Preview: Lufia: The Ruins of Lore

Data? Wrong again, Captain! Lore...


Bush cutting.

Still two more characters left to join.



Talking in a flashback.

Looks quite similar to Lufia 2.

Battle against the lizard people.

The Ruins await!


The veteran returns. Which is good, because I love saying Lufia. Lufia Lufia Lufia!
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Atlus Software
Rated Everyone

Lufia and the Fortress of Doom was released in 1993, but one felt that it would have been welcome even among the earlier RPGs. Players controlled a party of adventurers who schemed about how to traverse the world and how to traverse the next dungeon. All in order to defeat a crew of evil monsters and save the world. It was pretty banal, senseless stuff, and that is why it remains a fan favorite to this day. The sequel to the game added puzzle elements and the Ancient Cave to the mix. From the start, however, Lufia's graphics were pretty bad, and the series has advanced with steps, not leaps, even into the next-generation era. By adding classic (read as: old) RPG devices to the newest game in the series, Ruins of Lore, Taito hopes to create an involving if not innovative experience.

For the first time in the series, the story does not involve the monstrous Sinistrals. It involves the militaristic kingdom of Gratze, bit-part players in Lufia 2. They are being commanded by one Ragule, who is secretly using them for the purposes of finding an ancient creature, the powers of which he intends to use to conquer the world. Opposing him are Eldin, Torma and Rami, who are treasure hunters/world savers by trade. A priestess named Rubius has advised them to find some ancient stones that will point them in the right direction of the legendary beast. They'll have to travel massive distances in space and time to complete their quest.

Although Lufia 3 had a large party of nine, they were in the party the entire time, and it could be cumbersome seeing to them all at once. RoL will have eight party members, but only four of them can be in the fighting party at any given time. They can be switched in and out even during battle. This is a much better way to handle this variety, especially since it gets more complicated. Eldin learns an ability that allows him to capture monsters in battle, and these creatures can assist the party in later skirmishes. They can gain levels, change into different forms, and even fuse with party members for greater combat possibilities. The combat itself makes use of the standard, enter-commands-at-the-beginning-of-the-turn system.

The Job/Class system makes its first Lufian appearance, as well. Only now it is combined with the apprentice system. Party members choose their classes, and the master they are studying under rewards them with new spells and techniques at level up. Although these are not new ideas, past experience has proven them to be very fun, and they could just be the thing to spruce up the Lufia characters.

Lufia again borrows from its peers to update its own puzzle and dungeon-crawling elements. Rather than having a cumbersome menu of different tools to use, each character has a unique tool, and leading characters can be shifted with the L button. For example, players can use Eldin's sword to cut grass, then switch to Torma, who has a grappling hook. Of course, all characters can lift pots and hit switches, and all that. As usual, players will have to be vigilant when wandering the dungeons. First off, there are the monsters who move towards the party with every action the player takes. If they catch the player from behind, they get a surprise attack, and vice-versa. Also, there will be plenty of secrets to find amongst the dungeon walls.

Whereas the previous Lufia suffered from too many randomized dungeons, RoL takes things back to reasonable levels by limiting the randomized dungeons to the Ancient Cave. The Cave is a genuine Lufia innovation that has randomized floors. The trick is that the levels of the party members are reduced to one when they enter the cave, and they have to fight their way back up quickly as they go deeper in the dungeon. Of course, the levels are restored upon exiting the Cave, but the player has a chance to get some rare items from the side quest. The Ancient Cave also ties into the game's multiplayer feature: up to four GBAs can be hooked up so four players can explore the Cave simultaneously. Captured monsters can also be exchanged using the link cable.

It is in the technical areas that Ruins falls down. The game barely makes any use at all of the GBA's capabilities. The colors are bland, and the animation is cheap. During battle the monsters stay virtually still but the party members bounce like they're on drugs. It's the best looking Lufia game to date, but as mentioned before, that's no great distinction. The sound even seems to have digressed. The sound effects are all highly digitized, and the music is a disappointment. The series has produced some memorable compositions, and some of them are re-used here, but they suffer from the same low sound quality.

Lufia fans should find this game pleasing, but it won't likely win any new initiates. The evolution of Lufia has just been too slow, and the innovations and additions are too few. If it weren't being released so close to Golden Sun: The Lost Age, another old-school style RPG with similar elements, then it might have a wider market. Still, for only thirty dollars American, Lufia: Ruins of Lore should prove an enjoyable enough romp.

The game should be released on April 23rd, but it has already been delayed once. Please check our Release Dates script to make sure.

by Matthew Scribner

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