March 22nd, 2013
When my brother and I were kids, we finished SNES RPG, Lufia II, about six or seven times between us. Every time you beat the game, in the subsequent New Game+ file, your party’s EXP is multiplied by the number of your current playthrough. So beat the game once and start a New Game+ file and your party will receive double EXP each battle. Needless to say, we adored this game. When Square-Enix announced that Neverland, the original developers, were going to re-envision the game for the DS, it seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, this gorgeous-looking dungeon crawler is full of bad design. I got a bit further than half way through the game (the Mountain of No Return, ironically) and gave up. Here’s why:
- Unlike the Zelda games, where the combat and puzzle portions are organised so that one doesn’t intrude on the other, Lufia frequently dogs the player with enemies in the middle of them pushing blocks or targeting a grapple point. Worse still, enemies respawn endlessly without any cool down period between defeating one and attacking its replacement.
- There’s little strategy to the combat. You just combo enemies until they perish and then attack their dead carcass to earn bonus gems and coins (odd, I know).
- Comboing attacks adds a lot of negative space (button mashing, in this case) to the combat design.
- There’s a ton of weird stuff going on with the combat. Hit boxes are off. Enemies sometimes flicker from one spot to another. Geemer-esque enemies in the first dungeon can take off 999 HP in one go!
- The levelling system means nothing when you can prop your party up five levels every time you game over. I jumped ten levels in the second fight against Gades and it didn’t make a huge difference. Since levelling is useless, there’s no “incentive” to participate in the tiresome battles.
- The rooms in the dungeons are too large, so the camera is zoomed in in order to prevent slowdown. This, however, conceals a lot of important information from the player, making it easier for them to overlook certain details and get stuck.
- The logic behind the puzzles can super unintuitive at times. I got roadblocked about once every hour of play.
- The characters’ unique abilities are underutilised in the puzzles.
- Oftentimes, the game makes it easy to accidentally mess up a puzzle, such as the block puzzles in Gruberik Bridge W. Yet, when the player resets the puzzle through the reset function, they have to start the whole room again. This can be frustrating when you continually mess up the fifth puzzle because of an issue with the game’s design, and so you have to repeat puzzles one through four several times over.
- Some areas, like Gordovan Drawbridge, are too open-ended and the layout, architecture, and visual design often lead the player away from where they need to go.
- Maxim and Selan’s wedding is far too sudden compared to the original game.
- I don’t remember Guy being a big, dumb oaf. Curse of the Sinistrals also turns the once-cool Dekar into a bit of a bonehead too. Because of this character rearrangement, Dekar and Guy are too alike, and ultimately it makes Dekar, who joins the party later in the game, feel superfluous.
- Maxim pronounces Gades as gädis, not gādēs (the latter having the same pronunciation as “Hades”).
- Like most RPGs, the equipment side of things is pointless and should be cut.
Here’s what I did like:
- The localisation is surprisingly aware of the trite plot and character archetypes, and often makes good use of these traits for comedic effect.
- The level of detail in the environments is amazing, and the scale of some of the bosses is nothing short of remarkable.
- The grid system—where players are rewarded with Tetris pieces for solving puzzles and said pieces can be placed on a grid to unlock new abilities, tributes, and bonuses—is a neat way of tying together the game’s two halves.
Ah, now that I’ve written this article, I don’t feel so guilty over ditching this game early.