Lufia 2 is an RPG for SNES. It is the prequel to the original Lufia, also for SNES.

From a gameplay point of view, it is very similar to the installments of the Final Fantasy series on the SNES, except that dungeons are handled somewhat differently. Monsters are visible and movement is turn based; monsters will only move when you move.

In the dungeons, you have a number of skills available: arrows can flip switches or stun monsters, bombs can blow up crates and walls, and a zelda-like hookshot allows you to cross pits. The dungeons are full of various puzzles, ranging from simple 'shoot the switch to extend the bridge' deals to much more complex and devious ones.

Combat is much like Final Fantasy: you select an action for each of your characters (fight, cast spells, use items, defend, or run), and then the round plays out. A couple of key differences are Lufia 2's rage attacks and capsule monsters.

As you take damage, your rage builds. Different equipped items allow you to unleash various attacks with your accumulated rage. Some of these are incredibly devastating; one sword carries a rage attack that will allow you to hit eight times in a single round.

Capsule monsters are found in the wild or in dungeons, and you can select one to join you in battle. You can not issue commands to them; they will fight using random attacks. You can, however, feed them items. Once you feed one enough stuff, it will metamorph into a more powerful form and can learn new attacks. Capsule monsters are also unkillable; if one dies in battle, it will be alive again after the battle ends.

Lufia 2 has many side quests and optional areas, including the Ancient Cave. The ancient cave is a randomly generated, 99-level dungeon. When you enter it, your party members are stripped of their gear and temporarily reduced to level 1. The only way to get back out of the cave (and to get your levels and gear back) is to use an item ("Providence") found randomly after the 20th level of the dungeon. When you do return to the surface, any items you've found in the cave are removed except certain powerful items found in special blue treasure chests. These can also be taken back into the cave, and the advantage of having them will let you get deeper next time, to find even more items, or so you hope.

In my opinion, Lufia 2 is an excellent game. If you like Final Fantasy, I'd urge you to go downlo.. er, buy a ROM.. er, copy of the game to play on your emulat.. er, SNES.
It is worth noting that the 99-level Ancient Cave in Lufia 2 has a very serious bug in it--at least in some cartridges. Since there is no way to save inside the Ancient Cave, you have to complete the whole dungeon in one sitting, and it took me around 6 hours to get to the bottom. This was, of course, after the multitude of trips in and out of the cave to find blue-chest items (the only items you can take out with you), as well as two multi-hour failed ventures in which death found me at levels 80 and 84. So, when I finally battled my way all the way down to level 99, I was very excited. What I was supposed to see (I later learned) was a normal looking dungeon level with an aisle leading to a jelly monster. What I actually saw was a crazy melange of random tiles where the walls were supposed to be, and another bizarre-looking tile representing my party. Still able to see the path to the monster, I walked over to him--and the game crashed. Needless to say, I was pissed.

Later a friend told me that he had made it to level 99 of the Ancient Cave and everything went normally for him. So, the next time I had a spare 6 hours, I gave it another try and made it to the bottom once again. Same results.

I later heard from a different friend who told me that he had encountered the same bug; he didn't feel inclined to try the dungeon again. I don't know if certain cartridges are buggy, or if this can happen on any cartridge given the proper assortment of circumstances, but all players might want to take this into consideration before putting in the massive amount of time required to master the Ancient Cave.

Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals was originally released in the United States for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1996 and was published by Natsume. It was a prequel to the first game in the series, Lufia: And the Fortress of Doom! Although it was never a huge success, it did improve significantly upon its predecessor and should be worth playing for the average RPG enthusiast for several reasons, which I will enumerate shortly.

Lufia II tells the story of Maxim, the legendary warrior of the first game, as he and an ever-shifting party of fighters, mages, elves, and other fantasy mainstays battle the ancient Sinistrals, who have returned to conquer the world and generally ruin things.

Speaking personally, I found the plot to be paper-thin, and will thus give only a brief description. Maxim is a bounty hunter whose long-time best friend, Tia, is achingly in love with him. Unfortunately, later in the game, Maxim and Selan (general of the army of Parcelyte), fall desperately in love after travelling through about two dungeons together later in the game, quickly marry, and even more quickly have a son. During the game, Maxim is joined (many times temporarily) by Tia, Guy (the warrior), Selan, Dekar (also a warrior), Lexis (the genius scientist), and Artea (the elf). In the meantime, you have been progressing through a number of towns and dungeons, learning about the Sinistrals and helping people. In these dungeons, you will find the most interesting and involved part of this game: the puzzles.

Puzzles in Lufia II will remind many players of the style of the 2D Zelda games. A nearly top-down perspective and a variety of tools, including arrows, bombs, hookshot, and hammer provide the setting for these puzzles, which vary from block-pushing to tile-coloring to good old-fashioned gardening. The puzzles progress from tricky to downright mean as you go through the game, and are a testament to the amount of time that the game's designers were willing to put into constructing some truly difficult mental exercises.

Also of note are the variety and length of the subquests and sidequests for the game, including monster training and raising, ancient treasure hunting, and an optional dungeon wherein your characters enter with an emptied inventory and at level 1, and, using just the items and experience that can be found within the dungeon, attempt to descend 99 levels through increasingly strong and difficult monsters to the dungeon's final boss.

Your party travels around the overworld with a variety of conveyances that were not stolen from the Final Fantasy series, including boats, submarines, and airships, as well as simply on foot. There are a fair number of secret locations reachable only through careful, thorough piloting of the vehicles.

In conclusion, although (in my humble opinion) Lufia II leaves much to be desired in terms of plot and originality, the variety of the game, as well as its challenging puzzles, make it worth playing for anybody with access to a copy and a Super Nintendo.

Note: I focused on the US version of Lufia II for this writeup, as there was enough variance in dates and names of the people who went into making it between the US release and the Japanese release to needlessly muddle things.


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