Review: Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals (SNES)

Lufia II might not be as recognizable as some of the bigger name Super Nintendo RPGs, but that doesn't mean it packs any less of a punch.

If it's one thing the Super Nintendo System had a lot of, it was RPGs. Some were good, some were bad, and some were outstanding. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals would fall into the latter category. Not only does it offer an amazing turn-based combat system, but it also sports one of the all-time great RPG storylines of the 16-bit era - or any other era for that matter. Couple that with an excellent soundtrack and you have a Super Nintendo RPG that simply should not be missed.

You move around in Lufia 2 via the typical world map. While traveling on the world map, your party is vulnerable to random enemy encounters. It's here that you can take part in battles where you'll gain valuable experience and gold. This allows you to level your characters up, not to mention gain money that can be used to purchase better armor, weapons, and other useful items.

You're also going to be spending a lot of your time in many of the game's various dungeons. While exploring these dungeons is fairly standard, there will be times when you'll enter rooms that will require you to solve various puzzles. Some are fairly simple in design, while others can be quite tricky. It's these puzzles that offer up a very unique twist to the traditional RPG game play system used in Lufia II. Another unique aspect of Lufia II is the ability to find and raise a capsule monster. There are 7 different monsters hidden throughout the game and once located, they will remain in your party indefinitely. You can even level them up by feeding them certain items and equipment. These capsule monsters can evolve up to a fifth and final form and can prove to be quite the capable fighting companion if raised correctly.

Very few turn-based RPGs play as efficiently or with as much variety as Lufia II's outstanding combat system. For the most part the combat system is your standard turn-based affair, with a slight twist. As you do battle with enemies, your IP guage begins to fill up. If you're lucky enough to find or buy certain weapons that contain IP abilities, as your gauge fills up your weapons will gain special abilities that can be used to inflict devastating attacks on enemies. Using these special abilities uses up your valuable gauge so you have to pick and choose the best times to make use of them. It really adds a great deal of playability and strategy to an already speedy and playable combat system. It also requires you to pay attention when purchasing your weapons and armor as sometimes the most powerful weapons don't contain these special IP Abilities.

Although you might find some Super NES games that sport slightly higher quality visuals than those found in Lufia II you certainly won't find much to complain about either. It makes good use of the Super Nintendo's large color palette to produce detailed towns and landscapes throughout the game. Every dungeon has a unique look and feel to it, and towns - although fairly standard for the most part - do take on more personality and charm later on in the game. Truthfully, the only part of the game that tends to look a little bland is the combat scenes. There's not a lot of animation in the monsters you fight, and although the backgrounds generally fit in with the area in which your characters are currently doing battle, they just have a very basic 8-bit look to them at times. So while Lufia 2 might be a small step down from such Super Nintendo visual greats as Chrono Trigger or Super Mario RPG, it's certainly no slouch in the graphics department either.

While Square and Enix normally held the monopoly on most of the really great Super Nintendo RPG soundtracks, the composers of Lufia II's musical score truly outdid themselves. The soundtrack in Lufia 2 is nothing short of amazing, and other than possibly Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI, it's easily one of the best RPG soundtracks to come out of the 16-bit era. Beautifully orchestrated music (somewhat reminiscent of Seiken Densetsu 3) is strung throughout the game and it just seems to get better the farther into the game you get. With such great variety and plenty of tunes to go around, you'd be hard-pressed to find a much better soundtrack in a non-CD based video game.

Conclusion

Lufia II is easily one of the top tier RPGs for the Super Nintendo console and a game that is challenging, humorous, and an overall joy to play. When you combine the game's unique visual stylings, the efficient turn-based combat system and the beautifully orchestrated soundtrack, you get one absolutely unforgettable RPG experience. Before we all got spoiled with the full-motion video and millions of polygons per second of today's epic RPGs, we had games like Lufia II that had a lot more to them than flashy visual effects and voice-overs. The Super Nintendo is widely considered to be an RPG fan's dream console and with games like Lufia II, it's easy to understand why.

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