Old RPG Review #23: Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals

NuMetalManiak This series never will die.

Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is the second game made in the Lufia RPG series, but it's the prequel to the first game. A number of publishers to name. Natsume is shown on the first screen, and I of course remember Taito since they made the first game. Regardless, Lufia II manages to be a rather competent RPG, and one I enjoyed unlike its predecessor game.

Gameplay: Not a whole lot of notable things from the first game made it to the second. Like the random encounters for example. They only exist on the overworld, but not in the dungeons, shrines, caves, etc. A whole new gameplay mechanic exists there, reminiscent of Legend of Zelda games. Your main character can slash bushes with his sword, and use Zelda-like tools such as arrows, bombs, and even a hookshot. Enemies appear in the field and walking next to one triggers a battle. Surprising an enemy in this manner involves getting behind him or swiping the sword (with some luck), and the tools for dungeon spelunking also can be used for stunning enemies. But if there's anything about Lufia II's dungeons that I will remember, it's gotta be the puzzles. So many different types of puzzles, involving tools, proper movement, or even enemy movement. One particular puzzle is known only as "The World's Most Difficult Trick", and practically requires a guide to get the juicy items it holds.

Battles in Lufia II are pretty much just like the first game although improved. No more stupid randomized monster stats (thank god) and free targeting when using magic are two of the better changes (free magic targeting meaning you can target one, all, or a select group of enemies with magic, good for when two different types of enemies are weak against two different types of magic). Aside from HP and MP, a new thing is IP, which is kind of like a rage meter that goes up each time a character takes damage. When it's at a certain level, a special skill can be used via an equipped weapon or armor that may prove useful. This is especially true for some of the boss fights. Another new thing is Pokem...er I mean Capsule Monsters, who you can recruit in your party, feed them items, and watch them evolve. They fight alongside your party members, and could have their own special skills handy. Kinda fluky though. I never did find any of them to be exceptionally game-breaking.

You no longer need to learn magic by leveling up, instead, there are magic shops in towns, similar to the item and armor shops, where you can buy magic spells for characters. I like how it eliminates the need for excessive grinding and that is good. Churches exist in towns, and they are methods of saves, revivifications, and lifting the curse off of certain equip-able items (rare). Like in the first game, there is one very special town that has all the stuff you sold, which for me is one of the more unique things in the Lufia series. That one town is also home to a number of casinos, where you exchange gold for coins, play slots, do whatever. It's totally optional and fills the minigame aspect of the game.

Three game modes exist, unlocked one after the other. Start is basically the regular game. Retry is similar to a New Game+ except that gold and EXP gains are higher, making the game substantially easier. Gift sets you in one town only, the one with the Ancient Cave, and you can choose your desired party. The Ancient Cave is so unique to this game it's a shame that I never experienced it due to boredom. It's a randomly generated dungeon with 99 floors to conquer. Interestingly enough, your experience goes to zero and you lose your equipment and items upon entering. So that means conservative play as well as chest grabbing are requirements. At the final floor is a master jelly who must be felled in three turns, though a glitch can occur where your party members can attack each other before the jelly prevents you from getting the reward. Overall, the Ancient Cave part of Lufia II is clearly it's own game. Gameplay Grade: A

Characters: Maxim: The red-haired main hero, born to fight, and is very skilled with the sword. Capable of using magic as well and is the main controllable character throughout the entire game. Skilled as a fighter, his only glaring weakness would have to be his magic ability.
Tia: This blue-haired girl is a shopowner and Maxim's first love interest. She's kinda like Lufia from the first game, always attempting to cling onto Maxim's side so he doesn't get hurt. Not overly special, but her magic ability is better than Maxim's and that what she's best for.
Guy: Another swordsman, this blonde dude dishes out physical damage only, as he is incapable of using magic. Guy is the strongest attacker of the main party, and I like him quite a lot. He is slow though.
Selan: Another one born to fight, this teal-haired commander of Parcelyte has a similar approach to Maxim, but is more exceptionally skilled in magic, more so than Tia.
Dekar: Dekar is another warrior. This guy with a Sonic-like hairdo is the self-titled "Strongest man in the world". He is however dumber than a box of rocks, but his fighting ability gets him out of trouble. Like Guy, he is unable to use magic, and is slower than Guy in fact.
Lexis: A mad scientist playable character? Oh wow. I primarily used Lexis as a mage-type character, as his INT stat was as high as Selan's, and he has reasonable speed. His normal attacks would hit all enemies with the possibilities for random ailments. I liked Lexis.
Artea: The last character to join, and the only one who is an elf. His bow attacks can hit all enemies, but he shines in magic with Light spells. Also his speed is very good.

Those were the playable characters, and there are several other characters that could be important or so. Of course, the four Sinistrals are the main villains, Gades, Amon, Erim, and Daos. The mysterious character known as Iris, as well as two minor villains in Camu and Idura also are notable. Grade: A-

Plot: Maxim lives in Elcid as a monster hunter, again, born to be a fighter. Tia the shoponwer worries about this so much. While Maxim is off doing deeds to help local towns, he meets Iris, who tells of his destiny to fight and to find others with the same destiny. Tia follows, gets herself in trouble, then is saved by Maxim. She begs to join, and really, nothing's gonna stop her. Together they travel, stop a couple of buffoons from stealing a castle crown, then meet Guy at the town of Tanbel. Camu shows up to threaten them, and Guy joins the party after Camu kidnaps her sister. Cornering Camu, he attempts to kill them with him but Iris saves the party. Upon reaching Parcelyte, a strong woman named Selan joins the party under her king's orders. After successful missions, she slowly earns Maxim's trust. Adventuring on, they find a destroyed town, and confront the man behind it, Gades, who is the Sinistral of Destruction. This is supposed to be a forced loss, but I found out that this battle can be won, and for a rather good reward too. Plotwise though, he still defeats the party.

Reporting bad news to the Parcelyte king, they set out to confront Gades for a rematch, but Guy has to tend to his sick sister, so he leaves. Reaching Bound Kingdom, they see Dekar single-handedly take on Idura's monster army, while Prince Alex wants in on the action. Alex is dumber than Dekar since he rushed to fight Idura all by himself. Dekar and the party follow him, and bring him to safety. Parcelyte, however, is Gades' next target, so Maxim entrusts Tia and Selan to defend it, while Dekar joins Maxim, along with Guy who comes back all of a sudden. They manage to defeat Gades, but as his last hurrah, he traps Maxim alone with the destroyed tower, but he manages to prevent that from happening. Although Maxim seems that he will die, he is once again saved by Iris, transported to Parcelyte where Selan greets him with open arms.

A lot of cutscenes happen at this point. It's obvious that Selan loved Maxim, so Tia runs away, even though Dekar tries to stop her. Maxim and Selan get married, Guy spars with his girlfriend, and some scenes of a year going by happily ever after play. Maxim and Selan even give birth to a child named Jeros, but then that a****** Idura had to kidnap their baby. They get Jeros back (with the help of Iris again), and they chase after Idura, with Guy and Dekar joining in. Idura is fought three times, and he mentions the existence of Four Sinistrals. At his final moment, he takes the tower that the party is in down with them. Dekar makes a sacrifice so that Iris and the main party can be teleported to safety, and is presumed dead.

The party adventures on, recruiting the inventor Lexis Shaia, doing more good deeds for local townsfolk in certain towns and castles. As they do, they run into the second Sinistral, Amon, who is the Sinistral of Chaos (incorrectly referred to as the Sinistral of Terror in the first game). Amon is much stronger than Gades here. After a run in with him, the party reaches Kirmo's lab, and Lexis leaves to help his friend Kirmo build a submarine for the party. The blueprints get stolen, so the party chases the elf girl who stole the blueprints, and they meet Artea. He joins after one of his friends may have been nicked by Amon. That friend makes a sacrifice to prevent the Sinistral from getting power, and that makes Artea steaming mad. He vows against the Sinistral and remains with Maxim, Selan and Guy to defeat the Sinistrals.

Iris challenges the party to discover the truth. As they journey, they reach the shrine of the Dual Blade, which is rumoured to be what can silence the Sinistrals. Daos shows up, he is the leader of the sinistrals and is associated with Terror (he and Amon got their titles mixed up in the first game). He shows the party how much of a terrorist he is by destroying an entire town, and Maxim gets angry at this. In order to reach his floating island however, he needs Lexis' help again, and they infiltrate a town to get an engine for Lexis to build an airship. Upon reaching the town of Narvick, the party is tasked with escorting three mystic ladies to the tops of towers. Gades and Amon fight them on two towers, and Daos finds out the Dual Blade chooses Maxim, and is enraged at this.

The party gets past the Doom Island defenses and makes it to the sinistrals. Now, this part of the game is just like the prologue of the first game, except there are no random encounters (yay!) You fight the sinistrals one at a time, Gades, Amon, Erim (who Iris was the whole time), and finally Daos. As a last ditch attempt, they combine their energy against the heroes, and the heroes' energy against the Sinistrals was stronger. While that got rid of the Sinistrals in physical form, Daos vows to destroy Parcelyte (you know, where Maxim's child lives). Plus Selan ends up dying. Maxim tells Artea to warp him and Guy out of there, and as a final sacrifice, he destroys the mystical stones, dying in the process but saving his town as well as basically the world. A very powerful plot, one capped off with the deaths of the two main heroes, Selan and Maxim. Grade: A+

Music: A lot of good tracks here, and some not good ones. I kinda listen to them a bit too much, but they're better than the ones from the first game at least. Grade: B

Overall Grade: A-

Lufia II is way better than the first game. It's got the action, it's got the adventure, and it retains core combat while adding new and not obstructive features. A brilliant but tragic plot, plus several game modes, and the Ancient Cave also make it a great game. Of course, the puzzles are memorable, especially the difficult ones. If you have to pick a game in the Lufia series, make it this SNES game.

Now, if you noticed, my new avatar is a character from a certain game. That is what I'm playing right now and will be reviewing in review #24. Stay tuned.