While Final Fantasy Legend II was miles ahead of its predecessor, it was a very similar game with a significantly improved plot. Lufia II is so unlike the first game in the series that it’s hard to believe they have the same name. About the only thing that’s similar about the two games is the battle interface, which was the best part it took from it’s older cousin. Everything else has been revamped to make Lufia II a near perfect RPG.
Lufia II takes place ninety years prior to the events in the first game and explains how the evil Sinistrals came into power. The plot is told methodically over several chapters and many, many years. Character come in and out of the game. While it’s fairly linear, the way the story is doled out gives it some brevity that the first game didn’t have. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I “cared” about the characters, but I found them interesting to follow.
What really makes the game shine, however, are the elements not found in other RPGs. For beginners, you can occasionally bring a monster into your party; while this isn’t new, the fact that you have zero control over your monster is, giving battles some unpredictability. And for those who enjoy the Secret of Mana series or Zelda, dungeons are often extensive puzzlefests, requiring you to think your way out of the room by using tools, pushing blocks or statues, etc. Enemies are also not random in the dungeons, allowing you to solve the puzzles without the frustration of entering battles and then trying to remember what you were doing when it’s over.
One of the game’s biggest draws, and also possibly a flaw, is the Ancient Cave. About halfway through the game you can enter a cave that has 99 levels. When you enter, you are stripped of equipment, items, and experience. However, each level presents you with temporary upgrades and you can build experience pretty quickly. The draw of the cave is that occasionally you can find an item that you’re allowed to keep when you leave, often a massive upgrade. You can leave the cave at any time; however, if you get killed, you lose everything. This adds a level of tension not often seen in RPGs (assuming you’re not using an emulator). One night I spent three hours in the cave only to get killed around level 70. I somehow managed to just drop my controller and walk away without breaking anything.
While the Ancient Cave is exciting, it also sort of ruins the game at that point. If you do manage to get a lot of upgrades, you can breeze through the rest of the game for the most part, erasing any difficulty from there on. But worse, the cave is so addicting that there’s a good chance you’ll never bother finishing the game as you spend weeks trying to collect every treasure, or even defeat the boss on level 99. It certainly is my favorite sidequest of all time, but perhaps it’s just a little too good.
The graphics and music are above average and gameplay is slick and intuitive. If you like deep plots and a little puzzle-solving in your RPGs, then you can’t pass up Lufia II. And the first game is certainly not a requirement to enjoy this one, nor recommended.