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CONSOLE: Nintendo DS DEVELOPER: Neverland PUBLISHER: Square Enix/Natsume
RELEASE DATE (NA): October 12, 2010 GENRE: Action-RPG
// review by SoyBomb

How To Successfully Remake A Game 101.

Developer Neverland, who also handled the original version of this game (the RPG Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals for the SNES), appear to have played an interesting game of Yahtzee when they were deciding how this remake would turn out. When I first heard that a Lufia remake was on the horizon for the Nintendo DS, aside from the internal joy I experienced, I thought to myself, "Okay, it's going to be pretty much the same but with fancier graphics, a re-translated script... maybe a few new sidequests to pad it out and make it feel a bit more modern. But that's going to be it." To my surprise and pleasure, I was very wrong. Neverland took the all of the elements of the original, tore them up, placed the pieces in a cup, shook it violently, then tossed all the pieces back out just to see what wackiness may occur. The result? Surprisingly, an action-RPG that could arguably be considered both a new game... and a pretty damn good one.

As in the original, we follow the red-haired Maxim (a name a certain fellow staff member has become rather attached to in recent times for certain future reasons) after an unfortunate encounter with Gades, one of the fabled Sinistrals. (He sees it as an accident, but I get the feeling that destiny is playing a stronger role than he could imagine.) He soon learns that he will need to defeat Gades, but only by recruiting the additional strength and energy waves of fellow warriors across the land. Childhood friend Tia comes first (she's there pretty much the whole time and is quite nimble while using a nasty suitcase as a weapon), then the strong but brain-shy Guy, the tough and seemingly self-reliant Selan, the overconfident Dekar, and lastly the elven protector, Artea. Together, they have the power to defeat Gades -- not to mention subsequent Sinistrals. (It's not called "Curse of the Sinistral", you know.) And through it all, the characters develop unique bonds -- some are good, while others are... well, a bit more adversarial in nature (though it could all be a front for love, as most hostility is). Either way, the destiny of the world now lies on their shoulders. Better man up. If you have already played Lufia II on the SNES, the major plot points will not be alarming in the slightest. However, some locations and minute plot elements were deemed unnecessary and removed; in fact, the entire script has been revised and edited, often to focus on the tasks at hand and improve character development.

Though the story will seem familiar to Lufia enthusiasts, the game itself has changed dramatically, now boasting the ability to control your character's every move from a third-person perspective and with the ability to brawl in any direction with a swipe of the sword and no need for any turn-based battling. The SNES original was indeed a full-fledged turn-based RPG, filled with puzzle-filled dungeons and an irritating feature involving raising Capsule Monsters, its methodology not unlike catching Pokemon. Thankfully, this new version does away with any monster ranching but most assuredly maintains the puzzle element. There are usually many puzzles -- some easy, some far more brain-wrenching -- in every area that must be overcome in order for you to proceed. Thankfully, to help you out, each playable character (with the exception of Dekar, though he excels in other ways) has a special ability that could be useful in your quest. This usually ends up being the case immediately after he or she joins your party, by sheer coincidence! Tia, for example, has quite the grappling hook, capable of grasping items from afar, while Guy can break large rocks and crystals blocking your path. These abilities all use IP, but unlike the original version, the IP meter automatically refills itself and you don't need to take damage to fill it up. The only major downfall to the new system is that it is occasionally difficult to accurately plant all your hits on some enemies, but perhaps that's just my poor 3D comprehension abilities.


Not a day goes by when a giant beast doesn't try to murder you and your friends. What a life.

Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals boasts a number of new features that make this game even more interesting. The new Mystic Stone Board, for example, allows you to improve your character's skills by placing specially collected blocks across a large grid where many spots correlate with stat boosts and new helpful abilities. The blocks required are fairly common and you can easily cover your board. You can also take the blocks to a specialist to increase their powers, which, in turn, affects the effectiveness of the stat boost on the Mystic Stone Board. This is an integral (and easy-to-use) method for strengthening your character and works similarly to the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X. Party members also have the ability to continue attacking enemies even after they have been defeated for additional gold and experience bonuses (it is possible to can earn up to 50% additional experience after killing your opponent). Furthermore, if a boss is too difficult and your party is defeated, you have the option of retrying the boss but with a five-level character boost for your party, thus making the battle easier. While it has no effect on the rest of the game, it can help make tough situations a bit more tolerable. (I found a nice spot to level up extremely quickly later on in the game, thus diminishing my need for this aspect... heh heh...) Other new features include a map screen for all areas, the ability to warp out of areas (including towns) easily with a single tap on the touch screen, and being able to swap between party members quickly by tapping their picture with the stylus (although this last one is cumbersome when in a sticky situation).

Because this is an updated remake, you can expect better graphics. It's only natural, given the fact that it's fifteen years later and technology has soared like the mighty eagle. Neverland opted to stray completely from the sprite-based visuals that had defined Lufia games for its entire run in favour of full three-dimensional models and backgrounds. Unlike some other 3D games on the DS, this one actually looks good! Additionally, many of the classic songs from Lufia II have been remixed for this new edition; every songs fits. In addition, there is also voice acting for the first time in a Lufia game! Though not all conversations have vocal backing, some lines do, as well as general battle grunts. Sometimes, characters will speak when you get to a certain spot in the game while you're traveling! No dialogue box will come up; instead, it's a neat little extra in the background to make the game seem even more upbeat, even though it does seem rather cheerful already in spite of the hardships that lay ahead for our devoted team.

Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals is, in a nutshell, everything a reboot should be. They could've taken the easy route and ported the game with some minor improvements here and there, but Neverland has taken quite the initiative and created what some may recognize as an entirely unique game all on its own. The main quest may be a bit short (20 hours would be the norm), but with the classic "New Game+" feature, you can play it all over again! I may even go so far as to recommend this version over the original. ...Yes, I will do that now. Seek out Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals wherever you can! Do it!

And there's still no Lufia in this game. Shouldn't we be calling it something else?


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