Sunday, October 24, 2010
Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals Review
It's been a long time for a Lufia game, and an even longer time since there was a good Lufia game. Since Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals on the SNES to be exact, and that was released in August of 1996. Now here we are, 14 years later with a re-imagining of that exact game. Does this live up to the reputation of the original? And more importantly, is it good?! Read on to find out...
Title: Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals
Platform: Nintendo DS
The story begins with a god-like entity, calling himself Gades, Sinistral of Destruction, calling down to the people of the world, saying that the apocalypse is coming and all life will soon be extinguished. As this is going on, Maxim, a Monster Hunter with the gift of amazing combat prowess from the earliest of ages, and his Doctor Emmet Brown look-a-like buddy, Professor Lexis, are en route to Gades' location in hopes of defeating him. This quickly kicks the game's story into high gear, and cuts a lot of the unnecessary fat of the original. It automatically gives the story a sense of urgency, and easily draws the player in. The storyline is definitely dated, however, it understands that, and in turn never takes itself too seriously. It constantly has great bits of humor and a lovable cast of character's that make the plain and simple narrative soar to better heights.
Speaking of characters, let me jump into the graphics and design. For the DS, the game looks pretty good. The best way to describe it would probably be, "a JRPG from the Playstation 1 era, but a bit better." Lufia also boasts some huge bosses that take up both screens of the DS, and that's epic. Unlike previous Lufia games, this one takes a bold step in a new direction as far as the setting, gone is the plain-old fantasy setting, and in its place is a steam-punk, fantasy hybrid. I was a bit turned off by this in the original preview's, but eventually it grew on me and I learned to love it (and if Neverland intends to make more of these in the future, they better stick with it).
On top of a setting redesign, there has also been a redesign on all the original cast. Everyone is back, and looking better than ever. To top it all off, the game shows off some nice hand drawn character artwork during dialogue sccenes, complete with different facial expressions. It all just adds to what is already an awesome package, and really helps sell some of the dialogue in the game, for example, the game's oblivious air-head hero with a heart of gold, also known as Dekar, says something completely stupid... the dialogue art add to what is already completely funny, and makes it so much better in the process, and that's saying something.
Now lets jump into the gameplay; gone are the days of slow paced, turn based combat. Lufia: CotS has an all new action-RPG style combat system, complete with special moves, character swapping mid-combo, and different spells. It's a bit simple in the beginning, appearing to be nothing more than an average hack-and-slash affair, but as you add more character's to your party, it becomes so much more. With a simple touch of a character portrait on the touch screen, you instantly swap the party member you're using, which can help create some mesmerizing, and long combo strings. There's a total of 6 playable characters, so the possibilities are seemingly endless.
I also must mention that even when the game can be hard, it never becomes overbearing and you'll never have to grind mobs to level up your characters if you don't want to. When you die, you have the option to give your character a 5 level boost and try again. The boost is permanent, so if you don't want to kill the difficulty, then you probably won't want to use it, but if you're getting fed up with fighting a boss for the 19th time, the option is always available. This is the first RPG I've ever seen do this, and I must say, it's a great idea and really helps for those who don't want to grind (and I certainly don't).
And a Lufia game just wouldn't be a Lufia game without dungeons filled with puzzles, now would it? Never fear, Lufia: CotS has puzzles in spades. Also, never fear of tearing your hair out either, because while the puzzles are thought-provoking, and encourage the use of all your party member's abilities, it never gets overbearing and makes you want to kick your foot through a window. With just a little thought, you can figure out these puzzles and feel rewarded, as opposed to having to read the solution online and then feel like putting on your nearest dunce cap. The puzzles and mini-games are a great way to break up the action, and Lufia never uses the same gimmick twice, so it never gets stale or repetitive.
On top of the standard leveling up and gear upgrade, Neverland also implements an all new "Mystic Stone" system to further encourage character customization diversity. As you progress through the story, you will often find a stone that looks like a piece straight out of Tetris. You can place these stone's into a grid, and on the grid is a small section for each character. Within each section of the grid, there are small icons, that when you put a stone on top of said icons, it will give your character boosts in different areas. Some give you more knock down resistance, others increase your HP, and some allow you to knock enemies into the air more often. Not only that, but each Mystic Stone increases one, or a few, of your stats, depending on the nature of the stone. For example, a Power Glass will increase your STR, while a Mind Glass will raise your INT. This system really allows you to tailor how you want your character to play. Naturally, I went the power gamer route and optimized Maxim's strength so I could clean house with little trouble, but that doesn't mean you have to go that route. Perhaps you want to give him a lot of INT and spam Fire spells, that choice is entirely up to the player.
You would think I'd be done with character customization, but I'm not. Adding even another layer to character diversity are the 'Titles.' These are basically titles given to each character which grant them special powers. Ranging from your character getting full experience points even while outside of combat, to getting substantial power boosts when all the members in your party are dead except for one. It just continues to add a special layer of depth into what at first appears to be the traditional JRPG, lack of option level up system. I like a developer that goes against the grain, good job!
I saved one of the games best points for last. The music! Oh man, do I love the music in this game! All arranged tracks straight out of the original, with a few guest tracks from other Lufia games! Heck, I'm listening to the soundtrack as I write this review even. All the remarkable, well known Lufia songs are here, in all their updated glory. From the iconic Sinistral battle theme, to the heart warming title screen, and the majestic, heroic theme of Dekar, the strongest man in the world. Lufia: CotS takes no chances with its music selection, and I thank them for that, as Lufia 2 had one of the best soundtracks, and obviously that still showcases itself in this day and age.
I'd like to say that unfortunately, Lufia: CotS isn't as long as the original, taking only about 14 hours give or take for your first run. I wish the game was longer, simply because of how awesome it is. However, there is a NG+ option with some new dialogue and even a new ending to those who complete the game twice, encouraging at the very least, a second run through the game. However, on your second run you also have full access to the Ancient Cave, which is a special dungeon that drops your level to 1 and removes all your equipment (you get it all back when you leave). There's a lot to be explored in this place, so that does add a good amount of replay value, but other than that, aside from the game being awesome, I see no reason for the average gamer to come back for a third spin.
For 30 dollars though, you're certainly getting your money's worth, and a longer journey than what many console games offer. If you know what's good for you, you'll pick up Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, whether you're a nostalgic fan longing for Lufia, or new to the series, it offers a top-notch experience that shouldn't be passed up.