Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals

I ended up talking to Billy about this particular Super Nintendo RPG on the way home from dinner at Rich and Anne’s house.  So cool a hobby, I thought you would enjoy it!

The game centers around Maxim, a monster hunter with an obscure past…and that’s all I’ll say about the story.  Other than it’s good.  (I don’t like spoilers.)

Lufia II is at once both the typical RPG — epic storyline, turn-based battle system, level up! – and a uniquely innovative RPG.  A lot of which involves battles.  Which is logical, really; half the game is battles, so it better be a good system. 

The basic structure is pretty standard: decide everyone’s actions at the beginning of the round, higher speeds go first.  And there’s the usual commands.  Attack, Defend, Magic, Items, IP…wait, huh?

Innovation 1: IP!  I don’t know what the “I” stands for, but I like to think it’s “irritation”.  Because that’s how IP works; as you take damage, you gain IP, which can then be used to unleash attacks on enemies or enhance/heal the party.  Very similar to the Limit Break system from FF VII.

The main differences, though, are that the IP actions are determined by the a character’s equipment and that different actions cost different amounts of IP.  So, instead of learning powerful moves that (in general) have a long charging period, you might decide to keep the robe with a party-healing IP ability over the no-IP armor.  And then after using that particular ability in battle, use a less-powerful IP move to increase someone’s strength.

Another detail I find interesting about IP is that it’s measured as a percentage rather than points.  So, I guess it’s “Irritation Percent” rather than “Irritation Points”.  But I like points better. ^_^

Innovation 2: Magic.  Not the magic itself, or even the fact that you have to purchase spells.  Rather, it is the fact that you can cast any spell on any number of enemies or allies.

For instance, if you’re focusing your attacks, a Spark spell can be cast on the single lizard you want to finish.  Or, you can use the same spell to just get all of the slimy buggers.  Or, you can cast it on the two you’ve already damaged, and focus you’re other attacks on another one.  Another scenario: Strong can be used to heal one person, everyone, or the three who are actually hurt, thus saving MP from being wasted on mending a fully healed character.

With all the games I’ve played, this is the only instance I’ve seen of being able to be so specific with magic targets.  Which is too bad; I really enjoy being able to do exactly what I want with a Droplet spell.

There is a price for such control, however: the more targets included, the weaker the spell.  And that makes sense.  A Fireball should cause more damage whole than split up into four pieces.

As a minor point, the spell names are occasionally…interesting.  Fireball, fire damage, yup.  Dorplet, water damage, okay.  Strong, heal HP…um, makes sense, I guess.  Fake, increase agility…a bit less…logical.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Nothing like a unique spell name foster nostalgia.

Innovation 3: Capsule Monsters.  They’re little companions that, once you find them, join you on the battlefield and help out.  The fifth party member!

Of course, you can only have one fighting at a time.  And the lack of control over their actions can be annoying (No, don’t heal the guy with full HP!  The one about to die, save him!  Grrr!).

The other aspect about them that is at once refreshing and restricting is that they evolve.  By eating items.  But not just anything; no, most things they’ll just gag at when you feed it to them.  They’ll tell you what they want.  When choosing what to feed them, they appear at the top of the screen with a box next to them showing “Buckler” or “Fairy Wings”.

Innovation 4: Moving Monsters.  Maybe not so much the fact that they’re moving, but that they only move when you do.  You can really pick and choose your fights, so long as you step right, and you get all the time you want to think about it.

Which reminds me about another big part of Lufia II, the puzzles.  They start out real easy, but there are a couple that I’ll never forget.  Like that one in some palace place with the red and yellow tiles (It’s been awhile since I played).  Think of it like a human-sized othello where you pick up the tiles and try to turn all of them one color in a certain number of moves.  The first two are okay, but the third one, that one always kills me.  Every.  Time.

I first played Lufia II when I was fairly young — I don’t know exactly when.  As such, I recall having a tough time figuring out how to do anything but attack.  See, the way the cursor’s set up, you have a five-square panel on screen, with each square corresponding to an action: up for magic, left for items, right for defense, down for IP, and center for attack.  What I didn’t realize, however, was that the cursor defaulted to the middle square.  That is, whenever I wasn’t pressing a directional button, it stayed on attack.  When I pressed up, the cursor would move up, but when I let go it would go back to center square.

It took a great while for me to grasp the idea that I could press A while holding up, instead of pressing up and then A.  Battles were pretty straightforward for awhile.

Perhaps that setup itself could be considered innovation #5: Dynamic Command Selection.  Certainly makes for a nice change from point & click.  Er, point and press would be more accurate, I suppose.

And yet, the most amazing part of Lufia II, in my opinion, is the Ancient Cave.  This is no dungeon for the weak of heart, or short of time.

First off, it has 99 floors.  99 floors.  Granted, they’re randomly generated and of varying sizes, but that’s still a heckuva lot of dungeon-crawling.  Secondly, you start out at level one.  No items, no spells, nothing save the party and thy trusty capsule monsters.

Combine that with the fact there are no save points anywhere, you can only leave through the use of an item that can only be found after the first 20 floors, and that you can’t even keep any of the loot in red chests…quite the feat, eh?  Oh, and supposedly there’s a really strong boss at the end.  Due to the nature of in-game rumors, I’d say that’s probably the case.

So now you’re asking yourself, “What’s the point?  Besides trying to go insane, that is.”  The point is that there are, occasionally, blue chests lying around.  The treasures found in these chests are always powerful, and you get to take them with you when leaving the Ancient Cave.  Oh, oh yeah.

I once tried to get all the way through the Ancient Cave.  I got pretty far; floor 74 or 75 I seem to recall.  This was spread out over the course of three days where my SNES was constantly on.  I ate, I slept, but my dear, precious Super Nintendo kept going.

It was really too bad that I got careless and died and lost all of the cool stuff I’d acquired.  But at that point, I don’t think I was caring as much as I had been.

I’ll never forget you 8-headed Hydra, with your freaking eight physical attacks in a row…NEVER!!

And thus ends my recounting of Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals.  Or, if it’s biz cas fri, L2: ROTS.

…Worst…abbreviation…ever

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