses are only affected by one character over the other.

The top screen shows the sky with details on the weather like wind speed and temperature. The data here sounds superficial and silly, but they affect items and how long they stay fresh to use. They also affect the stages and whether or not you can bypass entry hazards depending on the weather or season.

Back to the top screen, the most important feature you would pay attention to is whether it’s day or night, and how clear the sky is to absorb energy from the sun or moon respectively. Normally the Boktai games have you focus on a protagonist that gets sun energy but this game changes things up by playing a character that takes advantage of moonlight. What is neat is that if you are inside a building, you can stand in the window opening (shown with light peaking from above) and absorb the light energy from there.

Destination Sun

Probably the funniest aspect of this game is the spaceship mini-game. After each vampire boss you kill and seal into a casket, you have to fly your ship Laplace out of the stratosphere and to a satellite purification system, using the power of the sun to exorcise them.

Nothing can defeat the Laplace!

During the segment, you move the ship with your stylus while tapping the enemy to fire at them. Terrenials provide different attacks, like Nero being a simple single shot or Toasty firing two shots per tap. All you need to do is fly through the fields of ships and androids to the end boss.

If there’s one complaint I have, its how the game kind of gets weird and kind of turns into a sci-fi near the end. It’s kind of expected since this game was made by Kojima of Metal Gear fame when he was still with Konami. The spoiler-free version is that the vampires have been benefited with a space immortal seemingly helping them get control over the humans, but he was really just furthering his goals to destroy the whole planet himself.

In closing

It’s been so long since I’ve played Lunar Knight again, but stands out as a quirky action adventure game and one of the earliest DS titles to tests the limits of this system. The music is catchy, the animated cutscenes are well done, and the story has a simple, encouraging message to it. We can get scared about horror genre monsters, or even space aliens, but we can just as easily stand up against them if banded together.

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