A million years ago, shortly after the NES ruled the earth, there was the Super Nintendo. That system wasn’t just good, it was awesome. Many of the games on the system set the standard for what is considered “classic gaming.” One of the games I was obsessed about was Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals. I know this game like the back of my hand. I know where every dungeon is located, how to solve [the majority of] the puzzles, where to get most items and spells, the locations of the capsule monsters and how the story unfolds. Now, Natsume has remade it and released it. Does it live up to how cool it was back at last year’s E3 and the standards of the series?
Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals follows the basic plot of the original game albeit remixed. You control (initially) monster hunter/swordsman Maxim. His main job is to hunt down monsters around the town of Elcid and his ultimate role is to save the world from destruction by stopping the sinistrals. So what’s the reason for this lofty goal? And how do the other characters fit into the plot?
What I like about this game is the fact that the characters’ personalities are much more dynamic. Granted, they are still based on recognizable old archetypes, they just play them better. The plot has much more, overall, grandiose feel to it than the original. This is due to the fact that the game opens with Gades screaming out across the land to be worshipped. There are other numerous changes as well. Bernie, Barty’s assistant thief in the original, is now “Bettie,” and they are lovers. The lighthouse area has been dropped along with a few others, though the Ancient’s Cave has been used as a plot device one time too many. In the mines, you can now ride minecarts. The list of changes is long, and it helps make the game feel original.
Graphically, Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals looks awesome on the DS. The environments are well-designed and look unique, ranging from temples, caves, a tower made out of obsidian, the water town of Parcelyte has a lovely fountain, the Tanbel mines have massive crystals popping out of the ground, an underground research facility complete with tanks and an icy mountain. Furthermore, the game takes on a steampunk feel, further differentiating itself the SNES version. However, as awesome as the game looks, it isn’t perfect. The game looks grainy, and it does not help that it tends to slow down when it feels that a lot of information is on screen. It makes the game feel shoddy when it is shined rather well.
Gameplay is also a drastic change from the original. Instead of using the old reliable RPG elements, Curse uses a hack-n-slash adventure RPG engine. You’ll run around dungeons slapping slimes like no tomorrow, breaking things up and using your characters’ special abilities. Tia uses a hookshot to reach poles, Maxim can spin his way across long distances, Selan hits switches from a distance and Guy, well, smashes things. IP is now a rechargeable source of energy, so using those special attacks is highly encouraged. You can now augment their respective stats using a special board and placing gems on it. While it doesn’t seem to influence gameplay too much, it can help tilt the scales in your favor when necessary.
But the gameplay is flawed. Tia’s attacks are vastly overpowered since she uses a suitcase with a boxing glove popping out of it. In fact, she can take down a fair amount of the bosses in a matter of seconds. This is in sharp contrast to her original character that was a bit “wimpy” and needed to be protected. This time, she is a traveling saleswoman of doom! And Maxim is supposed to the well-rounded powerhouse!
You’ll hear a mixture of new and old tunes. The amazing thing, at least to me, is that those old tunes seem just at home here as they do back on the SNES. The other cool thing about the audio is that it is complete with voice acting during all the major parts. All of the voices sound completely natural and fit their respective characters. It is amazing the amount of acting that is available on such a small cartridge.
So yes, I feel that Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals is well worth the hype. I do admit that there will be many others out there who feel the opposite. This isn’t something that isn’t acknowledged: I admit there are certain elements that I miss, such as the humble beginnings and the lighthouse. I miss some of the more traditional RPG elements, such as spells, and I miss being able to use all of the different tools in puzzle solving.
Curse of the Sinistrals is a wonderful addition to any DS gamer’s library and should at least be given a play through. Yes, a lot of things have changed. It is difficult for me to argue that isn’t for the better since the game plays so darn well. Furthermore, there are not many games with high-quality presentation. In that regard, it provides a fun ride as long as its tendrils have you in its grasp. I definitely wouldn’t call that a “curse.”