Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
Lufia II is the prequel to the original Lufia: Fortress of Doom. Being a prequel it takes place before Lufia I (and yes I know it's confusing, but don't blame me). In this game you play the Role of Maxim in his journey to overthrow the Sinistrals, a bunch of bad nasty people trying to take over the world (just like all bad nasty people). The game consists of the standard fighting monsters, and exploring dungeons, but this game has a lot of puzzles you need to solve. Some of these puzzles can be quite difficult. In the game is a neat mini-game that could be a game in it self as well.
Overall the game is a standard overhead view 2-D RPG. You see the world from a birds-eye view over the head of you hero. In towns you can see all you characters, but on the world map or in dungeons you only see Maxim (I guess everyone else is scared and hiding). During the game you go from town to town completing dungeons, going up levels, and gaining new items, nothing much new here.
When wandering around on the world map, you will randomly encounter enemies. When you do encounter enemies, you enter the battle (there are no nice random encounters). You see a background picture of the terrain you are in, and the monsters you are fighting are on the top half of the screen. On the bottom half of the screen you get to see all your characters (who decided to stop hiding and help you out). The combat is turn-based with each character and each monster getting one action per turn. Entering commands is quite easy, you have four choices: defend, use item, cast spell, or attack
The game uses an IP system. When your characters get hit they gain IP. Each item you equip has a specific ability it can use that takes IP. This is an interesting system, depending on which items you equip you get different abilities (some items don't have IP abilities). This means that using the weapon with the highest attack rating isn't always the best choice; You need to take into consideration what IP abilities the items have. Of course better abilities take more IP to use, so there a lot of different choices. There are also standard spells in the game that use MP to cast, you can buy these in towns.
In addition to your main characters you can get capsule monsters to join. You can have only one capsule monster help you fight at one time, so you need to pick which one best fits the situation. As you feed the capsule monsters items you don't want (or maybe items you do want), they grow in power. Each monster has 5 different levels, and of course each level is more powerful than the previous. Unfortunately the Capsule monsters are fairly weak, and since you can't heal them individually, they tend to die a lot (or like the cowards they are, run away). Still, the capsule monsters are an interesting part of the game.
The main part of the game is the dungeons. In dungeons you won't randomly encounter enemies, instead you can see the enemies, and try to avoid them (or charge at them). In dungeons you can use different tools to solve puzzles. There are arrows, bombs, chains, and other tools. Each tool has its own use, and you need to find the right tool to solve the puzzle. Most dungeons have many different puzzles you need to solve, most of the time you can't go into the next room without solving the puzzle.
There is also a casino in this game. You can play slots or poker, or some strange bingo-like game. You bet coins here instead of gold, and the casino shop sells items for coins. Some very interesting items can be acquired in the casino. The Casino can be a nice diversion if you become tired of solving puzzles.
Another mini-game is the Ancient Dungeon, which could be an entire game in it self. Every time you go into the Ancient Dungeon you revert to level 1 and lose all your items. When you leave, your levels and items return, but any items gained in the dungeon disappear. In the dungeon you will occasionally find blue treasure chests, they contain really powerful items that you can take out of the dungeon, and bring back in later. These items can really beef up your characters for the real game. There are also Iris treasures you will find rarely. There are a total of ten of them, too bad nothing happens when you get them all (which can take a very long time). The dungeon has 99 levels and at the bottom is the ancient slime. I really like the Ancient Dungeon, it can be played as a fun game itself.
The fights in the game are fairly easy, in fact they are quite often incredibly easy. The hard part of this game is the puzzles. Early on the puzzles are fairly easy, and serve to teach you the basics of the game. Later on the puzzles can be quite hard to figure out. Some of the optional puzzles that you need to do to get some of the secret items are nearly impossible to figure out, so don't forget to get a FAQ.
I give this game a 10 for replayability simply because of the Ancient Dungeon. You can spend tons of time trying to get all the Iris treasures in there after you beat the game. The game also has lots of hidden and secret items to find. At the end of the game, it tells you how many of the treasure chests in the game you have opened, so you can try to go back through and find them all. There is also the Dragon Egg quest where you have to find all the Dragon Eggs. Lots of reasons to play through again. The casino can be fun too.
After you beat the game you get a Retry option, and then a Gift option. Retry lets you play through again but you get more XP and gold, so you can concentrate on finding the treasures you missed. Gift, lets you play the Ancient dungeon as a stand alone adventure. One of the bonuses to playing again is that you know how to solve the puzzles, no need to rack your brain trying to solve the puzzles again.
The story is simple and fairly predictable (especially if you've played the first Lufia). It has two major plot twists that I can think of. One you can see coming a mile away (Once again, especially if you've played Lufia I). The other surprise plot twist, seems to come out of nowhere, and personally I really didn't like it. Although I don't think I've ever seen another game do something like it. Most of the time you go from town to town, having to go through a cave or tower on the way. The game is highly linear, and I don't think you can do anything out of order.
Actually I rather like the story. It's just that's it so extremely linear, you constantly need to go fetch an item, or rescue somebody to move on to the next town. The characters do have a lot of depth to them though, and the theme of love is well done in the game (Although the plot change halfway through still really bugs me).
Not too bad of graphics. The overworld graphics aren't really anything spectacular, but the town and dungeons' graphics look pretty good. The combat graphics look real nice too. I like how some of the monsters look too. The monsters are even animated (sort of).
The game does have two areas with graphical glitches. The graphics in these areas are totally messed up, and it can be difficult to find where you need to go. Unfortunately one of these areas is necessary to complete the game. It makes me wonder why the game was shipped with such an obvious glitch. Did they somehow miss it (Which means they are blind), or did they not care (which doesn't seem very nice to us players).
I like the music in this game. The overworld theme is pretty good, and there is a large variety of dungeon themes, most of which are quite good.
Overall Rating: 9/10
There's not really anything wrong with this game, I just don't feel like giving it a 10. I like some other games just a little bit more. Although, I do really enjoy this game. The Ancient Dungeon makes it even more fun, because it's like two games in one (I hope you can tell that I like the Ancient Dungeon). Though If you don't like solving hard puzzles, then you may want to stay way, the game requires a lot of puzzle solving, especially if you want all the secrets. But in the end, I recommend this, it really is fun to play.<!/page>