Lunar is an RPG with a very rich history. Not only has Lunar (and its many remakes) appeared on many systems, it has become to Game Arts what the original Ys is to Falcom. Thus, for those with little knowledge of the game or the series, a history lesson is probably in order.
Lunar: The Silver Star was developed by Game Arts and released on the Sega CD in 1992 in Japan. Working Designs then localized the game for America in late 1993. A remake of the game appeared on the Sega Saturn in Japan in 1996, and it featured new graphics, new music, animated cutscenes as well as redesigned dungeons and villages. The new game, titled Lunar: Silver Star Story was then ported to the PlayStation in 1998 and released in America in 1999 by Working Designs under the name of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete.
Lunar once again received a facelift in 2001 when it appeared on the Game Boy Advance as Lunar Legend. The remake was based on the PlayStation version of the game, but the graphics, music and design were changed to fit the portable system’s screen and processing power. This time the localization was done by UbiSoft instead of Working Designs, so the game had a very different tone.
Then, in 2010, we saw another remake of Lunar, this time on the PSP under the title of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony and localized in America by XSEED.
This brings us to 2012 and the release of Lunar: Silver Star Story Touch on the iOS. This time, the game isn’t a remake – it’s more of a port of the PlayStation version. However, SoMoGa, the developer of the port, didn’t just settle for a straight port. Instead, they made quite a few changes to the game to ensure a better experience.
Short version of the review for Lunar veterans
This next paragraph is strictly for Lunar fans who have played one or more previous iterations of the game. This is all you need to know, and you can the skip the rest of this review.
Lunar: Silver Star Story Touch is essentially a direct port of the PlayStation version. This means that the graphics are identical, the anime cutscenes are identical and the dialogue is from the famous Working Designs translation of the game. What is different is that SoMoGa decided to use the updated music from the PSP remake, which I think was a great decision. Unfortunately for Working Designs fans, SoMoGa also decided to use the voices from the PSP remake instead of the voice acting of the PlayStation game. This is either a good or bad thing, depending on whether you were a fan or not of the original voices. Apart from that, you get new touch controls for your inventory as well as the battle system. If you’re a fan of Lunar, want to play the game again, and you own an iOS device, then at $6.99, this is a no-brainer. It’s Lunar, and that’s all you need to know if you’re a fan.
Full version of the review
In Lunar: Silver Star Story Touch, you play as Alex, a young boy who aspires to be an adventurer like his idol Dyne, the famous dragonmaster whose job was to protect the goddess Althena. When the opportunity arises to visit the white dragon cave near his hometown of Burg, Alex sees his chance to finally embark on his very first adventure. Along with his childhood friends Ramus and Luna, as well as his talking pet Nall, Alex has an encounter in the cave that sets him on his very own trek along the path of his hero.
The plot in Lunar may not be revolutionary, but it is very well executed and filled with memorable characters. There are a fair number of plot twists throughout the adventure, but unfortunately, all of the hints given along the way keep any of them from being too surprising.
What really sets Lunar apart from most RPGs is the great cast. You’ll fall in love with these characters as you play, and one of the reasons for this is how effective Game Arts is at setting an interesting dynamic in your group. In most Japanese RPGs, you only get to know your characters in more detail at certain points during the game, usually when they are involved in a cutscene or a storyline portion of the game. The rest of the time, your playable characters play a secondary role and simply follow you around while you’re visiting towns and villages, roaming dungeons and fighting battles. The difference in Lunar is the level of involvement every character in your group has when you’re doing simple tasks such as talking to villagers. Instead of villagers simply saying their line when you talk to them like most RPGs, Lunar sports a lot of character interactions throughout these simple conversations. Members of your party often respond or interact with the villagers, which may lead to humorous dialogue, arguments between members of your group, and other interesting tidbits. This gives you more than the usual insight into the characters, since they are constantly commenting on what the villagers are saying. This in turn gives the characters more personality, since they are more than just a random, voiceless character who joins you on your quest.
It’s also important to note how much emphasis is put on talking to NPCs in this game. You can certainly go through the game without spending a lot of time talking to these people, but you’d be missing out on one of the greatest aspects of Lunar. As I already mentioned, most RPGs treat speaking with villagers as an obligation and don’t put much effort into it. The dialogue is boring, and the villagers often say the same thing throughout the whole game. Lunar prides itself on this aspect. Not only do you get the benefit of character interaction during these conversations, but almost every NPC in the game has multiple things to say. Talk to a villager, and he says something. Talk to him again, and he says something different or expands on what he said in his first dialogue. Get a new member in your party, and if you talk to this villager again, he might say something different, which will elicit a reaction or comment from this new member. Finish an important quest in the village and talk to him again, there’s a chance he might comment on that. The amount of text and dialogue in this game is staggering, and thankfully, it is well written, interesting, and often pretty humorous. Of course, if you don’t enjoy this aspect of RPGs, then this is all useless to you, but it is an important aspect of the game for me, and it really helps in setting the mood and getting you immersed in the game’s world.
The overall structure and battle system in Lunar are both very traditional. You won’t find any mini games here, there aren’t really any sidequests to do, and there are no job systems, item creation systems, convoluted leveling systems or anything like that. It is traditional Japanese RPG at its purest. Characters level up with experience points, and each character has their own type of weapon and armor they can equip or spell that they learn. The enemies in the game are all visible while exploring the various areas, so you can try to avoid them, but they are usually too fast for you and pull you into battle whether you like it or not.
The battle system is a classic turn-based system. You choose your actions at the beginning of the turn and then watch them happen. One thing about the Lunar battle system that is a little different is that range actually matters. If you choose to attack an enemy who is too far away, your character might not be able to reach him. This gives the battles a bit more strategy as you have to take range into account when choosing your actions. If you don’t feel like choosing actions manually, the battle system also features an AI option that lets the computer manage this for you. Some people will find that the battle system is a bit dated, but it does the job, and fans of classic RPGs will feel right at home.
Visually, the game is adequate for an iOS RPG. It’s not the most impressive, but it’s also not the worst. The graphics are typical of a 32-bit PlayStation 2D RPG, so that’s what you should expect. However, the game does feature a ton of cutscenes that can rival the best Japanese anime.
The theme of music is a very important aspect of Lunar, as you’ll discover while playing through the game. The inhabitants of the world often mention how great of a singer the goddess Althena is, and everywhere you go, people want to hear your friend Luna sing. As such, it’s no surprise that the music in Lunar is one of its strongest points. It will stay in your head long after you’ve finished playing the game. In my opinion, the Lunar soundtrack ranks as one of the best RPG soundtracks ever. Lunar also features voice acting in the anime cutscenes and a few other dialogue sequences. Overall, the voice acting is more than adequate and fits perfectly with the game. It won’t win any awards, but it is not bad by any means.
Although the game seems to be a direct port of an old PlayStation RPG, it is not entirely so. Unlike some other RPG ports on the iOS (like Shining Force II and Phantasy Star II), this game features updated touch controls to help make the game feel more like an iOS release. Inventory screens are handled with simple touch controls, and the battle system is entirely controlled with touch commands such as physically touching an enemy to choose to attack it. Also, all of the text in the game has been redone with a higher res and smoother font so it looks cleaner and is much easier to read. The game does have some control issues, though. As is the case with most iOS games, the on-screen D-Pad is nowhere near as responsive as a real physical gamepad. To alleviate this issue, Lunar offers 3 different control types. A dedicated on-screen pad that takes half of the screen when you hold your iOS device in portrait mode, a virtual pad that comes up anywhere on the screen where you put your thumb in landscape mode, or a “touch where you want to go” control scheme similar to what you see in graphic adventure games. Unfortunately, none of those methods give you a sense of total control, and you often have to resort to using a mix of all available methods depending on the situation. However, this is a minor issue and doesn’t break the game.
Another minor issue for me was the fact that you always see the battery level and time from your iOS device at the top of the game. This is nice for those who always want to keep track of the time and battery level while gaming, but the fact that there’s no way to turn that off is annoying for those who would prefer to be completely immersed in their game.
If you’ve never played Lunar before and you own an iOS device, this is your chance to play a classic. Unless you absolutely despise old-school traditional Japanese RPGs and were turned off by everything I said in this review, then you owe it to yourself to give Lunar a try. With its combination of a good storyline, a memorable cast of characters, decent graphics, and beautiful music, Lunar: Silver Star Story Touch is sure to quench your JRPG thirst.