Lufia: The Legend Returns - Review

One Trick Pony

By: Jake Alley

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 6
   Originality 5
   Plot 3
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 4
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

20-40 hours


Lufia: The Legend Returns

   In 1996, Lufia II offered RPGamers a plethora of puzzle filled dungeons to challenge the mind. It also gave them the Ancient Cave, a hundred floor deep randomly generated dungeon full of treasures to explore as a mini-game of sorts. After five years, a new entry in the series has finally been released in the form of Lufia: The Legend Returns. However, this sequel does not provide everything fans expected.

   While Lufia II featured dungeons which offered forth increasingly difficult logic puzzles, requiring the player to constantly think about what to do next, every dungeon in The Legend Returns is randomly generated. Furthermore, the engine used to generate these dungeons leaves a great deal to be desired. Every floor of every dungeon is simply a three by three grid of rooms connected by short hallways. These rooms are sparsely populated by monsters, small bushes, odd looking walls, and the occasional treasure chest. Some hedges conceal the occasional trap, which can be avoided simply by walking around, and slashing certain bushes and walls can reveal more treasures. However, as these treasure chests never contain anything but common healing items, and scrolls that teach new special moves, these dungeons grow quite dull quite fast. Every dungeon in the game looks just like every other, and houses almost the same contents. The only real difference is the wallpaper, which at times shows infuriatingly little thought, particularly in the ten story forests.

This is what you see more often than not.
This is what you see more often than not.  

   While the dungeons show little thought or effort on behalf of the developers, battles are quite interesting. While most RPGs allow only three or four characters to participate in any given battle, The Legend Returns allows for a full nine characters to be in the party at once, in three rows of three. As with most RPGs, characters in the front row both deal and suffer more damage, while characters in the back row deal and take very little. In the interest of adding challenge however, only one character from each column may act in a given round, and only the first row of characters need to be defeated for the game to end. This yields a good deal of strategy in choosing a formation. One must spread powerful characters out to ensure they all can attack each turn, while keeping healers spread out in the back to revive them when they fall.

   The arrangement of characters also effects the learning of new special moves. When a scroll containing a new move is found, it lists required values for the four Force colors needed to learn it. Each character has only one color of force by themselves, but count as having gain the force values of every character in the same row or column. While one can simply rearrange characters temporarily to learn new moves, the cost of using them is greater in configurations where they can't be learned.

Nine against one.
Nine against one.  

   When not exploring the many random dungeons, The Legend Returns has little to set it apart from other RPGs. The music, while not particularly memorable, is decent. A welcome change from the irritating warbling featured in many other GBC games. The graphics are similarly bland, looking more or less like everything else on the platform.

   While these elements aren't prone to stick in a person's memory, the story of the game can be recalled fondly... from the original Lufia. For no clear reason, the Sinistrals from the first two games come back to life yet again, and need to be defeated using the same ultimate weapon. Even surprise story twists are recycled from earlier games. The only real difference is the number of characters in your party to jovially bicker between adventurers, and the placement of the occasional typo.

Needless to say, shopping takes a while.
Needless to say, shopping takes a while.  

   Along with the occasional error in the translation, a few minor details in the game seem simply bizarre. Some spells and abilities which heal a large number of characters cause damage instead when targeting the user, the spell to heal all party members fully only restores a fraction of the HP needed to accomplish the task, and the most powerful weapon in the game is randomly dropped by a normal enemy in the very first dungeon in the game.

   While the main game leaves a bit to be desired, The Legend Returns does bring back the Ancient Cave, new with more floors to match the increased party size. Other series staples, such as the search for eight Dragon Eggs, which rewards the party in a number of ways then scatter around the world to be found again, also return.

While overall, Lufia: The Legend Returns is an unremarkable game, it does give RPGamers a chance to experience the addictive fun that is the Ancient Cave in a portable fashion. Those looking for the puzzle filled experience that was Lufia II however will be better off turning to the Wild ARMs series.

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