Take a look at any modern JRPG, even the standard RPG, was it hard? It probably wasn’t too tough, was it? Checkpoints, multiple save points, easy creatures, less grinding, the list goes on. Looking back, the recent RPGs are incredibly easy. Now, with Nintendo’s Virtual console, I had the opportunity to play an old RPG that I’ve never had the chance to play before.
Lufia: The Legend Returns, much like its name implies, is a game that’s part of a series. Having never played the first two games (this is the third in the series) I was a bit worried that I was missing out. Luckily though, this one has little baring on the original games, though if you have played them, you should pick up on some of the little nuances (I read up on the original games).
Normally, the highlight of an RPG is its elaborate and wonderful plot and dialogue. While Lufia has a bare able plot, it suffers heavily with its dialogue. Poorly written and filled with silly one-liners and repeated jokes about the main character being stupid. That aside, you’re given a very basic story, but one with a surprise not even I could foresee.
You are Wain, a man who will later become the leader of a band of misfits, whose main purpose is to destroy the four Sinistrals across the world. These Sinistrals are the embodiment of chaos, evil and destruction. It’s your job to wipe them from the face of the Earth.
What I really enjoyed about Lufia was its unique approach to combat. It’s turn-based combat, but with a lot more depth and complexity to games I’ve played in recent years. Up to nine characters can enter the fray, but only three attack per turn (more if you include an uncontrollable character). The arrangement and positioning of each character in a 3X3 grid is up to you. Putting characters in front makes the hits harder, but more susceptible to damage, and vice versa with those at the back.
Each turn you get to select which character in each of the three columns gets to attack. That way you have the support of nine characters whenever you feel like it. However, if the three members at the front of the grid die, then it’s game over. The positioning is even further developed with the IP system. Each character can learn a certain set of skills when you obtain attack scrolls. In order to learn the move, your character needs to fill certain parameters. These parameters change depending on which character is positioned in the 3X3 grid. It’s very unique and interesting and also provides you with plenty of variety as true RPGs should.
Fighting occurs in randomly generated dungeons, ships, basements and towers. Within each level, you can “attack” roaming enemies to avoid them (only overworld enemies are randomly encountered) or get a useful position against them. Attacking them from behind won’t always ensure a pre-emptive strike, but your chances are higher. Conversely, if they catch you by surprise, then you’re in trouble.
A big problem with many of the older RPGs is that they are unforgivably difficult. This is very true to Lufia. The start of the game is particularly difficult and often requires a lot of grinding to beat what should be easy bosses. Another issue I have with the game is that there seems to be far too many scripted defeats. Normally there aren’t many scripted failures, but there are quite a few in this game. The reason why they’re bad is because it gives you a false sense of loss or victory. Also, you’ll never know if you’re meant to die, until you do. This isn’t an ideal system and it’s not good for the game even if it’s part of the overall story.
So far, many of the retro games I’ve reviewed have all aged rather nicely. Being a game from the GameBoy Colour days, I didn’t expect much, but it hasn’t aged as well as I would’ve liked. It’s pretty in many of the places and the dungeons don’t feel like they’re the same, but when it comes to fighting, the attack actions are laughably ugly. The character designs aren’t the best either. The one bonus is the soundtrack. Although not a symphony, the use of what was available at the time is incredible. Some of the tracks are incredibly catchy and definitely something I’d like to add as my ring tone.
Despite its great combat, the game fails to have any plot or script appeal. The endless grinding doesn’t add much in its favour either. Lufia might appeal to diehard JRPG fans, but for the average Joe, I’d give this retro a skip.