Lunar: Silver Star Story Touch [$6.99] is a port of the classic Sega CD/Saturn game, a JRPG with high-quality anime cut scenes, an unusually strong combat engine, and well-developed characters.

If you were into Lunar back in the day, or if you wanted to get Final Fantasy Dimensions [Free] but it was just too rich for your blood, stop reading and go get SoMoGa's iOS port of this JRPG classic right now.

Seriously, go, get on, shoo.... ah, wait a bit. The port isn't flawless.

There are three things that might get in the way of your enjoyment of this classic: the interface takes some getting used to, the anime is dubbed into English, and there seems to be a slow memory leak in the code.

That last one is scary, but it takes a long time to become a problem: about an hour of play on my 4th gen Touch, more like two hours on an iPad 2 (according to the forums). The result is a gradual slowdown/stutter of gameplay that gets progressively worse if you let it go.

The game lets you save anywhere, and any time but in the middle of combat, or this could be a real nightmare. A quick save, force quit and restart of the app took me less than 30 seconds, and doing that once an hour was no real obstacle to my enjoyment of the game.

Still, something that would be a rarely-noticed bug in a more quick-play game is annoying in an epic RPG, and Lunar is epic, the kind of epic that you can and will play for hours straight. Worse, a few players are reporting severe problems, finding the game to be unplayable as a result.

For me personally, the quality of the dubbing was the biggest flaw in the game, but I hate dubbed anime almost as much as I hate white chocolate. I suppose the overdubbed English performances are reasonably competent, but they sounded like so many hammed-up fingernails on chalkboard to me. To be fair, there has never been a port of Lunar with Japanese audio and English subtitles.

If you've played any of the game's previous incarnations, the menu system will be familiar. If not, save yourself a little pain and read the games short and succinct help file. The controls also take a little getting used to: there is a touch-anywhere virtual stick and a tap-to-move feature, as well as the somewhat bizarre option to play in portrait mode with half the screen taken up by a fixed d-pad.

That's a nice range of options, but none of them work perfectly. The tap-to-move feature has terrible pathfinding, pulling off "L" shaped moves most but not all of the time, and almost always failing at "U" turns. The stick is sloppy, feeling a bit like Cthulhu Saves the World's [$1.99] original swipe-to-move scheme. In portrait mode everything is eyestrain-inducingly tiny, but I used it occasionally for precision's sake in battles and in the menu screen.

The thing is, despite these flaws, I am totally in love with this game.

The game's protagonist is the classic boy-with-potential, but he comes off as a lot more real than most such protagonists, partially because of Nall, who might be thought of as Alex's daemon. Luna, his childhood friend, predictable love interest, and party cleric is similarly based on a cliche, but has a surprising amount of nuance to her character. She's tragically insecure, but that insecurity comes across as a character flaw you want to see her overcome, rather than a convenient subordination to the game's protagonist.

A large part of Lunar's appeal hinges on the likability of it's characters. They're all built on cliches, but they tend to outgrow their cliches and become surprisingly "real." A pervasive sense of humor serves to make major and minor personalities more human and rounded. That sense of humor gently introduces diversity and moral ambiguity into the game. A good example of this is the way that ordinary people (minor NPCs) have wildly varied opinions of people and places, and generally with cause.

The game's environments are varied and visually appealing, but after the storytelling, Lunar's big draw is a strong encounter and combat system.

The encounter system strikes a balance between action and turn-based RPG that works well: mobs appear on the map, and you can fight them all try to avoid them in real-time. Battles are turn-based and about as strategic as you can get without a grid or hex map, with movement factored in, and a balanced range of skills and spells to use. There's relatively little grinding and relatively little benefit to grinding, as boss fights scale to your experience level.

SoMoGa's port of Lunar was designed with pick-up play in mind. The ability to save anywhere, an auto-resume feature, and a shake-to-pause feature are all mobile-friendly. The handling of system options could be better, as shaking isn't well documented (I found it by accident) and the only way to get back to the menu is an option in the pause dialogue.

SoMoGa has plans for iCloud multi-device saves, and the devs have dropped hints about adding the Japanese audio (with English subtitles?) and other extras to future versions. One can hope that they'll root out the slowdown bug as well.

Like so many games these days, Lunar: Silver Star Story Touch hit the App Store with some some obvious flaws. The ultimate question isn't what it might become, but whether it can be recommended as-is. The short answer is "yes."

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Tropxe

    Sounds good, but does it have the same awful UI as Vay? It was just the iOS windows and lists used instead of a unique in-game one, like if Half Life's UI was just Windows-style menus.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003136913750 Tof Eklund

      Different, improved UI. The top menu does have some iOS icons on the bottom, but the in-game menu is the original one from the console game.

  • chubbypillow

    The song lyrics differ from the Playstation port. The song lyrics are poorly written in the iOS version (my one serious gripe for this port). Really good game, i forgot how good this game was. The touch movement is not good and there is no option to turn it off. The dpad (its actually a analog stick) is better than chthulhu but worst than ff dimensions and guardian saga. It will take some getting use to. And to restate, yes there is an annoying stuttering problem when the game is played for too long. Using the touch movements strangely does not cause this behavior. Solution is to close and reopen app. Menu system does take getting use to. Its not as well thought out as ff dimensions. But it works. Really good price for this epic rpg with lots of anime cutscenes and good english voice acting.

  • http://iqsoup.com/ iqSoup

    Ahh memory leaks!  A dev's worst nightmare!

  • http://bassoonhero.deviantart.com/ Michael Wootton

    One of my absolute favorite games of all time, up there with Metal Gear Solid 3, Super Mario RPG, the Mass Effect games, MOTHER 3, and Grandia (*COUGH* SoMoGa *COUGH). Kinda freaky to have this on my phone in any form. 

    Have only gone through the very first scene so I haven't tested out the UI much at all, but I think the translation and audio dubbing is actually from XSEED's publishing of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony for PSP. I'd need to boot it up on the PSP to be totally sure (though I know the opening song is 100% for-sure the SSH version), but I'm pretty positive it's their new script/dub (which I seriously loved) on-top of the old-school sprites and graphics engine. Curious as to why they chose the PSX/Saturn version over the newer graphics... Either way, Lunar on my phone! Woohoo!!

  • http://twitter.com/DotComCTO DotComCTO

    Seeing this reminds me that I would LOVE to see Skies of Arcadia on iOS.  :-)

  • Gamer_Kev

    I still have my PSX version of the game and can say it was a very fun game. Even though I did have a Sega CD back in the day I was never able to find a copy for that system back before the Internet became common. It's hard for me to imagine the game with out Working Designs' witty translation. I'm guessing from the review that this is a new translation of the game. I think the old translation will be missed by people who played the PSX or Sega CD version as that was a huge part of the charm of the game. Though a lot of the jokes were specific to the late 80's era, so maybe a new translation was needed for a new generation to enjoy it.

  • nfs321983

    Omg! I love this game! I played it fir the ps1!

  • SkyMuffin

    The forum thread for the game is full of responses from the dev. They are actively beta testing a patch that has eradicated the memory leaks and streamlined the gameplay, so it should be great pretty soon.

  • worldcitizen1919

    You know when Alex asks Luna to jump on the ship? Once she got onto the ship I kept crashing. I reloaded but pet crashing. There seems to be a memory Eakins somewhere. I had to fight the boss again and I made a save and then used a memory restore program and got it to lad next time. Almost had to give up playing.

    But I still love the game.

    But could use some magic points restore items that are cheaper.

  • worldcitizen1919

    The part where Alex asks Luna to get on the ship. Crashes again and again once she gets on. Looks like a memory leak. Had to restore a saved game many times and clean memory before got it working again.

    New ipad blurry cut scenes could use fix and more magic points restore items.

  • swatbot

    Aside from the memory leaks, crashes after cut scenes, and very sketchy touch implementation..whew.. this is still an excellent game for an excellent price.  I can see the above issues pretty much turning off anyone new to the game, or rightfully provoking frustration.  Navigating small spaces with the d-pad is almost impossible, sometimes the game thinks you are tapping to move when you are trying to bring up the dpad and your characater runs in the wrong direction (into enemies grr), and at in landscape mode, good luck selecting let alone finding your party member for a healing spell when s/he is covered up by a cluster of enemies or other friends.

    All these issues could have been fixed.  Square and other RPG devs on iOS have figured them out a long time ago.  I hope the devs can address these issues.  With a little love, this could be a very snappy iOS rpg.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6844547 Lars Kelley

    wow...didnt expect to see this happen. brings back memories! im gonna have to go ahead and call in sick tomorrow. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sydney-Louw-Butler/1333525233 Sydney Louw Butler

    It's so weird to read a review of Lunar SSS in 2012 as if the reviewer was playing it for the first time.

  • Jonathan Terrell

    Any chance of it coming to Android?

  • Charmed123Charmed1

    My most favorite game was Lunar 2: Eternal Blue! Im playing this to know the story becoz Lunar 2 is practically the continuation of Lunar SSS! I just need some help! I cant defeat the Boss in Saith! Evrytime the whole group finishes attacking, the boss ALWAYS REGENERATES LIFE THAT IS EQUAL TO THE AMOUNT OF GROUP DAMAGE! I dont know if this is a bug or not but i need help because im dying to continue playing this game!

  • Charmed123Charmed1

    My most favorite game was Lunar 2: Eternal Blue! Im playing this to know the story becoz Lunar 2 is practically the continuation of Lunar SSS! I just need some help! I cant defeat the Boss in Saith! Evrytime the whole group finishes attacking, the boss ALWAYS REGENERATES LIFE THAT IS EQUAL TO THE AMOUNT OF GROUP DAMAGE! I dont know if this is a bug or not but i need help because im dying to continue playing this game!

  • Charmed123Charmed1

    My most favorite game was Lunar 2: Eternal Blue! Im playing this to know the story becoz Lunar 2 is practically the continuation of Lunar SSS! I just need some help! I cant defeat the Boss in Saith! Evrytime the whole group finishes attacking, the boss ALWAYS REGENERATES LIFE THAT IS EQUAL TO THE AMOUNT OF GROUP DAMAGE! I dont know if this is a bug or not but i need help because im dying to continue playing this game!

  • gnomekingofpain

    Touch Arcade actually should take another look at this review. With the ability to apply updates, iOS games tend to be moving targets, and Lunar has fixed some of the reviewers biggest issues.

    As the review pointed out, one of the big disappointments of the game was it's English dubbing. However, the developers have since added the option to use the Japanese voice track (there is also an option for English subtitles, so non japanese speakers can still utilize that track). As for the memory issues, I have not played enough to speak definitively to that issue, but I have looked several hours of play on my IPad 4 and not run into any problems.

    To be honest, I found the English dub to be horribly jarring and put the game aside, I only gave it another look after it was updated, it is great to see a game like this not only getting on iOS port, but also getting substantial post release support.

  • Warboss Aohd

    can we just get another Lunar Already?

Lunar Silver Star Story Touch Reviewed by Tof Eklund on . Rating: 4