Imagine a game that takes the best elements from the 2D Zelda games and eliminates the tedium. Now imagine that this game takes several elements from Super Nintendo RPGs and uses them in a lighthearted, semi-amusing way without sacrificing the seriousness of the overall story. Lastly, imagine that this game has some of the most memorable, easily-likable characters in gaming. You’re thinking of Lufia 2. Also, apples. Maybe you’re not, but I just blew someone’s mind.
The outside story is predictable in its presentation; you have the big bad guys (called Sinistrals) who want to destroy destroy destroy, and you have to venture off on a quest to get a bunch of heroes together to confront them and save the world. This is really no different than any other RPG for the Super Nintendo. What’s unique about it is how that predictable main story branches out into more personal and touching ways, something that it manages to pull off even better than Chrono Trigger. A lot of these personal stories are below the surface and can be completely missed if you don’t pay attention to the subtleties of the dialogue while keeping the characters and their motivations in the back of your mind, but the actions of many of those characters carry repercussions that unfold this story-inside-a-story. It’s a tale of unrequited love, fear, empathy, sacrifice, change, and so many other things, all told so subtly that this game is appropriate both for the youngest of children and the oldest of adults.
Being a prequel to the original Lufia, this game manages to take several details from the original game and elaborate on them, spinning details that you may remember from the first game into unexpectedly touching moments. Previous knowledge of the first Lufia isn’t at all required, of course, but it makes the experience so much better and so much more interesting. See, the original Lufia game begins at the end of this game, so playing the original Lufia for several minutes will give away the bitter ending some of the characters face. As you begin to become attached to them, you’ll carry that knowledge with you, knowing how things must inevitably end. Thing is, Lufia 2 doesn’t have a sad ending. It manages to take everything that happens and reframe it into something unexpected and beautiful, and while everything that happens is true to the original Lufia, there’s an additional segment afterward that makes it the best kind of bittersweet.
Gameplay draws from a number of different inspirations. You travel from village to village, usually solving some problem that no one else can deal with because everyone in the entire world who isn’t a playable character is more or less pathetic, and this all plays out very much like a Final Fantasy game. You walk around, talk to people, buy weapons and armor and items, and eventually get sent into a dungeon or temple or somewhere else that has monsters. The overworld map has random battles, though you quickly end up with characters who have the ability to warp (there’s also an item you can buy to warp), so it never becomes unmanageable or annoying.
Now, let’s get something straight: I hate dungeons in games. Hate hate hate them. They’re usually filled with random battles and large, unintuitively-designed areas with lots of backtracking and nothing interesting to do. Lufia 2 avoids all of this. In dungeons, you only get into battles if a monster touches you, and they only move when you move, so they’re usually very easy to avoid. You’re also able to paralyze them for several movements by hitting them with an arrow/one of several other devices you have (none ever run out), making the whole thing very manageable. The dungeons are varied enough to be unique, and they’re very intuitive, requiring very little backtracking. Even the biggest dungeon you’re required to go into is smaller than the dungeons in most games.
The dungeons are also filled with puzzles. Not the boring Zelda-fluff puzzles where every room requires something else to get to the next room, but puzzles that involve 1, sometimes 2 rooms. The puzzles always make sense, never veering into the illogical, but they’re also quite difficult at times, though in the best of ways. I strongly dislike puzzles, yet I look forward to Lufia 2’s puzzles just because there’s such a feeling of satisfaction getting past them and because they’re challenging without ever being unfair. This is really the only time I can say that puzzles added to the value of a game for me.
Combat in the game is much like your typical SNES RPG game in that you’re forced to manage your health and magic while attacking in turns. You also have “IP skills” that are tied to an IP bar that fills up as you’re damaged. IP skills depend on the weapons and armor that you have equipped, and can have a variety of different effects. Some weapons attack multiple times as an IP skill, while others can heal members of the party or deal several times more damage than usual. There’s a large number of different effects, and managing these can often be the key to success in battle.
Graphically, the game is average. However, while it doesn’t have the sleek art style of a Chrono Trigger, everything is very clean. Areas in dungeons where it’s possible to bomb open an opening/grapple to another point are always very easy to spot, so you’ll never be stuck because you couldn’t tell which points could actually be interacted with and which were just decoration (this tends to happen to me a lot in older games, honestly). Many of the character sprites are unique and add to their personalities, especially that of Iris.
Speaking of Iris, her theme is incredible. As limited as the music in Super Nintendo games is, her theme is one of my favorites in any game ever made for any system ever. Ever ever ever. The rest of the music is also good, being just above average with some standouts. The soundtrack is a definite improvement over the headache-inducing music in the original Lufia, for sure.
Overall, Lufia 2 is one of the best games ever made. It’s a large statement to make of such a subtle game, but that subtlety in the story, combined with the incredible, brain-twisting puzzles, make this game absolutely unforgettable. This is a game that, if released today for the first time (by an indie developer, since apparently only they can get away with releasing sprite-based games anymore), would likely set the world on fire. It didn’t gain as much traction as it should have when it was released, sadly, but make no mistake—this game is quality.
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