Lufia and The Fortress of Doom on the Super Nintendo was full of classic, RPG goodness. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals was bordering on perfection. The Lufia series may not have the notoriety of other RPG series, but the games I have played in the series have been memorable. It took me a while, but the next game I played in this underdog RPG series was Lufia: The Ruins of Lore. Taking place 20-some years after the events of Lufia II, I went to The Ruins of Lore with high hopes. Based on the screenshots and information I read in the instruction manual, I was ready for fun. After nearly three hours in, I was over it. Like, bad break up over it. It’s not because The Ruins of Lore was bad, but because it was exceptionally dull. The further I got into it, the more I thought to myself, “Is this really a Lufia title?”
Indeed, it is a Lufia title. As mentioned, The Ruins of Lore takes place after Maxim and his friends thwarted the plot of the Sinistrals. Peace has returned and now people are making a living as treasure hunters and hoping to strike it rich. In the familiar village of Parcelyte, a young boy named Eldin has decided to answer the call of adventure and hopes to one day make a name for himself. With his best friend Torma, Eldin heads to the big city to undergo a trial to acquire his treasure hunter’s license. Initially, the two friends hope to discover all the goodies that lie within The Ancient Cave. Of course, things don’t always go as planned.
The Ruins of Lore has a story that you would expect from a classic RPG: something that starts off as innocent as the desire to become famous treasure hunters turns into struggle against a powerful evil. The fate of the world hangs in the balance and only Eldin and his friends can put a stop to it. I have always liked the stories in Lufia because they provide classic adventuring. The Ruins of Lore is no different, even if it is considered a “gaiden” to the rest of the series. In fact, the story will somtimes reference the feats of Maxim and his friends. Other characters from the series make cameos, too. The characters you take direct control of leave more to be desired. Eldin is a boring silent protagonist and all of his friends aren’t likable. Rami is a brat, Torma is a jerk and Bau is a whiner. Not once did I route for these bozos and it’s a damn shame they share the same series as Maxim, Guy, Selan and the rest of the gang. You might be interested in saving the world, but the ones doing the saving are hardly worthy of being saved themselves.
The Ruins of Lore features familiar RPG elements to anyone that has dabbled in the genre. As an RPG, it does its job; it just doesn’t excel at it. Eldin and his friends will explore towns, dungeons and can get between the two via connecting roads. In towns you can shop, chat, raid houses for their items, and so on. Outside of battle in the various dungeons, three of the four characters have tools that they can use to solve puzzles, access new areas, and so on. The Ruins of Lore features a Job System. Eldin, Torma and Rami can become apprentices with various jobs commonly found in RPGs such as a knight, priest, sorcerer, thief and a bunch of others. Depending on who they align with, their stat increases will be effected upon a level up. Furthermore, their apprenticeships will designate which spells and skills they learn. It’s an interesting idea, but for a Lufia title I would have preferred something similar to the first couple of games where each character already had an established role. If you aren’t careful, you can make it so your party doesn’t properly grow.
Combat in The Ruins of Lore will also feel familiar, but the familiarity will start to turn to boredom before long. Enemies are seen on the field and can be snuck upon to initiate a preemptive attack, but it’s far too fickle. At the start of a turn, you will select what your character will do and watch the battles play out. Slowly. Unlike Lufia and Lufia II where the battles were over in a matter of seconds, The Ruins of Lore’s battles move at a slower pace. They are especially slow and dull during the initial parts of the game when you only have Eldin and Torma in the party. Furthermore, The Ruins of Lore is a tough game. Experience doesn’t pile up quickly and you will require a fair amount of grinding to deal with the bosses. Since the only place you are able to save the game is in the town, losing a battle in a long dungeon means losing way too much progress. The quick save feature is only useful when you want to stop playing; it will erase once you resume. In other words, you always have to be on your toes despite the fact that battles are slow and simple by design. One thing that does make the battles interesting is the fact that you can capture monsters and have them join the fight. The monsters are controlled by the computer. Eldin, Torma and Rami have the ability to gain Installation Points. As the current monster grows in loyalty and power, one of the three heroes can use their IP to merge with the monster and gain a massive increase in abilities for a few turns. Despite the apparent variety, most of the time, you’re best having Eldin, a monster he captured, Rami and Torma in the party. It just adds to the redundant nature of the battles.
The Ruins of Lore has some catchy music, some of which came from previous games in the series. The graphics are a mixed bag. The 2D sprites are passable, but the character art is hideous. Everyone’s face looks like they’re melting. Monster designs are all over the place. There are some cool spells and watching your teammates fuse with a monster the first couple of times is entertaining. But, like the rest of the game, there’s nothing memorable.
The Ancient Cave makes a return in The Ruins of Lore and, once again, offers some nice rewards for those that take the plunge. However, there are some strict rules that need to be followed. First only Eldin and a monster he captured may enter the cave. Next, he can only bring ten recovery items. These two rules make the trek through the 60 floors difficult when you factor in the cave’s random nature. Still, it’s there if you want to take the plunge. If not for The Ancient Cave and a reference here or there to Maxim and the Sinistrals, Lufia: The Ruins of Lore would be miles away from all things I hold dear about Lufia. I still have a hard time placing it with the likes of Fortress of Doom and Rise of the Sinistrals. The story takes way too long to pick up pace, the characters are annoying, the battles are tedious and the save system makes things more difficult than they should be. I hate to say it, but you’re better off avoiding this game even if you are a die-hard Lufia fan.
Overall, 4/10: Lufia: The Ruins of Lore has a few good ideas that get lost by the game’s overall boring nature.