Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals Playtest: Maxim’s Mini-Adventure

By Laura . November 18, 2010 . 1:48pm

If I were asked to describe Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals in a few words, I would call it a mini-RPG. This has nothing to do with how I finished the game in 15 hours, or how there’s no world map.

 

The problem with Lufia is that the whole time I’m playing it, I feel like I’m looking at a game that was stripped down to its bare necessities.

 

The story starts with a Sinistral, a god-like humanoid, who announces that he’s going to rule over all of mankind. Maxim, red-haired swordsman extraordinaire, confident he can beat the tyrannical baddie, challenges Gades (the Sinistral) and promptly gets his butt kicked.

 

Of course, he isn’t killed because Gades feels they’re fated to have a “destined” battle. Besides, killing someone without a fair struggle isn’t any fun at all.

 

It is then up to Maxim to gather some strong companions, prompting him to journey across the world while getting tangled in various political issues, gathering party members, and eventually finding love.

 

That seems to be a pretty complete plot in and of itself, and yet that summary only covers half the game. So why do I say Lufia is minimalistic if it has an extensive story?

 

For starters, the dialogue goes by very quickly. I don’t mean that because I button-mash A every chance I get, but because Lufia seems to adore the storytelling philosophy of “Tell, don’t show.” Everything is rushed, such as when Maxim confesses “I love you,” to Selan. I had to do a double-take of the screen and wondered just when, exactly, this romance developed.

 

After the defeat of the first big boss, too, everyone’s celebrating and all of a sudden, the game fast-forwards a year or so in quick snapshots. My reactions went along the line of, “Look, they’re married … and now they have a kid! And now, those two are going out too? And I totally didn’t expect there to be another enemy.”

 

What bothered me the most is that everything is told with all the care and attention of someone going, “The prince went to the castle and defeated the dragon. He took the princess out of the castle. They kissed. The end.” Where’s the emotion and the drama behind these events?

 

Then again, while this does detract from your emotional investment in the game and from fully empathizing with the characters, it’s also surprisingly refreshing in an odd way. I was surprised that there wasn’t any of the ubiquitous angst that seems to pervade through RPGs nowadays. It’s a small favor, considering how many games are just bogged down with melodramatics. And despite the fact that the dialogue is very bare in content, they are often interspersed with humorous one-liners.

 

The tutorials, too, are presented using cute drawings that look like they belonged on a 4koma strip. These made playing the story portions of the game more fun, so the flat storytelling isn’t completely harmful.

 

Even the adventuring portion of the game is toned down some. As I mentioned before, this game has no world map. This isn’t usually something I care about, but it’s very obvious that Lufia should have had one. There were two separate times when I had to go to one city/town/kingdom, make my way to the back of the place, talk to the leader there only to have him reply with a simple “No” to my request, and then go to the next location to rinse and repeat.

 

lufia_004

I enjoyed the game; really, I did. The characters are unique, and the voice acting (when it’s present) isn’t especially annoying. I even liked Maxim’s voice actor, which is saying something.

 

Lufia also has some of the best dungeon designs I’ve seen in a long time. My favorite one is the Logismos Temple, where the platforms rise up from an abyss as you move forward. There’s another one where you have to play duck-and-cover with laser-sighted missiles while hiding behind crates and in secret passageways. Each dungeon is littered with puzzles, and these actually take some brain power to solve. Sometimes it consists of taking a key from one side of the room to the other, but that’s not as easy as you think, since the “other side of the room” is generally several moving platforms, switches, and a chasm away.

 

In dungeons, you control one character, and you switch which party member you want to use by tapping the touch screen (the one time you’ll be using it in the game). Each character has his or her own special attack that aids you in the puzzles as well as in fighting enemies.

 

For example, Maxim’s is a dash attack that can get him across large gaps that are otherwise too large to cross. Tia’s is a grappling hook that can either pull her across to grappling poles, pull items and crates to her, or pull enemies to her as she does massive damage in a pummelling attack. Guy has a powerful special attack that can destroy normally indestructible objects. You have to make the most of each of your characters to trek through the dungeons successfully.

 

Battles are in realtime. Maxim and his friends can do four separate actions, each assigned to one of the DS buttons — regular attack, special attack (explained above), roll, and jump. You can also use the R button to charge before using a regular or special attack for different effects and more damage (Oddly enough, the regular attack button is Y, causing no small amount of confusion for me.) The battles are fun, although I distinctly found myself preferring to use some characters over others. Guy was too slow for me, and Dekar just didn’t stand out.

 

Each character’s equipment is simply limited to a weapon and a set of armor, but the characters also have a shared skill board. Special items called Mystic Stones unlock abilities for the characters, such as faster recovery time from status effects, taking no damage from falling, increased HP, and increased attack. Mystic Stones also grant stat increases depending on the type of Stone used. These stones can’t be bought, but they can be upgraded so that they’ll grant more of a stat increase.

 

While this system works, the one problem I encountered was that, sometimes, with a change in party members, the entire board would be reset with no indication. I never noticed that all my stat increases were gone until I realized I was doing 100 less damage than I should’ve been doing.

 

lufia_005

Lufia likes to help players out to prevent them from pulling their hair out in frustration, too. The game itself is by no means too easy, since the puzzles are hard and certain bosses require lots of patience and strategy to defeat.

 

However, if you really want to find out what happens next in the story and don’t want to grind because you happen to be too low-leveled, you can choose to retry a boss with a permanent level boost.

 

Yes, you can automatically add 5 levels to all your characters just by pressing an option after you get a game over on a boss.

 

It certainly does make the battle easier, but, as the game warns you, you must use it at your own discretion because it detracts from your own sense of accomplishment in the game. In dungeons, if you mess up a puzzle irreversibly or simply want to start an area again, the game even provides you with a Reset button to start from the last Checkpoint, which the game records automatically as you progress, usually when you enter a new area and right before the start of a puzzle.

 

There’s also the Return button that reduces the need for excessive backtracking in cities and dungeons as it sends you straight back to the airship. If you have no idea where to go to continue the story, the Talk option when you’re on the world map immediately tells you where to go next.

 

Overall, I enjoyed Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals a lot. The puzzles are definitely the highlight of the game for me. However, I can’t help but feel that, while it has potential both story-wise and character-wise, this isn’t acted upon and ultimately makes the game feel amusing at best, because of the blasé way everything is delivered, and rushed at worst.


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  • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

    Darn there doesnt seem like there is much voice acting :( Guess I will pass. Why is there no melodrama? I love that in games, angst too.

    • SolidusSnake

      There’s always soap operas dood. All the melodrama you can eat and it’s fully voiced too ;)

    • MrRobbyM

      Confirmed troll.

      • https://twitter.com/#!/SplashdownTiger STiger

        Confirmed, or obvious? Either way, I read it as him being sarcastic.

        • MrRobbyM

          I dunno. If you read some of his past comments, I’d say it’s quite believable.

          • cocytusx

            Confirming.

        • Exkaiser

          I don’t think he understands the utility of sarcasm.

  • thebanditking

    This sounds pretty middle of the road to me, 70% of the reason I play RPG’s is for the story and character development, from the sound of this I will be disappointed. Its a shame as the last DS RPG I bought ended up this way (Sands of Destruction though was the battle system that has kept me from going back to it). Laura is the story better or worse then Sands of Destruction in your opinion, if you have played both that is

    • Arcm

      While I’m not Laura I’ve beat both and have to say Lufia had the better story of the two.

      I own the original Lufia 2 on SNES and actually enjoyed the DS remake a little better since it feels like it trimmed out the filler of the original game. That and giving Dekar and Tia a little more story. : )

      • AdamBoy64

        Whoa, this made me take notice! That’s all I have to add.
        As arrogant as it sounds, I’m a big Lufia 2 fan. So.. I may have to pick this up to see if I can share your point of view with it.

        Does it have anything like the Ancient Cave? I think I’m asking for a little TOO much there…

        • Arcm

          Yeah, but you cant go to far into the Ancient Cave till new game +. There’s also an alternate/extended ending the second time around.

          I loved the writing in this remake it really was light hearted and the ending is still as powerful as the original since the characters seem to have a little more personality.

    • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

      The main problem with that question is that I haven’t played Sands of Destruction =P

      The story itself isn’t bad. As one of the other posters put it, it’s basically the same as the original Lufia II was. The storytelling is kind of hit or miss, though.

      It IS a fun game, that much I will say =P More humor than angst, if you like that in your stories too.

  • AdamBoy64

    The ‘Return’ button and being able to level up 5 levels when you lose to a boss is just.. yeah, seems a bit cheap. The flat storytelling as you say is a bit concerning. It doesn’t look like it holds a candle to the original..

    Hmm.. Thanks for the review. I bought this for someone for Christmas, so will have to see what he thinks of it.

    • cocytusx

      Uhh Lufia 2 had the exact same story, meet Gades, fight Gades, lose, meet Selan, fall in love in 5 minutes, kill Gades, get married, realize there are more Sinistrals etc. It’s just as bad.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aunna-Terrell/100001267508146 Aunna Terrell

        Lufia 2 is Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals. Just.. made jazzier by SE.

        I.. guess that’s the problem there.

      • AdamBoy64

        Yeah, the storyline is certainly strikingly similiar. From this review, it seems like the original was fleshed out a lot more. With a lot, lot more happening in between. So, not quite the same.

        I really enjoyed the storyline in the ‘original’ Lufia 2.. All this talk makes me want to do another playthrough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jstack Jon Stachewicz

    “Hey remember that Estpolis game we made for Super Famicom?”

    “Yeah”

    “What if we remade it…”

    “Yeah!”

    “…as a shitty Ys clone.”

    “YEAH!”

    “But it will have terrible puzzles and character designs that Nomura himself would have rejected too”

    “FUND IT”

    And thus Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals was born

    • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

      The game is not that bad, specially for people who have never played the first game

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    omg i have been spoiled

  • http://waxingerratic.tumblr.com/ ECM

    I’m stunned that the OP and a number of the posters don’t actually appear to play games for the gameplay anymore, stressing the story as the number one reason to play RPGs…good God, I’m getting old….and get off my lawn, too.

    (And, for the record, I had a blast with this game.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/jstack Jon Stachewicz

      That’s literally been the main draw of RPGs for countless people for as long as they’ve existed but nice try

    • AdamBoy64

      Well, which is more important? Gameplay or Storyline? For that question, personally – I couldn’t seperate them..

      I find a fantastic storyline can save less-than-fantastic gameplay.

      I think, looking back on RPG’s – I remember the storyline -slightly- more than the gameplay.

      But yeah, they’re still – pretty inseperable for me.
      Which is probably why I can’t stand dungeon crawlers.

      • Exkaiser

        Nethack has the best stories and you know it.

      • kupomogli

        An amazing storyline can indeed save the game from terrible gameplay. However there has to be some redeeming value to the game aside from storyline. The original Xenosaga had an amazing storyline but if the world was as immersive as Xenosaga 2, just like my opinion of Xenosaga 2, the game would have sucked. However the level design as well as the storyline of Xenosaga was absolutely amazing and while I love the game it would be one of my favorite RPGs if it wasn’t for the lackluster gameplay.

        I preordered the Xenosaga Movie DVD and got Xenosaga 2 for free. Pretty crappy preorder item. If I want to see the storyline of Xenosaga I’ll usually pop in the movie dvd. If I ever turn on Xenosaga to play, it’s not for the gameplay, it’s to start up a game of the best mini game ever made. XenoCard!

  • JustaGenericUser

    “Yes, you can automatically add 5 levels to all your characters just by pressing an option after you get a game over on a boss.”

    Hahaha, oh yes, I heard about this. WTF are you doing, devs? I can just die on purpose 20 times and get to Level 99 without even trying.

    Fortunately, I think I can fight the temptation and will avoid using that system.

    • WizardoftheBlueOrder

      By doing that, you get a little key item permanently added to your inventory. Does it do anything? No…

      Besides remind you of your shame in needing to artificially level boost.

  • Joanna

    I was going to pass this game up, but this impression and the comments have restored my faith that I can have fun with this game. I’ll put it on my list of things I need to pick up. :)

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