Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals - Reader Re-Retroview  

Arisen from Mediocrity
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

20-40 Hours
+ Most fights in dungeons are skippable.
+ Great music.
+ Decent graphics.
- Battles can be slow.
- Guide is sometimes necessary.
- Weak localization.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   During the Super NES era, Taito attempted to break into the RPG genre with Lufia & the Fortress of Doom, which, despite its flaws, managed to develop a decent following, with some hailing it as a rival to other RPG franchises such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Towards the end Super NES's lifespan, Taito released the franchise's first sequel, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, which, while certainly not without its flaws, was nonetheless a giant leap in the right direction for the series.

   Though Lufia II's overworld still features random encounters (with the rate of encounters there mercifully being lower), enemies in dungeons are visible, walking around as Maxim does. Players can use one of his many tools to stun them and avoid them, but since they'll eventually need to outfit the party with better equipment, buy magic, and level up to at least make it past the bosses, the player will definitely have to fight them on a semi-frequent basis.

   Fortunately, combat itself is more tolerable than in the original Lufia. Gone, for one, is the first installment's odd structure of turn-based battle, replaced by more standard turn-based combat, where the player inputs all commands for the party and lets them and the enemy fight a round, with command input repeating as long as enemies or the player's characters are standing. Death in battle now results in a Game Over, unlike in the first game, although the escape option works most of the time, and save and recovery points (though the latter don't appear all the time) exist in dungeons, usually right before bosses.

   Character commands include attacking normally, using MP-consuming magic (with the player now needing to purchase magic for each character from special shops in towns), defending, using items, and using special IP skills from current equipment, with each character having an IP gauge that fills from enemy attacks, and every IP skill consuming a certain amount of the gauge. An interesting twist on magic, moreover, is that the player can choose to execute it on one enemy/ally or multiple enemies/allies, but not necessarily all enemies/allies.

Cheater A lot of money and levels for one hour

   The player may also find several Capsule Monsters during the game, one of which they can bring into battle and which they can feed with various items and equipment. After the player feeds them a certain amount, Capsule Monsters will grow to a more powerful incarnation, with four incarnations available for each Capsule Monster alongside a secret Master form the player can access after feeding them a specific type of fruit when in a certain form, with the player able to adjust Capsule Monster forms in the game menus. Capsule Monsters level up alongside the player's party but are completely A.I.-controlled.

   The battle system mostly works well, though as in most turn-based RPGs turn order can be unpredictable and even vary at times, and execution of player and enemy commands can be sluggish, although exploiting enemies' magical weaknesses and using IP skills can sometimes end fights more quickly. All in all, combat isn't perfect, but helps the game more than hurts.

   Outside battle, the player receives a number of tools, which, in addition to stunning enemies so that the player can avoid them, also assist in the solving of various puzzles to advance through dungeons. Many puzzles are enjoyable distractions, although some can be difficult without a guide, which is also sometimes necessary to find out how to advance the main storyline, given the lack of direction at times. The game's localization was also somewhat rushed, as evidenced by one particular dungeon that appears garbled and is consequentially difficult to navigate. Other parts of interaction aren't so bad, such as the menus and shopping, not to mention warp magic (among towns, at least) and dungeon escape magic, but this aspect could have easily been better.

   Whereas the original Lufia was a run-of-the-mill RPG, its sequel demonstrates far more creativity, being one of the first turn-based RPGs to place an emphasis on puzzle-solving outside battle, a combination that would influence future titles such as the Golden Sun and Wild ARMs franchises. The puzzle-solving aspect does somewhat resemble that in the Zelda series, and the story does feature elements of the original Lufia, although the sequel was nonetheless an inventive and influential title.

You can't eat that! Time for clown college

   Story-wise, the second Lufia is a prequel to the first, following Maxim and company in their battle against wicked beings known as the Sinistrals. For the most part, the sequel does a decent job in weaving the first game's backstory, with some interesting twists, especially near the end, although it does suffer from the typical problems of RPG plots such as irrelevant fetch quests and lack of focus at times. The translation is also on the sloppy and unprofessional side, for instance, with mistranslated enemy names like "Gorem" and "Hidora." All in all, the story is half-decent, but could have used more polish.

   The soundtrack, however, fares better, consisting of remixes of tracks from the first game alongside plenty of new music, all of which sounds decent, and is of better quality than in the original, with the boss battle themes being the strongest pieces. The sound effects, and maybe the normal battle music, could have used some more diversity, but otherwise, the aurals are one of the second installment's strongest suits.

   The visuals are also an improvement over those in the first game, with taller, if still somewhat disproportionate, character sprites, decent scenery, and believable colors that are more subdued than those in the original. Battle scenery is also an improvement over that in the first game, with characters now fighting on the scenery instead of on status panels, although monsters still merely jiggle around in battle, and are palette swaps at times. Still, a decent-looking game.

   Finally, Lufia II is about a 25-hour game, with extras like the Ancient Cave adding to this time, alongside a "Retry" mode where enemies give quadruple experience and money.

   In conclusion, it's rare to see an RPG sequel that, for once, fixes the problems with its predecessor or predecessors, given the tendency of companies to repeat flaws throughout their game series, but Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is a fortunate exception, fixing most of the problems present in the first game to make it far more enjoyable, and perhaps to date the jewel of the Estpolis series. It's certainly not without its flaws such as a rushed localization and run-of-the-mill plot, although it still stands as one of the most improved sequels in the history of RPGs.

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