Review: Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals (DS)

A brilliant retelling of a classic RPG

When the original Lufia 2 was released on the Super Nintendo, it came rather late in the console's lifespan and with very little fanfare. Sadly, this meant that many gamers missed out on one of the true RPG gems to come out of the 16-bit era. Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals is a complete re-imagining of Lufia 2, complete with a radical action RPG makeover and an interesting new telling of the classic storyline. While this new version of the game features plenty of touches from the original to keep long time fans interested, its action-style gameplay is what should make it appeal to a much wider audience this time around.

The gameplay in Lufia 2 was fairly standard for a traditional RPG of its time period, but you can pretty much toss out just about everything you know about it when it comes to this new remake of the game. There are no more turned-based battles or moving around on the world map doing battle, instead Curse of the Sinistrals reduces the experience down to its essence.

When you want to visit a new area, you merely hop aboard the Excelion ship and select your destination from a menu. As you progress through the adventure, new areas will automatically be added to the list of destinations. Once inside a town or dungeon, you'll then be free to move around. In towns, you'll be able to talk to people and purchase useful items, as well as outfit your characters with better equipment. You'll find that most of your adventure will be played out in the various towns and it's generally here that you'll receive new individual adventures to take on.

Since Curse of the Sinistrals is now an action RPG, all of the combat you'll undertake will play out in real time. You'll be able to quickly switch between the various characters in your party by simply touching their picture on the touchscreen, and you'll soon find that each character has his/her own unique set of attacks and special abilities. Many of the puzzles you'll encounter in the dungeons can only be completed with a specific character. As if these puzzles weren't enough, there's also a lot of platforming in many of the game's dungeons that will not only require you to use pinpoint jumps, but also an occasional special move from various characters. Much of the fun in the tricky puzzles is figuring out which character to use in different situations.

Since you'll be facing a fairly steady barrage of enemies throughout the game, you'll need to quickly come to grips with the game's action-oriented combat system. The attack button will make your character swing their weapon, but you can also pull off combos by continually pressing the button in rapid succession. You'll quickly learn how to balance your attacks with moving around in order to dodge enemy attacks, as well as switching between the characters in your party to find the one most effective against your current foe. Even though the game uses a more action-oriented battle system, there's still plenty of strategy in how you execute it.

While levelling up your characters is accomplished by defeating enemies, there are other ways to make your characters increase their offensive and defensive characteristics. Locating and purchasing better armour and weapons in towns and dungeons is one way, but the game also offers up a very unique system that involves collecting and placing Mystic Stones on a board. Where you place these stones on the board can have very different results and you can pretty much control which special abilities and powers you wish to acquire while using it. It takes a little trial and error to get a handle on how exactly it all works, but once you do you'll soon see how useful it can be in making your characters perform better in battle.

It's hard not to appreciate just how playable the developers have been able to make the game using a more action-style approach. Not only are the different attacks extremely effective, but the variations that can be achieved by using different characters gives the game a nearly infinite amount of diversity in how each battle can be approached. And when you couple the solid platforming feel with some downright mind-bending puzzles to solve, you've got an RPG experience that's as playable as it is enjoyable.

To say that the new 3D visual presentation really brings the world of Lufia alive onscreen would be a gross understatement. Not only are all of the vibrant colours and trademark visual nuances all still firmly intact, but the more spacious and realistic look of the game can be truly mesmerising at times. While the towns tend to offer up more visual splash than the dungeons, you'd be hard-pressed to find an area in the game that's not easy on the eyes. Even the characters show a nice level of detail and realism in the way they move and attack, even at various angles.

Anyone who's played the original Lufia 2 knows what an amazing musical score the game featured, so it's no surprise to see the developers basically give it a slight update in musical quality and bring it straight over to this new release. Just about every track from the original makes an appearance and you'll hear everything from up-tempo battle sequences to extremely moving and melodic tracks during some of the game's softer moments. The game even treats you to a bit of voiced dialogue from time to time to give the characters themselves a bit more personality. It's nice to see the developers take an "if it's not broke, don't fix it" mentality when it came to the game's audio presentation.

Conclusion

For long-time fans of Lufia 2, the biggest hurdle in Curse of the Sinistrals will be getting over the initial shock of the game's radical action RPG makeover. But once you come to grips with the game's new look and feel, you'll quickly find out just how refreshing an experience the game truly is. And for newcomers, the game's unique blend of action-style combat and problem solving elements make it a game that just about anyone can enjoy. Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals might not be the straight remake many fans of the series were hoping for, but those who prematurely dismiss it will be missing out on a truly unique action-rpg adventure and a whole new take on the classic storyline.

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