Lufia: The Legend Returns - Review

Lufia: The Legend Returns - Review

By: Merit

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 5
   Plot 6
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

30-40 hours


Title Screen

   Lufia: the Legend Returns is the third in the Estopolis series, and continues the spirit nicely. Developed by the Neverland Company and published by Natsume, this little GameBoy Color cartridge has spunk. It combines an innovative battle system with just the right amount of cute to make it an enjoyable journey.

   This innovative battle system involves the handling of up to nine characters in a single battle. Your characters are placed in a three by three grid, effectively giving you two back ranks. Characters in these ranks recieve less damage but do less damage, so they're perfect for the multitude of mages available to you. The catch - you can only use one person in a column per round. Despite the sound of it, it is actually a very intuitive system and definitely a breeze for anyone who's played either of the other Lufias. The benefits of these battle were somewhat lacking though. Leveling up wasn't hard, cash flow was a minor problem. Toward the end of the game, I was forced to go back through the dungeon I had just completed to get more money and Learning Points. LP are the points used to buy magic from the regularly spaced temples and to increase characters' Spiritual Force. Each character has an assigned color of SF, corresponding to their element. SF points are used to learn extra skills, called IP. They also give a boost to certain stats. For instance, the main character's color is red, so he gets a boost to his attack and strength. You learn IP from Ancient Scrolls hidden around the many dungeons. Ancient Scrolls weren't too hard to find, but I missed out on some of them because of the randomly generated dungeons.

   Which brings me to the only major problem with Lufia III: dungeons. They're long. Some of them are very long. The final tower is a whopping 25 floors of dangerous enemies. Sadly, the designers opted for "randomly generated" dungeons instead of puzzles, so it can get a little monotonous. Luckily, the battle system is versatile enough to compensate for this.

   The interfaces, both battle and menu, were fairly clear-cut. The manual does a great job of explaining everything, and most things are self-explainitory. Even after you gather all twelve characters, the menu is fast and simple to use.

Not As Easy As It Looks
Not As Easy As It Looks 

   As for originality, well, it's the third in a series. The plot tends to be very linear and obvious. This can be good and bad; while you're never lost, you may end up wishing for a few extra side quests. The story itself is not very deep and resembles the other Lufias. It's a long series of fetch-quests punctuated with periodic battles against the four sinistrals. However, a rather swift plot twist right at the end and engaging characters keep the story moving.

   The lack of side quests and straight-forward plot unfortunately render the replay value virtually non-existant. There is a new game plus feature, but it only doubles the amount of money and LP you recieve at the end of battle.

   Several familiar musical themes also return for this third installment and they are rendered onto the limited GBC hardware with skill. Sound effects are a bit sparkly, but not annoying. The music was cheerful and melodies were catchy. The biggest problem with the sound was the limited number of channels available on the GBC. Certain sound effects, such as the one for the heal spell, interrupt the music.

   Also near perfect was the visual enviroment. Each character gets a nice portrait for their info screen and they are easily differentiated from each other during battle. The landscapes are really well done and the towns are varied in layout, size, color, and character. There are even several pseudo-FMVs.

I'll Share That Frog With You If You Promise Not To Hurt Me...
I'll Share That Frog With You If You Promise Not To Hurt Me... 

   The second source of mild annoyance was the localization. For the most part, it was wonderful. The characters are individuals, each with their own motivation for joining you and there are several extremely funny points, including a recurring joke. In a few places there were misspellings or grammatical errors. Granted they were very few, but they were noticable.

   Both of these bad bits are far outweighted not only by the good, but also by the enjoyment factor of the game. It's a rollicking good adventure. As long as you sit back and relax, you will like this game. Don't expect deep, life-altering revelations - this IS a Lufia game. It carries on the spirit of light-hearted fun.

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