Another classic JRPG comes to iOS
Lunar is one of those games that surfaces as a port on just about any platform it gets a chance to- which is a great thing, because Lunar Silver Star Story Touch (a remake of the original Sega CD title) is a fantastic game. My original experience with Lunar Silver Star was the GBA port titled, ‘Lunar Legend.’ Apparently the GBA game was a flop with a poor translation and scaled back difficulty, but I loved the story and cartoony spritework. Many fans prefer the Playstation One release of the game, and Lunar Silver Star Story Touch is a port of this version featuring the music from the Playstation Portable port titled, “Lunar: Silver Star Harmony.’
The story is the highlight of Lunar, it is what makes the otherwise unremarkable Japanese RPG stand out. Character development is strong from the moment the game starts, and while the characters themselves are largely archetypal I can’t help but feel invested. The story is partially voice acted and interjected with anime cut scenes. There are apparently some controversies over the voice acting in this particular version, but because I have nothing to compare it to I can only comment that I found it to be mostly inoffensive. For the most part, the story is charming. I feel a similar pull while playing Lunar as I did while playing Final Fantasy 9. The story isn’t bogged down with teenage angst from the get-go, and there is a strong sense of adventure. I won’t go too far into spoiler territory, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that you are seeking to become a Dragonmaster and save your girl from a seemingly unstoppable evil.
Along with its inherent nostalgic appeal, Lunar’s charm and endearing story are its main draw – which leaves out about 80% of the game. Actual gameplay is nothing outside of what one typically expects from a JRPG. Turn based battles take place in an arena, during which players choose whether to attack, cast spells or flee from battle. Lunar does toy around by freeing characters from the typical fixed position on the right side of the screen, and allows characters to move during battle. Your position is determined by the attacks you choose, and is similar to a non-isometric version of Grandia. Don’t expect to be making decisions with tactical depth based on your position, because the movement is largely present to make the battles look more dynamic.
While I don’t have anything overwhelmingly positive to say about the combat, it is fairly typical RPG fare. Nothing feels off about it, and I do feel the sense of progression. Much like the modern first person shooter, 16 bit RPGs didn’t do much messing around with what to expect from combat. Lunar does have some time-saving options that allow players to code in battle behavior for their party, but because I am usually stingy with spells I tend to stay away from automated battle. I know I can turn spells off, but sometimes I want them, okay?
Graphically, Lunar Touch looks identical to the PS One release, although it does feel as if the game is being scaled and not re-rendered when run in landscape mode. I like the spritework, it feels detailed without being crowded. It certainly meshes well with the game’s story.
I haven’t said much about what makes the iOS release of Lunar different, and that is because it is the least positive thing I have to say about the game. The port is shabby. I will be the first one to say that I have no real concept of what kind of technical challenge developers faced when bringing the title to iOS, but I also know that the publisher found it acceptable to release and charge for. I don’t like that the time of day and battery indicators are left at the top while in landscape mode, that is something I would want out of a reading application but not a game. There is no option to have a D Pad overlay, and the D Pad offered in portrait mode that takes up half of the screen is sadly the most functional way to play. The sliding joystick is too sensitive, and the tap to move pathfinding is terrible. I also found that there were some glitches in the sound, and don’t appreciate the music resetting so often. There are some additional places where the developer didn’t bother to develop their own interface and instead used some of the native iOS UI elements.
The poor technical implementation aside, I still think Lunar is a great game. This just doesn’t like the way it was originally intended to play. While some games feel as if they have truly come into their own on iOS, this just isn’t one of them. If you don’t have another way to experience Lunar, don’t let my issues dissuade you from experiencing this renowned title.
Lunar is available as a Universal download for $6.99 I tested the game on an iPhone 4