Which is better: Dark Matter or Luminaire? I'm sure I'm not the only one almost brought to violence by this question, and up until now no inquiry has been made into this crucial area of research. The question isn't as simple as one might think, and the answer, while open ended, does, I think, point to, at last, a definitive answer.
With the help of a few faqs, and an emulator with a save game editor I was able to delve into the details that need to be known in order to come to a final, well reasoned solution. The first step I took was to compare the power of the Spells against the same enemy when Crono's and Magus's stats are exactly the same. I set each stat to 50, then headed to Gato. Luminarie dealt around 3050 damage, and Dark Matter dealt about 2325, so one might be led to believe that Luminare is indeed better. However, one must ask, "When are Crono's and Magus's magic stats the same?" The answer is never.
Using the formulas to the right, one sees that even though Luminaire is stronger on paper, in the game, using the natural growth of the characters' stats, Dark Matter always ends up doing more damage. However, the "Magic Tab" items complicate matters. Tabs are one-time use items that permanently raise a character's stat by one point. There are about 25 magic tabs available per run-through of the game (Excluding the ones Spekkio gives you). Assuming you manage to find all of the magic tabs, and you split them evenly between the four non-magical characters (Crono, Ayla, Robo, and Frog) who need them, Crono can increase his magic power by 6 or 7 points each time you play through the game. Eventually Luminaire will become more powerful than Dark Matter, but it will take quite a while. For the first time you play though the game, and mostly likely the second if Crono and Magus are at the same level, Dark Matter will do more damage. It must be noted however, that Crono will most likely always be a few levels higher than Magus.The graph below charts the damage done by each spell as a function of the level of the character casting it. The stats are natural stats, without the aid of tabs.
Of course, a discussion of which spell is the coolest can not be complete without considering how cool each spell looks. To aid in your decision
making process I have made two short video clips of each spell so you can judge for yourself. I think they are both cool.
The movies are in wmv format, and are about a megabyte each. Sorry for the slight choppiness of the video. The computer couldn't quite handle running the emulator and capturing the video at the same time. Suffice it to say, they both look and sound much better than the videos represent.
In conclusion, I think the evidence point towards Dark Matter as the superior spell. While it is true that Luminaire will eventually become more powerful, Dark Matter is more powerful when it counts: the first time through the game, and the first New Game +. After that you could probably take Lucca, Marle and Frog and beat the game using only physical attacks if you wanted too.(Ron)