Malik (4/20/04)

Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals


This review originally was presented on lazy.GEEKS (6/26/03)

Well, I just finished writing a review of Lufia 4 for the GBA, and I realized I touched on a subject near and dear to my nostalgic heart...Lufia 2. I also realized, many people who currently play RPGs were not around in the glory days of the SNES, and while it may be hard to come by, it's not impossible, so I give you all a review of a game worth the struggle to track down; Lufia 2 for the SNES. 

This game came out near the end of the SNES days, right before the system was reduced to a long and painful death when Nintendo forgot to realize that the end was upon them and the next generation was ready for action. This was, in my opinion, the last RPG for the SNES that could truly stand out and make a RPG fan say, "wow!"; which says a lot since the SNES was king when it came to quality Adventure/RPGs (FF4,5, and 6, Lufia and Lufia 2, Breath of Fire and BoF 2, Secret of Mana, Zelda 3, Romancing SaGa series...the only good SaGa games not on portable systems...the list just keeps going on like this). 


First off, spoilers are a coming. I'll warn you when they are going to show up...I'm just that nice of a guy. 

Well, to be honest, while I do love this game, the story starts a bit cliché. It all starts when you, Maxim, are trying to earn your meager way in the world as a monster hunter. You get a few bucks here and there for bringing in the carcasses to the local shop. Eventually, you go through your standard training class, you start feeling adventurous, blah, blah, blah. Then, you end up going through a cave and finding a mysterious woman known as Iris, who tells you, rather evasively, about your being an important part of a prophecy like prediction of the future. Next thing you know, you and your woman are off on an adventure to see what you can learn of your destiny and to learn about the world itself at the same time. 

After a while, the clichés continue, you meet some more people who join you, and you end up caught up in some weird stuff as strange men (supermen I should say) start appearing and destroying towns, and in general, throwing the world as you know it into chaos. So, like any typical/cliché RPG hero, you decide it is your responsibility to save the world. 

All of this is about as cliché as a RPG plot can get (did I mention this game is set in a medieval/fantasy style world? It is), but it's not the overall plot that saves this game as much as the small things. There are countless plot twists, from tiny to giant, that always keep you on your toes. The plot can suddenly shift in anything from your stance as a hero, to your love interest, to the political intrigue that this world is so filled with. 

(Ok, I warned you...spoilers are in this paragraph, so you plot purists can all skip to the next paragraph now) 

Also, unlike so many RPGs of this era, your characters have character. Unlike FF4-6 (which are good SNES RPGs; don't get me wrong) which had very 1 dimensional characters, Lufia 2 (and 1 for that matter) continuously extracts new elements from each heroes' personality. You can actually feel yourself get attached to some of these characters. When Maxim's love interest changes you can't help but feel sorry for Tia (his first love interest), when Dekar sacrifices himself to ensure your escape you can't help but think, "Damn...Dekar was the man", and when Erim (the Sinistral of Death) plays you all for saps and reveals she was really Iris you can't help but think if anything in this game was what it seemed. Most of all, when Maxim and Selan are killed in the final fight you would have to be a complete bastard to not feel a twinge of sadness. 

(Ok, they've come and gone...spoilers are now behind us) 

Overall, this plot may be cliché and leave you feeling like you've seen it all before, it's the small things like the twists and character development that will keep you wanting to play some more. When it comes to these elements, no other game on the SNES (that came out in the U.S. anyways) came even close to this, except for the original Lufia...but that's for another day. 


Well, first off, I'm not going to judge this game on false virtues or false hatred, like so many people would in today's 128 bit world. The graphics, for their time, were hella good. Also, for now, they look like a really good GBA game. The first two Lufia games both used a rather unique approach to their graphical design, that still leaves me feeling nostalgic when I see a game with bright colors. Ok, enough of that. The graphics use a blending of bright colors, sharp images, and anime style characters.

So, what does that mean? Well, you play characters with big heads, bright hair colors (from red to yellow to green to blue and so on), and obvious features (you can tell a character's eyes from his nose and mouth, etc). For some people, this means stupidity. I mean, how many people bitched and moaned when Final Fantasy IX reverted to the glory days with deformed characters (i.e. big heads)? 

Here Comes The Rant 

To get slightly off subject for one paragraph; we need to stop, as a society of RPG playing geeks, complaining about our RPGs and other games being too unrealistic. For one thing, when The Getaway tried being realistic, did we all rejoice? No, we played the game, got pissed at it's slow pace, then threw it away or used it as a coaster. For another thing, if you want realism, you are looking in the wrong place when you want magic, blitzball (I hate you damned FFX fanboys), summons, or other RPG elements. So, to put my point succinctly, I want my RPGs fake and fun, with big heads, bright colors, fantasy themes, magic, elves, moogles that hold "Save?" signs, chocobos that say "Gwark!", dwarves that are either Scottish or say "Rally Ho!", and evil moon men named Zeromus, and all you damned whiney losers who have ruined our fun RPGs of the past with your complaints...go play a ^@$#^* sports game, a driving sim, or a war sim so those of us who like to escape the bullshit of our everyday 8 AM - 6 PM faceless, corrupt, corporate lives can have a little fun and play with our friendly elves, dwarves, moogles, and gnomes in peace. What next you freaks? Want to complain that a pikachu can't honestly shoot lightning and say that we should all play with pokemons that look and act like real animals except when they play some the way, I hate Pokemon, but I respect it for it's imagination...also, I HATE YOU ALL! 

Ok, back to the graphics. The colors are one of the most stand out aspects of this game. Everything, from the characters, to the trees, to the buildings and even the monsters are all done with appropriate, yet bright, colors that really make you feel like you are playing a fantasy game. Which is how it should be. 

The effects in battles are rather nice for when this game came out. The later spells often take the forms of summons (like the ultimate fire spell summons a firebird) and the visual appeal of these spells are really outstanding. There are no fancy portraits or anime style cut scenes, which is a shame since some games had them in this era of game development (such as Soul Blazer), but still, this one minor flaw cannot be held against the game when the graphics are truly a nostalgic breath of fresh air when compared to our realistic and bland RPGs of this generation. 


Another truly outstanding element. The sound effects, like most games of this era, are nothing all that impressive, and nothing in the least bit disappointing. The good feature, though, is the music. Considering the MIDI sound of nearly all game music on the SNES, Lufia 2 somehow sounded orchestrated and planned. The music was not merely thrown together in a hurry, as so many game soundtracks sounded like in the 16 bit era. In fact, I'd have to say, the only other games that came close to the level of quality that Lufia 2 had in it's soundtrack were Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger. If you don't know these games...they both rocked, so check them out...and if you do; 'Nuff Said. Audio rocks on Lufia 2. 

Game Play 

So far the story, the graphics, and the audio kick arse, so the game play has to suck, right? Wrong. The game play of Lufia 2 is one of the few times in RPG history when some truly innovative features were installed to a traditional RPG series and it did not just take away from enjoyment of the series. 

Of these innovations, the most obvious is how a dungeon is played out. You are constantly faced with challenging puzzles that can only be solved by using some serious thought into how to manipulate your character, the environment, and the monsters (which can be seen walking around the random battles for you, you damned whiney losers) by using a small assortment of tools and items. This means if you see two switches that must simultaneously be pressed and a single monster roaming the floor, then you must lure the monster to one switch and then either trap the monster on the switch by maneuvering obstacles around it or by paralyzing it with one of your tools. Or if you see a large area of grass, you need to use either your sword (or once you find them, flaming arrows) to mow the grass down to uncover the proper path while facing the problem of the grass growing back almost quicker than you can cut it down. In other words, you must learn not just how to solve some rather thoughtfully planned puzzles, but also what enemies are there for you to destroy and what ones are there to solve the puzzles at hand. This type of puzzle usage will keep you involved and thinking through out what would otherwise be a long and boring dungeon. Simply put, this is an amazing way to keep the player involved that one simply must experience to fully appreciate. 

Another innovative twist is the capsule monster. Back before we were all thinking about Pokemon, Lufia 2 had 7 unique monsters that you may find (if you look hard enough and solve some more unique puzzles) that will work with you in combat (or against you). These monsters each had an elemental association (fire, water, dark, light, air, earth, and neutrality) and a unique personality. Some were fast, some ferocious, some helpful (the light monster liked to heal people), and some were cowardly (they would usually run away since their bravery was low). As you use them, they would gain levels and skills, and as you fed them items they liked, they would begin to evolve into more powerful forms. Also, once one evolved, you could always revert it between a highly evolved and newby form with no cost what so ever (provided you got it evolved to begin with). Each monster had 4 basic evolutions and one unique special evolution that you could only find by using a lot of guessing (or FAQs). Most importantly, unlike Pokemon (or disk monsters of Lufia 4), each evolution was radically different from the previous form (except for the neutral capsule monster or the early forms of the fire one). 

In battle, you have no control of the monster, but on the plus side, it will not take up a valuable position in your battle formation. In Lufia 4, you have to switch out a party member to use the monster of your choice, but in Lufia 2, there was a special position just for it. 

Another great feature is the IP meter. As you find certain pieces of equipment, you will find some that have special abilities. Unlike Final Fantasy games which had a similar thing, you could not just keep using the ability without reservation. You had a bar, called the IP bar, that when you get injured would fill up. You would use these points to activate special abilities. It's in a way like getting your adrenaline pumping and thus pulling out a little more power when you need it most. 

Another overlooked feature of Lufia 2 is Forfeit Island. Whenever you sold an item, if you later wished you had it again, you did not need to fear. Every item ever sold in Lufia 2 would end up on Forfeit Island. Also, the island had a special casino with some really fun games (not just slots like most games, but also cards and a really fun bingo game that combined the luck of bingo with the skills of...well the skills of Lufia 2 bingo...just play it and you'll see). 

Most importantly of all, the rest of the Lufia 2 game play is just like a tradition RPG. This means the battles play out like a good old RPG, the traveling and exploration is just like a good old RPG (with random fights on the map screen), town exploration is's like paradise for us true, hardcore, old-school RPG fans of old. 

Best of all, when you finish the game, you can play it again in a special new game mode that lets you gain experience and money at 4 times the normal rate, so you can replay the story without worrying about levels or finances. This is something more modern games need to facilitate replay of the story without the headaches of replaying the challenge. 

When you put all of this together, you are left with not just a good RPG, but a good RPG with enough innovation to keep you constantly playing to see and solve more. Unlike the Final Fantasy series of recent years, the innovation is kept to a minimum to ensure you don't end up with crappy features that leave you wanting more (or should I say less...less innovation that is) drawing magic in FF8. 


I know this is a very old game, and that it's only becoming more forgotten and lost with each passing day. That is the sole reason that the master of all geek objects that should be collected and treasured, Malik, decided to treat you all to a glimpse of how things used to...nay...should be. The story is still one that can draw me in today (even after beating the game more times than I can count). The graphics and the audio are both beautifully done with bright colors and sounds that don't leave you feeling depressed or enraged (as overly depressive or overly cute games often do). Best of all, the game play is probably the best blend of tradition with enough innovation to keep even the whiney, supposed RPG fans of today happy and (hopefully) quiet. I may sound like a fan boy, but there is only one possible issue I could ever have with this show you all that there is something I don't like and am thus being fair in my review, I'll mention this...when you get the Dual Blade (the Excalibur of Lufia 1 and 2), the room is horribly distorted and it will look like the game has crashed. This is a bug in every copy, so it's not just your copy of the game. This means you must travel the room blindly seeing where you are and where the sword is, but not seeing the walls. Almost made me cry the first time I played it...Anyways, back to my conclusion. With all the good features, and so little to complain about (to think I can't find much to complain about), I give Lufia 2 a 9.9/10 (it would get a perfect 10 if the room with the Dual Blade was not glitchy...this brought me down from my euphoric high long enough to knock off a 0.1).

To put it in three simply words...Play Lufia 2.