Saturday, 8 June 2013

Lufia & The Fortress of Doom (SNES)

Lufia Fortress of Doom title screen
Today I'm going to be investigating Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, not to be confused with Lufia, which is what the sequel's called in Europe. You see this never actually got a European release so they decided to pass its name along to the next game along, as seems to have been tradition with classic JRPGs released in the West.

I've had a few requests for this one. Actually most were for Lufia 2, but I figured it'd make more sense to play the games in order... even though the second game is actually a direct prequel, so it should technically come first, maybe. I dunno.

Anyway, without warning, the island suddenly appeared in the sky. This turned out to be bad news for everyone, as it was soon infested by four foul and wicked beings who realised it'd make an excellent home base to support their nefarious activities. Personally I'd be cautious about moving all my stuff into an mysterious chunk of rock when all I really know about it is that it doesn't give a crap about natural laws like gravity, and that it tends to not give any advance notice before disappearing off into alternate realms.

I'm just not enough of a risk taker to make it as a super villain I guess.

Hey, nice speech bubble text box. Kind of a shame how it obscures my team though.

Damn I'm doing well so far. I've got a full high-level party together, a ton of decent equipment, and I've already reached the Fortress of Doom. I only just turned the game on as well! Give me five more minutes and I'll have this thing finished.

Actually I already know that this is a separate prologue chapter starring Maxim, the ancient hero of legend, and it's telling the events that will become the ending of the prequel game. So, big spoilers for the ending of Lufia 2 I guess.

Oh damn, that is not a great looking battle system. It's got a Dragon Quest style first person view, the heroes are all standing on top of their info windows, the commands are all mysterious icons, and the enemies are overlaid on top of the level. Having the fight take place basically outside the reality of the game world just throws any kind of immersion out of the window for me.

It seems to have pretty standard turn based JRPG combat, with each character getting to pick one move to make each turn, but there's no auto targeting to redirect a character's attack if their assigned enemy dies before they get a chance to move! Artea and Maxim are just slashing at thin air here, like a pair of morons.

Lufia item screen
Wow, I knew it. Even the legendary warriors of history hoard all their potions right through the game and never end up using them, just in case they really need them later. Unfortunately for me half of these things are as cryptically named as my vast array of spells and, unlike with my magic, there doesn't seem to be any way of getting a description to appear for any of these items.

I suppose I could just trying drinking one of each and see what happens, but for all I know any of one of these concoctions could be a beaker full of death. Weirdly the original Japanese version does have item descriptions, so I don't know what happened there.

And so my valiant team marched in a line around the Fortress of Doom, fighting monsters every twenty steps or so, and raiding every treasure chest we found. That's pretty much it really, there's no puzzles in here, nothing to interact with really. It's not even much of a maze.


A FEW ROOMS LATER.


Awesome, after crossing a fragile looking glass bridge I ran into a boss fight! Four of them in a row in fact: the aforementioned foul and wicked owners of this particular fortress, the Sinistrals, possessing the frightening powers of Chaos, Destruction, Terror, and Death. Eeek.

All the battles up to this point have been a total cakewalk to my level 80 crew, but the Sinistrals are forcing me to use some of the more advanced tactics I've developed after years of playing JRPGs. Techniques like 'using a heal spell occasionally' and 'drinking a Miracle potion to recover between fights'.

Well the Sinistrals have been defeated in battle, but that doesn't seem to have discouraged them from charging up their ultimate spinny red super move. Artea points out that "if that flow erupts, the world will cease to exist", which obviously isn't an ideal outcome for humanity's would-be saviours.

Fortunately the forces of good can combine their own powers to form a spinny purple evil vanquishing super counter attack, and their flow erupts faster!

And that's why people with glass bridges shouldn't flow Sinistrals. Get it? Because they broke the glass bridge with their flow, and 'flow' sounds a bit like 'throw' and 'Sinistrals' sounds a bit like 'stones'... well, if you're drunk. Oh never mind.

Guy and Artea are able to warp out with magic, but Selan's dying and Maxim doesn't want to leave her. Artea assures them that the world will know of their sacrifice, and they vanish. Thus the battle ended, and the island plummeted into the depths of the sea.

Awesome, I've just finished Lufia 2!


90 YEARS LATER.


90 years later? Crap, that was just one long 'the ancient heroes sealed the ultimate evil away for centuries, but it has returned' intro wasn't it?

Anyway, this red haired kid is our replacement hero, living a carefree life until one day a mysterious girl wanders into his friend's inn and starts speaking in dots. Might she have some role to play in the grand adventure soon to take place? Well she's called 'Lufia', so signs point to yes.
 
So this is what it's come to has it? Two minutes ago I was the greatest warrior who ever ever lived, fighting a desperate battle to prevent the entire world and all humanity from being wiped from existence. Now I'm playing tag with a nine year old.

Or maybe not.

ANOTHER TIME JUMP? Seriously? That's all we stopped for, to see young Lufia turn up at an inn and want to play tag?

I'm honestly in tears here. Tears of laughter I mean, that's totally cracked me up for some reason.

Right, now it's 99 years since doomed lovers Selan and Maxim sacrificed themselves to save the world, and now I'm playing as a pair of teenagers talking about flowers and saying the word 'cinnamon' a lot.

Our red haired hero is now a Knight of Alekia, frustrated by being the only person who actually bothers to turn up for training. Apparently no one else takes security seriously after a century of total peace. But he's a descendant of Maxim, born with an irrepressible instinct to march out into the wilderness with in a party of no more than four heroes, and unleash righteous and terrible violence upon those that would threaten those he holds dear.

But nope. The monsters all disappeared a century ago so we're sitting down and having cinnamon pie, and that's the end of it.

M-monsters you say? I can't stick around and wait for pie when a neighbouring kingdom is under attack by creatures that haven't existed for a hundred years! Though I apparently can't explain where I'm going to Lufia either. The hero just runs right out the door without a word, presumably going to speak to his boss to learn more about this apparent disaster and what he is to do about it.

Oh by the way I called my hero 'Ray', because I didn't feel like staring at the name entry screen in tears of frustration, trying desperately to think of anything funny to put in. Also there doesn't seem to be any official name for him, which is a little unusual I think.

Anyway, Lufia's noticed I've gone, and she is pissed. A soldier disappearing just as his cinnamon pie has been placed in the oven, presumably on some official business after a shocking disaster, UNFORGIVABLE!

I wonder where he went anyway.

Here he is! Standing just outside the inn. Apparently he only made it this far before I overrode his self determination. But now I don't know where he was heading to!

I suppose I'll go and apologise to Lufia then. Or at least tell her why I had to leave.

I... I'm a monster.

Actually I couldn't really care less about this pie sub-plot, I just want to spend my hero's life savings on a bloody big dagger, then go out and defend the virtuous with it. By stabbing evil.

It's nice that the shop actually gives me some indication about which gear is better than what I have equipped, but takes a few too many button presses to get it to divulge this information in my opinion. It's not a joyful shopping experience.

To the town of Sheran then! Oh damn, I didn't have to go far to run into a monster, there was one 2 steps outside town. 'Big Newt' they say... a bit of a understatement maybe, as thing's clearly massive enough to step over entire forests. Oh wait that's just the dumb battle screen overlaying enemies on top of the world map.

I sure hope these monsters have no immediate plans to invade town, as those poor knights back home would get wiped out without me around to tell them which end of their sword is the pointy one. Somehow though I get the feeling this isn't going to be one of those 'hero's village burns down while he's out' kinds of plots. Though I could always be wrong.

That must be the Kingdom of Sheran then, on the other side of this cave. Of course the first real level had to be a cave!

You know, I didn't used to have a problem with cave levels in games, but playing a bunch of JRPGs so close together has given me cave sickness. I never realised until now just how much of these games is spent trekking through natural caverns.

Oh, actually this cave isn't so bad at all. Really short as well, weirdly. I just climbed a ladder, beat up a couple of slimes, and I was through.

Sheran looks suspiciously like my home town of Alekia, except filled with the dead and the dying. Well, looks like there actually was a monster attack here, and the creature's still lurking around. Well, time to go home then!

Hey, I'm all for heroism and adventure, but I'm not taking on a guy who can wipe out an entire town without putting my armoured socks on first. First I'll go back to Alekia to buy the best gear available with my random encounter earnings, then I'll come back and slay the evil one.


SOON, BACK AT ALEKIA'S INN.


I... can't believe I'm here arguing with Lufia over a bloody pie! Yes the town full of injured and dying people that personally begged me for my assistance is more important right now to me than your damn cinnamon pie! That is exactly what I am saying!

There, I've stole your dress, see how you like that if you care about pie so much!

Wait, that didn't actually make any sense. I'm still keeping this dress though, I can probably sell it to afford some potions or something.

On the way out, the Inn keeper reveals that Lufia's actually pissed off because the hero ran out into danger alone, with 'you should've have stayed for pie' really meaning 'you should've stayed where it's safe instead of nearly getting your fool ass killed', so that makes more sense. In fact she actually appears on the world map as I leave town and demands to join the team. The hero doesn't want her to be at risk, but Lufia explains that she can't die because he'll protect her no matter what.

And then I managed to get her killed in the first battle. Whoops!

Thankfully I can just go to the church to resurrect her (for a non-trivial fee), and it also turns out that I can save the game there too, which is nice. I haven't seen any save points around and I was starting to worry I'd have to finish the whole thing in one sitting.

I should go straight back to Sheran, but I'm obviously not ready. Level 2 Lufia's getting her ass kicked in every fight, so I need to do some intensive grinding. So I shall wander the world, getting into random encounters until Lufia's actually capable of surviving them. I gotta say though that crossing that bridge has made me a little nervous. Ever since playing Dragon Warrior I've been dreading running into tough enemies on the other side of rivers.

By the way, the random encounter rate seems a bit messed up in this. Sometimes I can end up in a fight every 2 or 3 steps, other times I can make it around half the map without seeing a single enemy. I think a tighter range would've made it less irritating.


SEVERAL LEVEL UPS LATER.


Right, I went back to Sheran to confront the monster, and instead found a king hiding out in the basement. We agree to take him back to Alekia, but c'mon, there's no way I'm letting this guy escape my party. I've got a king on the team! A proper one with a white beard and everything! Oh the adventures we shall have.

No, NO! Where are you taking my king?

Apparently the hero thought it was a smart idea for Lufia to lead the others to safety while he took on the monster all by himself. Fortunately he may actually be right, considering how ridiculously over-levelled he is right now. I'm pretty confident in my chances here.

Oh shit it's Gades the Sinistral. Well unless I can sneak away for a second, recruit three other characters, and gain 73 levels quick, I imagine that I am well and truly fucked.


LATER.


Lufia saved me! She literally yelled at Gades, Lord of Destruction to "Go away!", and he did. He's probably just considering himself lucky she didn't go on at him about pie.

I found the King of Sheran and his entourage safe at Alekia, and was asked to escort one of them to her brother in Chatam village. Then once I'd done that I was told to go visit 'someone' in Treck. That's as specific as they were able to get.

So I travelled to the town of Treck and went around door to door asking everyone if they knew anything about anything, until someone finally pointed me towards an old man who lives outside of town, on the other side of...

...another cave!

Fortunately this one wasn't so bad either. Pretty short, not a total maze, and I even found a Swing Wing! What does a Swing Wing do, you might wonder. I have no bloody idea. Alright, onwards to the old man's house.

Oh shit, it's Guy! THE Guy! He fought with Maxim against the Sinistrals you know. He must be pushing at least 120 by now, which makes him the oldest human character to ever appear in a JRPG by a clear 85 years.

The hero reveals that the Sinistral Gades has returned and that he needs to know what to do next to stop him. Guy steps forward and...

... keels over and dies. Good work hero, you gave the man a heart attack. The legendary warrior is buried in a humble grave along with his most treasured possession, his sword, which I immediately dig up and steal.

Okay then, I at least managed to learn here that I should seek the ancient warrior Artea the Elf. There is 'one in Grenoble' who knows about him. Only one though, and he'll probably take a while to find. Actually I have no idea where Grenoble is for that matter.


EVENTUALLY.


I met with another warrior, Aguro, commander of the Lorbenian Army, who revealed that Grenoble is south of Lorbenia. But it seems I need a boat to get there and these clowns have just demolished his. Awesome. Well I'm sure there is one somewhere who knows something about a boat, but I think I've played enough of this to get a clear picture of what kind of game it is, so I'm going to run off and abandon Lufia for now.


Lufia & The Fortress of Doom is pretty much exactly what I imagined it was going to be. In fact it's exactly what I imagine any JRPG's going to be like. It feels kind of generic and heavily Dragon Quest inspired. I mean it doesn't seem like a particularly bad game and I haven't found much to complain about really besides the overly random random battle encounter rate, but neither the gameplay nor the story has managed to grab my attention.

Speaking of story, the game seems very focused on the relationship between the protagonist and Lufia, which personally I found to be a negative, but your mileage may vary there. I mean I appreciate their efforts to give them some depth, I just found them to be a pretty dull and humourless pair of heroes.

Plus I don't like that I have to keep calling him 'the hero' because the developers didn't give him his own name. There's something a bit 'off' somehow about how they've given the main character a defined personality and history, plus a romantic relationship with a girl (complete with stupid arguments!), even though he's wearing the player's own name. And it does say 'enter YOUR name' at the start, not 'name the heroic descendent of Maxim'. The player never seems to get a chance to make a story or dialogue choice for the guy, you're not actively role-playing here, you're just metaphorically sticking your own photograph over his face and getting to experience from a distance the feeling of discussing cinnamon pie with a blue-haired fantasy girl.

In conclusion... actually I'm struggling to make any conclusions about this game. It's fading from my memory faster than I can type about it. It's a JRPG that came out in 1993 for the Super Nintendo, and it exists. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though I certainly have no strong desire to continue any further with it.


Want to agree with anything I just said, or perhaps point out how all my opinions are clearly wrong? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comment box below! Do it.

4 comments:

  1. Lufia 2 is way better then the first. If you asked anyone that loved Lufia 2 they would tell you to stay away from the first Lufia. Also Lufia 2 might sound like it's a sequel but it happens to be a prequel. So if you skipped the first game you would of been playing them in order in the time line.

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  2. This was the first JRPG I ever finished. I wish I'd picked something else.

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  3. Yes, you might should have played Lufia II first. It is a much better game and if you have the time and energy to invest in playing the game the entire way through, you will experience a moving story. I second the request for you to play it. (But if you need a rest from JRPGs and/or caves for a bit, that's fine.)

    Note: if you have the ability to play Lufia II on 'Retry' mode for your first time, then do it. You won't have any grinding to do at all, because 'Retry' mode gives you 4x gold and experience for enemies killed. Everything else in the game is the same, though. 'Retry' mode is unlocked after beating the game the regular way, but if you can get a cartridge which already has it unlocked, then you can play it with this mode for your first time.

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    1. You can't second your own request! But yeah Lufia II isn't in my plans for the site this month, but barring unforeseen disaster I WILL get around to it in the not so distant future. I'll have to play it on the regular mode though to keep things fair though, anything else would be a cheat and that's the one rule I NEVER break.

      (Well okay I used a level skip cheat ONCE two years ago, but c'mon the game crashed before the next level loaded, I'd already earned that progress.)

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