In some ways, I’m glad that I played Lufia: The Ruins of Lore. Sure, the game was boring. Sure, the game was slow. Sure, the game had very little to do with the events of Fortress of Doom and Rise of the Sinistrals. I think that Ruins of Lore helped make my experience with Lufia: The Legend Returns feel sweeter. The Ruins of Lore was released years after The Legend Returns, but I’m thankful that I decided to play these two titles out of order. Neverland and Natsume worked with the limited capabilities of the Game Boy Color and created a title worthy of being part of the Lufia family. Erasing all memories from The Ruins of Lore, Lufia: The Legend Returns is a wonderful RPG.
Lufia: The Legend Returns takes place after the events of Fortress of Doom. I recommend playing it or Rise of the Sinistrals before getting into this to fully enjoy the story. However, The Legend Returns acts well as a stand alone title. It starts in the village of Patos. Our hero is Wain, a scrappy teen with red hair and sword skills that match those of certain heroes from centuries ago. As he’s minding his own business, a fortuneteller named Seena challenges him to a match. Wain proves that he’s a capable swordsman, but moments later, his village is under attack. Wain and Seena witness a warrior named Gades destroying everything in sight. Those familiar with Lufia’s lore know what this means. The Sinistrals are back and they are craving some destruction. Indeed, the central theme of The Legend Returns will be familiar to anyone that has played an RPG. Key events near the end of the game will be shocking, but most of the journey is the usual world saving affair. Really, it’s the characters that help save the story from being middle of the road. Wain, Seena, and a bunch of other characters with unique personalities and goals will join the party. In total, you will have eleven characters plus a secret character join your squad. One of the more interesting aspects of the story is that the Sinistrals get more screen time. They’re more than just talking heads that rant about destruction. There are moments when the translation fumbles over itself due to some mistakes with grammar or spelling, but they don’t take away from the experience.
Like its predecessors, Lufia: The Legend Returns features classic role-playing. There are three environments Wain and his friends will explore. In towns, you can talk to NPCs, examine objects for hidden items, shop, and save at the church. Churches also allow you to learn magic at the cost Learning Points (LP) which get rewarded from battle. Once you leave a town, you’ll enter the world map. This part of the game is a drag. For some reason, you’re unable to run at the same speed as you can in a town or dungeon. Random battles tend to occur too frequently. The good thing is that it doesn’t take long to get to your next destination. Later in the game, you’ll acquire a boat and an airship. Dungeons are where most of your time will be spent in The Legend Returns. Luckily, they’re the most fun of the three areas. Each dungeon is randomly generated and is littered with ever-changing monsters, traps, and treasures. Wain can swing his sword to reveal new areas, too. Each floor of a dungeon is just the right size, ensuring that no dungeon outstays its welcome. At the end of a dungeon, you’ll usually find a save point and a recovery point. As fun as they are, most of the time the items you get from chests are disappointing. By the time you reach the end of the game, your inventory will be full of junk such as Charred Newts or Boomerangs. However, it’s worth your time to open every chest you come across due to the chance of finding an Ancient Text.
Ancient Texts let your characters learn new IP Skills. These abilities are much more powerful than regular attacks and spells. They allow you to deal heavy damage to enemies, boost stats, reduce enemy power, and much more. However, in order to use an Ancient Text, your party member must have enough Spiritual Force. You can increase each character’s SF with Learning Points. Each character’s SF has a color: red, blue, yellow or green. Most Ancient Texts require the learner to have a certain level of multiple colors. The solution? You need to position your team in a 3X3 matrix in order to have a character next to another character that has the appropriate color and level. It sounds confusing, but it’s very easy in practice. It gives players more flexibility than meets the eye. Positioning your characters is critical in Lufia: The Legend Returns for another reason.
At first, battles in Lufia: The Legend Returns will consist of Wain and Seena. And, they’ll give you a taste of what to expect. Battles are basic and turn-based. Characters can attack, use an item, use an IP skill once they have received enough damage to do so, and/or defend. When it’s just Wain and Seena, you’ll spend most of the battles attacking the monsters. As more allies join, you’ll be able to place them in the aforementioned matrix. Only one column can attack at a time. Thus, you only get three turns at most. Some characters can act on their own, but for the most part you will need to decide which character in the column gets the chance to act. It offers a small amount of strategy to an otherwise classic battle system. Characters can be swapped around mid-battle, which helps when facing off against the game’s more brutal bosses. These guys love to attack every character, so careful planning of who gets to act will always be critical. Battles move at a snappy pace. Near the end of the game, they still remain fun and quick to finish.
Being on the Game Boy Color, Natsume and Neverland weren’t given much to work with in terms of presentation. However, they still managed to give the game some crisp sprites with great personality. On the field, characters will often emote their feelings with thought bubbles. It’s nothing new, but it helps drive the point forward. In combat, the enemies you face range from cute to super cute. There are a few intimidating designs, but most of the enemies look harmless. That said, there are some really impressive spells and effects that seem to push the capabilities of the Game Boy Color. The music is another feature that deserves a mention. The Legend Returns has a great soundtrack that really deserves to be heard by more folks. If someone reading thing this has the ability to remix music, please take a look at this game’s soundtrack. For what it delivers, it delivers it well.
With a variety of side-quests, the ability to play again with enhanced abilities in “Star Over” mode, and plenty of secrets to discover, Lufia: The Legend Returns will last gamers a long time. The Ancient Cave has also made a return and gives an opportunity to seek out even more rewards. However, for those that want to go through it once, then you’re looking at 30 to 40 hours of quest time. Lufia: The Legend Returns is a fantastic game that helps carry the legacy of the first two titles to a portable console. It’s not as flashy or shiny as the first two games, but it’s still a fantastic game that all fans of RPGs will enjoy.
Overall, 8/10: Join Wain and Seena on a journey that’s epic in scale, despite its home on the Game Boy Color.