Lufia and the Fortress of Doom
Box Shot
Lufia and the Fortress of Doom
Platform: Super Nintendo
Publisher: Natsume
Designer: Natsume
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Published Date 1994
Reviewed by: Rupto-pack

I've never much liked RPGs with cartoony big-head characters, but after about an hour of play, Lufia and the Fortress of Doom drew me in and kept me playing to the end. There was an interesting and mysterious bond between the red-haired hero and Lufia, his female companion.

As the game opens, you have control of a band of four great warriors who have entered an island floating in the sky; the Fortress of Doom. It's occupied by four tyrannical wizards called the Sinistrals who must be defeated in order to free the oppressed populace below. Our warriors are armed to the teeth with various items and magic spells, and it's confusing at first to figure out what they all do. It doesn't take long to beat the Sinistrals, and as a result the island falls and sinks into the sea. Now the story jumps ahead 100 years to the young hero, a descendant of Maxim (one of the original warriors,) and his new friend Lufia, a little girl who has wandered into town and has no memory of her parents or home. They grow closer over the years until monsters invade a nearby town and our hero (who you can give a name) sets out to investigate. When rumors circulate that the Sinistrals are being resurrected, Lufia joins the young warrior on his journey to discover the truth. Eventually they pick up two more travelers. Aguro is a strong knight from a local army who can't use magic, and Jerin is an Elfin girl who wields magic as well as a bow that can hit multiple enemies at once.

While traveling the colorful but blocky and simplistic countryside, you're occasionally thrown into battle mode. Your characters appear at the bottom of the screen with five command icons, and the monsters appear at the top. Attacks go in turns, and you have to plan your moves carefully because once an enemy is dead, any further attacks that had been directed against it will hit empty air. This basically amounts to a wasted turn and can mean life or death for somebody if it happens at a bad time. Each character's five commands are attack, use magic, use item, defend, or flee. The magic spells are strong and useful but not very exciting to see, and the sometimes goofy-looking monsters aren't really animated at all. It makes me wonder if the game was intended for younger players, since the enemies have names like "Huge Bunny" and "Frogula," and the adventure in general is pretty straightforward and simple. You can never get to the next town until you fix a bridge, find a boat, explore a tower, get a key, or whatever. And each town is one step closer to your goal of locating the Sinistrals and stopping them from recapturing your world. Leveling up happens easily and often, and monsters carry plenty of money. Halfway through the game it won't matter if an inn asks for 10 gold or 200. It will hardly make a dent in your purse. You'll rarely need to buy items either, since caves are packed with treasure chests. More than once I bought the latest weapons and armor, and then found it all for free in a nearby cave. The bosses aren't very difficult and if you're completely defeated, you're returned with half your total money to the last town where you saved. The music was usually light and forgettable, and the sound effects were also rather plain. Enemies were eventually recycled; their name, HP, and color being the only changes. Townspeople were re-used too. It seems like every armor shop was run by a blond guy in a green shirt and sunglasses. But all the way to the end, which took me about 39 hours, the story was good, or at least good enough to keep me playing. Sometimes amusing, sometimes sentimental, the story was always the heart of the game and the reason to work toward the end. After all, you've got to solve that mystery: who is Lufia really?