With clever puzzles, monster rearing and an awesome soundtrack, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is often regarded as one of the best RPGs on the SNES, on par with the Squaresoft classics. Now, fifteen years later, developer Neverlands returns to remake it on the Nintendo DS.
Fans of the original that are looking for a simple port or maybe a port with upgraded visuals are going to be surprised. Curse of the Sinistrals has been remade from the ground up. There has been a ton of outcry over the new character designs, and it’s hard to blame the fans – the simple, traditional fantasy look has been thrown out, replaced by an over-the-top Japanese anime makeover.
To be fair, the old characters were a little bit boring (outside of Dekar!). They’ve tried to spice things up with tons of dialogue, changing facial expressions and emoticons, but it ends up feeling a little corny. While I’m not a fan of the 2D character designs, the 3D environments look very good, with plenty of color and detail. On the other hand, there is a heavy amount of lag when too much stuff is going on.
It’s not really fair to compare this to Rise of the Sinistrals, though, as it feels like an entirely new game. There are a few things that older fans will enjoy. The music sounds like it’s pulled right out of the SNES version, some of the battle mechanics and easter eggs return and the puzzles are still very challenging.
Perhaps the most important thing to mention is that it’s no longer a traditional turn-based RPG. It is now an action-RPG, very similar to Ys. Neverlands, the developer, also makes the Rune Factory games for the Wii and DS. The combat does feel sort of similar to those, but more advanced.
The Y button does a regular attack while X launches an IP-consuming special attack. Holding down the R button will allow you to execute more powerful moves, but leaves you vulnerable. There is a decent variety of enemies and after the first two dungeons, they get very dangerous.
But danger is never really a problem. If you die, you can choose to automatically gain five levels without penalty. Please don’t abuse this by repeatedly jumping off a cliff or something, as it will make the game incredibly easy.
Equipment is limited to one weapon and one piece of armor.
You will get multiple party members, but you can only use one at a time. They all play differently, and there are some situations where one character is better than another. Tia, for example, is immobile while attacking. It would be better to use someone else if you need to avoid projectiles.
A big problem is being unable to rotate the camera, so if the enemy is behind a wall or box or something, you just have to attack wildly and pray that you connect. Also, enemies often respawn instantly after death. You will frequently have to go through a few waves of them before they stop. It can get pretty repetitive.
The puzzles are the most fun part of the game for me and the only reason I’m still playing. In addition to the classic block pushing and bomb hauling, many puzzles require you to use one of the character’s unique abilities. Mini-games are sprinkled in occasionally.
I think you’ll be disappointed if you going into this game expecting Rise of the Sinistrals. It lacks many things which made the SNES version so great, like strategic party building and capsule monster raising. But if you like puzzles with a bit of action and story, Curse of the Sinistrals is worth a try.