Old RPG Review #6: Lufia & the Fortress of Doom

NuMetalManiak Spring Break is in session for me right now but I can still do these as I wish. Review #6 is for Lufia & the Fortress of Doom. It was released by Taito in 1993 for the SNES.

Gameplay: This game is heavily reminiscent of classic Final Fantasy, in that it is turn-based. Nothing entirely spectacular in this game to be honest. Walking in the overworld, in towns, and in caves isn't much to note. The overworld in this game is huge however, with plenty of towns, cave entrances, towers, and the like. But I honestly found it more exhausting than fun, especially given the random encounter rate that happens in the overworld.

As far as the battles go, they are done in a manner similar to Phantasy Star, with your characters facing the enemy who faces you. Overall, battles play out like Final Fantasy though, with similar mechanics, spells, and status ailments. I have one major complaint about the enemies fought in this game, and that is randomized monster stats. This made my battles a lot more sporadic and unpredictable, and I hated that. Sometimes a certain enemy is faster than all of my characters, sometimes, the same kind of enemy (so a different one but the same species) is slower. It really hurts me that there was no fixed type of stat for the enemies fought in the game, especially given the rather high random encounter rate. At least grinding wasn't so bad. The game tells you how much experience is needed for the next level and I did a lot of level ups for my characters. By the end of the game, my characters were pulling level 60 or so, which is pretty good, as all the guides I followed for this game were in the mid to high 40s for recommended level. Not only that, but there were quite a lot of item drops from random encounters too.

The North American release of Lufia & the Fortress of Doom seems to suffer from a bad translation as well. A lot of the item and magic spell names seem pretty weird. The good news is you can tell what a certain spell does by pressing X while your cursor is over it, but I can't help but think who named these spells. Like Strong for instance. You would think that it would be an attack buffering spell but it actually restores HP. Likewise, Drain doesn't drain HP or MP, it lowers defense rating. Stone and Statue are two different spells, the former actually cures petrification while the latter one causes it. The Poison spell cures poison? Seriously, what the hell was with these spell names?

And items don't fare well either, some of the most nonsensical items can be used as damaging items. Items such as an Empty Bottle for instance. At least there were some obvious ones, and also the equipment made a flick of sense too. Now, items aren't too bad as far as the game goes, and what makes things really interesting is that there is a very special shopping town you can go to in the game. What this town is, when you sell an item in another place elsewhere, it magically ends up in this town. Meaning that if you mistakingly sold something you can get it back at this very special town. I liked this feature and wish it were implemented in other games, as it was one of the few things I found very unique about Lufia & the Fortress of Doom.

Overall Gameplay Grade: C

Items are nice, but the game offers either nothing special, or something rather frustrating. I honestly did not like any of the random encounters I went up against due to the stats of monsters being randomized against my luck. The terrible translation did not help matters much either.

Characters: This RPG plays main characters by fours. The first four you control are Maxim, Guy, Selan, and Arty, and they are very experienced, explained by the plot in, the second game? Anyways, they defeat the four evil Sinistrals: Gades, Amom, Erim, and Daos, and the game cuts to many years later where your named character will be.

Main character: The hero of this story is a descendant of Maxim with his red hair, and holds great attack and defense, plus some assist magic. He is unnamed so you must pick it.
Lufia: The namesake of the game is the main hero's sassy childhood friend. Like any stereotypical female RPG character she is proficient in spellcasting while weak physically.
Aguro: A soldier of sorts whom the hero and Lufia meet. He tags along, and provides very powerful physical prowess at he expense of not being able to utilize magic.
Jerin: An elf, one who is proficient at bow attacks (meaning, hitting a specific group of enemies). Like Lufia, a stereotypical magic outset of attack and support spells, but with that comes surprisingly good speed.

The characters thankfully have voices, so they speak at points during the plot of the game and there are a few character-related surprises to go along with them. Nothing entirely spectacular, but not necessarily mediocre. Grade: B

Plot: If there's one thing I hate about Lufia & the Fortress of Doom's plot, is that it chronologically is the second game in the series. The first one is actually the sequel game! You may notice at the beginning that you are in control of Maxim, Guy, Selan, and Arty. These four characters are overleveled and can totally kick butt and take names. Yet you have them for such a short time, since they are on Doom Island, just about to make it to the four Sinistrals. Once that's over, a tragic event occurs with two of them dying and then years will pass before the main plot. I have not played the sequel to this game yet, but I am hoping that the beginning of this game is the ending to the second.

Now for the main plot, it starts out with something not too special. The hero's in Alekia as a soldier and basically does his job, much to the chagrin of Lufia. Eventually, he runs into Gades, who is somehow alive and ends up on the losing end. Later on, Aguro joins the hero and Lufia as they all talk about the hero's encounter with the Sinistral. Later, Jerin is rescued from some sacrifice, and she helps the party through a confusing forest. As they journey they meet Raile Shaia who helps build machines (fantasy RPGs and their clash with technology :/) for the party. To the shock and horror of the party, the Sinistrals each get revived, and it seems all thanks to Lufia, whom herself seems to be the living incarnation of the Sinistral Erim. After a certain boss battle near the end of the game, Lufia goes out of control and takes off, leaving you with three members for the rest of the game. Now the plot winds back to how the beginning of the game began, on Doom Island, except with the current characters. At least I only found that you had to just fight Gades, Amom, and Daos, and then they fuse together for the final boss, but you also get Lufia back. The game ends with Lufia presumably dying from the battle, but after the escape from the Sinistral's base all hope is not entirely lost.

So the main plot is sort of interesting, in that your main character's girlfriend ends up being an evildoer (although she don't mean it, of course). Unfortunately the main plot gets ruined by horrible subplots where you need certain key items and such to proceed. The Alumina quest was by far the worst. I also just wish that the first game in this series came BEFORE the second. Grade: C

Music: Again, nothing entirely spectacular to write home about. The musical themes are okay. The battle theme and overworld theme got old after awhile. My favorite themes were the cave theme, with it's mysterious yet charming tune, and the boss theme, which although plays on every boss battle excepting the final one, doesn't seem to get old for me. The instrumentation seems to work in that case. Grade: C+

Overall Grade: C

This really seemed promising, but was let down by things such as randomized monster stats and annoying sub-plots. It was also sub-par in terms of everything else offered and didn't show anything traditionally unique. Lufia & The Fortress of Doom isn't exactly a terrible game though, it just suffers from things that make it rather bad to play through. I honestly do not recommend this game. However, if you get lucky enough to beat the game, guess what, a grand total statistics will be displayed after the credits, showing how many opened chests, times died, battles fought, etc. Make of that what you will.