Lufia: The Legend Returns is basically Lufia 3. It’s also a Game Boy Color game, despite the previous two being on the Super Nintendo, which means that it has about as much “Lufia” in it as fast food has actual food. You bite into this game expecting some delicious Lufia, and *boom,* you get hit with filler and artificial garbage. It’s too bad, because the series seriously deserved better.
Full disclosure: I love the first two Lufia games. They’re imperfect, mind you, but still amazing. The Legend Returns borrows from the second game in that dungeons have monsters who only move when you do, and combat is only initiated when you run into them. Sadly, that’s where the similarities end. The first problem I have is this: For some reason dungeons are randomized now. They never used to be randomized in previous entries, and they took place in the same world, so having each floor change every time you enter it is incredibly strange. The explanation for this? “It’s a mystery!” Ugh. Yeah, it’s totally not distracting to have a huge unexplained switch like that. Apparently at some point all of the floors of caves and stuff started randomly changing and no one was like, “Hey, you think we should maybe ask someone about this?”
Since they’re randomized, all of the legitimately interesting puzzles from Lufia 2 are gone. Poof, disappeared. You want interesting gameplay that makes you think? Too bad, your dungeon experience will consist of walking around avoiding enemies while looking for the next staircase. That’s it. That’s the game, basically. It wouldn’t be a big deal if a lot of emphasis wasn’t put on the dungeons, but a huge portion of the game is spent in them. It felt like at least half of the game consisted of nothing but looking for staircases. I understand there are limits to the GBC, but damn. Every dungeon has like 10-20 floors, and it’s so tedious that it wouldn’t surprise me if 90% of the people who started this game never finished it. It’s simply not fun in any way, shape, or form. I mean, it’s filler and it doesn’t even bother hiding it. In fact, the only way it could possibly be any more obvious is if it transformed into a person and broke through your Game Boy Color to yell, “THIS IS FILLER!” at you. Then again, that would actually be interesting and would thus conflict with the design goals for the dungeons.
The dialogue is awful. It wasn’t exactly winning any awards before, but the mediocrity of the banter has been turned up a notch and rendered an agonizingly generic exercise in boredom. Half the time it doesn’t even matter what anyone is saying. It doesn’t help that the characters, despite being different and having different back stories, are legitimately uninteresting. Their reasons for getting involved are usually so thin that you can’t help but feel that they were just thrown in at the last second, and their stories are completely revealed when you recruit them. There are no complications further on, and nothing interesting happens to any of the supporting characters after they join your party, so no one grows or changes. Their only role from that point on is to randomly offer retorts about the importance of friendship and stuff like that. By the way, you’re all apparently friends despite being total strangers and having gone through virtually nothing together. Then again, if I had to slog my way through unbearably boring dungeons over and over and over and over and over, chances are even the most uninteresting people on the planet would seem like an oasis of fun and excitement by way of comparison.
The two main characters, Wain and Seena, are slightly interesting. Slightly. Their dialogue is bad, but the good kind of campy bad, and I have to give the writing credit for managing to allude to the twist (that every fan of previous Lufia games will see coming from a mile away) in some of the dialogue without giving it away. A lot of the exchanges are amusing, as though they’re making fun of the franchise. I don’t mind a game that doesn’t take itself seriously, so it’s not really a bad thing. You’ll certainly crave some of that dialogue since it’s pretty much the only respite from agonizing dungeon wandering, and once you’ve beaten the game, playing it again will allow you to catch all of those little details that you probably missed the first time around. Playing through this game a second time also proves that you have a higher tolerance for pain and tedium than an ordinary human being. Supernatural, if you ask me.
Graphics are pretty much typical fare for the GBC, as in “not anywhere near as good as the SNES,” but they’re still very much Lufia. They remind me more of the first game than the second, and at no point did they really detract from the experience. If you have a Game Boy Color, chances are you know exactly what you’re getting into graphics-wise.
The Legend Returns is an unusual way to finish off the story. I would have honestly preferred to have it end with the Super Nintendo games and stick to side-stories from then on out, but the story wasn’t bad enough to ruin the franchise for me or anything. It’s just bland, and Lufia deserved better than that. The ending is also happy, whereas the other games had bittersweet endings.
Here’s what you should do: