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.