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*A review of Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals for the SNES.* Given that the first Lufia game could somewhat spoil the story of the second slightly, players might want to start with Rise of The Sinistrals. There are similarities between the stories of the two games. The dialogue does not seem as consistent as in the first, and the humour can be hit-and-miss - Dekar scores strongly for laughs whereas intended characters for comedy Berty and Bart miss the mark by more than a margin.
Like Lufia & The Fortress of Doom, the game is of tile-based design, but with the graphics packing greater detail. Battles now take place on a seperate screen but enemies appear as static as the motionless backgrounds. There's still not a great deal in the game that would pass for animation, and it sticks and tends to the technique of flipping enemy sprites horizontally to signal their move. However, seeing some of the strongest spells at work makes for a decent sight.
Enemy encounters on the overworld map are random, but inside the dungeons fights can be avoided as well as sought, where the initiative can be gained by approaching the enemy in the right way in a move-for-move basis, with the skills - which play a part in some of the puzzles in this game - coming in handy. Items and spells sees to descriptions, which is helpful. However, it was disappointing to find there was no item-hunting in towns. But with IP Skills on equipment there can be food for thought - favour stats or skills?
Battles may be taken care of now that attacks are re-adjusted, but puzzles are in their plentiful, and will have players thinking - I got the pen and paper out when I was well stumped to think up a solution overnight!
The Capsule Monster feature feels rushed. In battle, their statistics are a no-show despite it being a-given in the menu; and as there's no choosing their commands, they seem a fifth wheel rather than a fifth fighter in the fights. The interface for feeding the Capsule Monsters is on the slow side. As for their graphics these have been hastily thrown together - the monster sprite shown in the menu is the exact same as that in battle, so the view is of their back, and even when they evolve you can only watch from behind them!
Sound effects are again so-so. Whilst the music did not grab my attention straight away like in Lufia & The Fortress Of Doom, I would say the soundtrack - which sees to a greater number of tracks - was about as strong. If only the boss battles were as dramatic as the third battle theme.
As much as I loved solving the puzzles in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, it's a shame they make up the main meat of the game's challenge. Much of the fights were far too easy, yet I never had a habit of fighting each enemy I encountered. The final section was such a letdown - there's no step up in challenge and the dungeons see to a let up for design.
I clocked game completion in 27 and a half hours, which is okay for an RPG. The toughest challenge of the game lies in an optional side-quest - an endurance test in the form of a 99 floor randomly generated dungeon, which would push the play time beyond thirty hours. As both SNES Lufia games fall short of being great RPGs, if you prefer to have your puzzles puzzling than your dungeons dulling, then look out for Rise of the Sinistrals.
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