Yes, that’s right: the Lufia series didn’t start at II. While the second game might have been substantially more original than its predecessor, Lufia & The Fortress of Doom is a fun game in its own right. Why is this Final Fantasy ripoff worth playing? Let’s review!
Of the Final Fantasy IV ripoffs that are out there, I’d have to say that Lufia is the best, or at least the most original. It’s kind of hard to spot as a copy until you look at the date of release. Nearly two years passed between the release of Final Fantasy IV and Lufia in Japan, putting the period closer to games like Secret of Mana and Illusion of Gaia. It seems to me that, while these more unique games were being developed, someone was sitting at home playing Final Fantasy IV and wondering how they could copy its popularity.
Even so, being a seven-year-old gamer at the time, I hardly recognized any of these concepts. I just knew that I liked to play the “Vidyo gams,” and here was another one containing elements resembling those I had enjoyed previously.
I do have to give the game credit for not following the “Gather magical items from around the world to defeat the bad guy” story of Final Fantasy. Not that “Ancient evils have reappeared that can only be defeated by the ancestors of those who originally defeated them” is any more original, but at least it’s not crystals or runes or keys again.
Anyway, the graphics are about on par with other games of the time, but they have a bit of a trademark stylization that set it apart . The battle graphics for some of the monsters are pretty sweet as well, especially the final bosses. Very cool!
The music is similar to the graphics—about average, but something is kind of catchy and memorable about it. There are a couple of annoying tracks, but those are made up for by the rockin’ battle music.
One thing that’s always bugged me about the game, however, is that the storyline progresses like installing programs on Linux. You download something you want, try to install it, and find out that it has a dependency. Go get the dependency, and that one has two more dependencies. Finally, after getting the dependencies for the dependency, you take a step back and go “Why was I doing this, again?” The entire game feels like a giant sidequest.
Really, though, there’s not much that sticks out about Lufia. Aside from being kind of cute and fun to play, it’s pretty average. If you like classically-styled RPGs, this is a good one to pick up. If you’re curious about the roots of Lufia II or are otherwise spoiled by the style of modern games, prepare to be bored. Lufia is spectacularly average, in such a way that makes it good in that sense, but not if you expect a lot out of it.