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LUFIA / Taito / SNES
Whoever designed Lufia was pretty clearly a Big Fanboi of Lunar, but the plot and gameplay are unique enough that it stands up on its own.
The game begins with you playing the closing events of Lufia 2, which is a little bizarre ... probably best if you play Lufia 2 before this one if you want absolute zero spoilage. You might also get spoiled by the better engine, menu system and puzzles of Lufia 2 ... the first game is a bit lacking in these departments.
I AM THIS EVIL!!!
Not to say it's a bad game. Far from it. In fact, it's quite charming for first few hours when it is fresh. However, it gets increasingly repetitive from there. Most of this is due to a ridiculous encounter rate that rivals the worst of the Dragon Quest games for annoyingness. Unlike Dragon Quest, however, your characters generally overmatch the enemies, and the battles whip by fast. So they aren't as annoying, but they basically just serve as auto-leveling and they really start to feel like a waste of time after a couple hundred of them pile up. The game itself is overall on the easy side due to the frequency and fast pace of regular battles keeping your levels high whether you want to grind or not, but there are a few tough boss encounters.
I wanna be The Guy!
With the gameplay linear and kind of on autopilot, the game relies on story, characters and presentation. The graphics are colorful, and while the game has a very old-school look and tends to pallete-swap monsters and re-use NPC sprites a little too much, on the whole it's pleasant enough. The music ranges from decent to obnoxious - unfortunately, the map and battle themes, the two you hear by far the most frequently, lean a little more to the "obnoxious" side. While no other characters in the game are really fleshed out or compelling, main characters Lufia and (Your Hero Name Here) are given enough development and personality to make the story at least marginally interesting. On the whole it's a decent job for a very early '90s RPG, but a little too Stock Fantasy Animu and lacking in the fine details to be considered one of the greats.
Aside from the major overdose of repetitive combat, the other thing that really trips the game up is the outdated Dragon Quest-esque battle system wherein groups of monsters are targeted rather than individual monsters, and your characters randomly select which in the group they are going to attack. This leads to a lot of needless frustration and limits strategy. The game also NEEDS A WORLD MAP BADLY - towards the end of the game when you have the ship/airship and have to wander about the surprisingly large world map looking for new locations, it's needlessly random and clunky to have to sail around in random directions until you stumble across things.
On the whole Lufia is a decently executed RPG, even inventive in some ways, that was better in its time than it is now. For the time that it was released it was among the better of the class, but it really didn't hold up well even to the rest of the SNES catalog, much less fifteen years later. If you really dig old-school super-deformed RPGs it might be worth a look, since it's a pretty well done example of the genre, but there's much better RPG choices on the system - the sequel among those.
Extensive hacking of the game ROM
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