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Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals

( Yes, I have finally beaten this game, and I have finally spoiled it big time for anybody brazen enough to click this link/read this blog.) Why "finally?" I bought it back when it came October of last year. I would have spent a lot more time with it, but I thought that my DS had died some time ago, kinda fucking things up for me. It's a shame, too, because Lufia II was one of the first games I blogged about on this site. Don't read that blog. It sucks. Instead, read this one, which is actually pretty good. Probably. I could say the same about the game, only without the "probably" part.
Wait, did I say that this game was a remake of Lufia II? Oh, I didn't? Well, then that explains why the story doesn't follow the original Lufia that well. Remember how Lufia II began with the Sinistrals just chatting about destroying the world? And then one of them just cryptically told Maxim about this huge quest he needed to do? Curse of the Sinistrals opts to have Gades (Gah-dis, not Gay Ds (there's a lot of pronunciation bullshit to be found in this game)) dress up as Ganondorf and just yell to the world that he's gonna destroy the shit out of it. Hearing this, professional hero Maxim gets Doc Brown to drive him straight to Gades' lair, thinking that the game is about thirty minutes long. When it turns out that it isn't (he should've sensed that something was off when Gades turned into a robot for no reason), Iris decides to get more involved in the plot by following Maxim on his journey to kill the Sinistrals, instead of just enigmatically giving advice to the player at random points in the game (she had a good reason). This pisses of Tia, Maxim's childhood buddy/potential love interest, to the point of nearly choking her those things I said. Oh, and the president of Parcelyte looks like the bastard child of Brock Sampson and Hoss Delgado. This isn't exactly the most faithful game, is it? Actually, give it time, and it adheres pretty damn well to the original Lufia II. it gets all the major details right, like the three towers at the end or the marriage thing, but it also gets many of the extremely minor details right, too. OK, so you didn't meet the doctor until the middle-ish of the game, but Curse of the Sinistrals does include the environmentalist elf subplot. Bet you didn't remember that, but they did. They also remembered shit like putting the flower girl to sleep, that tank fight at the bottom of Gratze Castle, and the two thieves so reminiscent of Team Rocket that after their little entrance speech (not this, even though it might as well be), I always expect Meowth to pop out and highlight the correctness of their greeting.
  Even in Japanese, Doc Brown won't put up with your bullshit. You know he's just doing this until Back to the Future IV starts production.
 Even in Japanese, Doc Brown won't put up with your bullshit. You know he's just doing this until Back to the Future IV starts production.
Wait, I don't remember that part. Granted, they were bumbling fuck-ups, but I don't remember them ever stealing Pikachu or whatever. Then again, turning Betty and Berty into Jesse and James does play out pretty well. Now that I think about it, most of the changes Curse of the Sinistrals makes to the original game are just there to refine the hell out of it. You get a better feel for the world of Estpolis, learning all the useless mythology about this temple or these gods. Speaking of which, the game takes a very formulaic approach to each of the Sinistrals: first, you spend about the first half of the game fighting Gades, then comes Amon for a bit, then Daos, and that's pretty much it. Why does Gades get an entire movie's worth of screen time, but the huge Erim plot twist only comes up in the last twenty minutes? Granted, all the Sinistrals get some pretty cool development, but at least the timing was a bit more balanced in the original. Now that I think about it, the story goes in a few weird directions near the end. First, an elf sings a terrifying song that's meant to calm the world as a major plot point. Don't think it's scary? TubeDubber refuses to get it to play properly, because its proper form is the closest physical approximation of Cthulhu. Things remain relatively similar to the original from here, save the "Iris gets more character development while Artea ignores a plot hole the size of a black hole" part, but after you beat the final boss during your bathroom break, things get a bit weird. First off, Selan doesn't just plain die, but joins Maxim on his quest to die. Again, weird, but they make up for it with the always awesome "souls floating around for eternity" ending. Then the credits end, and...what the fuck? I don't understand any of this. It didn't really make sense when The Granstream Saga did it, and introducing a new character out of nowhere doesn't fix this.
I should probably explain that since this game is a reimagining of the original Lufia II, it's somewhat expected that you've played the original. If that's the case, then you'll probably wonder what the fuck this action RPG bullshit is. Didn't the original game run on a turn based thing? Well, it's gone, now, and we have real time action in its place. You just whack enemies about until they're dead. There are also some special abilities and magic, but I never found any need for them outside the Ancient Cave part, where you're sent down to level 1. So it's pretty much just hitting enemies to death. You also get a choice of character, and Lufia does a good job of making them all distinct. Maxim slashes with his sword, Tia can punch things from a mile away with her magic murder bag, Selan can rack up the damage with her death Frisbee, Guy's a tank, Artea can use his elfin powers to shoot people, and Dekar is kinda useless. He's just the one character you have around when the ones you need to solve a certain puzzle are dead (more on that later). Even the game realizes that he's completely useless, since he just disappears for most of the end-game. Speaking of useless, you really only need to pick one character, combat-wise. They all get the job done well enough, save for a few enemies that won't fall to a fire-based weapon, or some shit. So why even bother having multiple characters in the first place?
  I should probably mention the Mystic Board system. It's a thing. It does stuff. Moving on...
 I should probably mention the Mystic Board system. It's a thing. It does stuff. Moving on...
Oh, right, I remember now: their cool personalities. Wait, not really. OK, Tia's maturation over the game is pretty cool, as is Selan's lack of dependence on others, but neither of those are reasons to have all these characters. Neither is "because this is a remake of an already existing game", even though it totally is. No, the real reason that you have multiple characters is for puzzles. Remember how the original Lufia II had you juggling bombs and hookshots in dungeons reminiscent of Zelda, if it had gone through puberty (this was a pre-Ocarina of Time world, mind you)? No more of that, because each character holds a piece to solve a given puzzle. Guy can hit switches in that one dungeon, Artea can float (because elves can do that, apparently), Tia can grab things with her magic murder bag, and Selan can pretty much preview the entire level for you. "But if one of them dies, you're screwed, right?", you ask while I'm writing this blog. Shut up. It's not the end. First, you can revive characters, you dumbass. Second, Dekar's around to equip whatever weapon needs equipping. Third, the minor glitches and work-arounds you can find in certain levels. I know that this sounds like bad game design, but I really loved finding little loopholes in the physics and level design that let me get to certain areas that would previously require solving a bunch of puzzles. Hell, these probably could be parts of the puzzles, given how challenging some of them can be. They're not as hard as the puzzles in the original Lufia were, but they can still have you sucking GameFAQs dicks until somebody gives you a hint. You aren't convinced? How? I kinda had to fuck around with physics to get around some of these puzzles. What else do you need?
You know, I probably should have mentioned the boss battles by now, because they are pretty damn awesome. Ignore my previous rage about the Sinistrals turning into robots for no reason, since these lend to awesome boss battles. These fights can't be contained on a mere two screens; fights these epic need both screens ALL THE TIME. It's not just the Sinistrals, either (although you'll definitely fight these badasses); you'll also fight a huge Metal Gear Solid tank, a crazy priest, a crazy priest, again, and a bunch of other guys. And by "fight" I mean "get your ass kicked." The patterns are easy to figure out, but DO NOT screw them up. Should that happen, the boss will unleash all hell upon you. There were times when I thought you were supposed to lose the battle on purpose, but since I've only seen that happen once (and even then, it may have been a timing thing), I'm just going to label the bosses unforgiving. I'm not going to hold that against the game, though, since you feel especially awesome after having beaten them, and not just frustrated with the whole experience. I don't even have to link that. I'll have to link my only criticism of the boss battles, though: the music. It's not bad, just nowhere near as good. Listen to the original summon the drunken fury of [ adult swim]'s best drummers, and then compare it to this. It's like somebody ran it through a Casio Castrater. If you can look past that, though (and you should, given the long list of reasons I gave you to do so), you're gonna get a pretty cool remake of an awesome RPG from long ago. I'd give it the Silver Star Harmony Award, but since I haven't played that game, I'll just settle for the Shatter Memories Award. Wait...

Review Synopsis

  • It's a remake; what the hell do you expect? That's right: a much more refined story.
  • The highlight of the fighting parts is the boss battles.
  • The highlight of the puzzling parts is pretty much everything.
I don't know which of these reactions I should use. On the one hand, this is my overall reaction to the video, but then there's my initial reaction to it. They both get the idea across, but I can't decide on one.

The Legend of Zelda

( How did I not get to this before?) Wait, I did. Twice, to my memory. First time was with that GBA rerelease, then came the NES original. Now, I'm doing it for the Famicom Disk System, which is pretty much the NES with better sound and this weird quirk where you have to flip the disc, for whatever reason. Normally, I'd use this space to talk about the game and not how I played it, but everybody knows what the hell the first Zelda's like.
I don't even have to go into detail about the main story, do I? Ganon captures Zelda, splits one of the two Triforces (no Courage until the next game), and Link is tasked with rescuing her. However, there are quite a few things that nobody really talks about in the story. For example, EVERYBODY IN THIS GAME YELLS. You'll probably respond to that with the claim that programming lowercase fonts was hard in 1987, but keep in mind that I was playing the Famicom Disk System release. The Japanese one. Why do I say this? Because everything's written in katakana. For those who don't know what katakana is, IT IS HOW JAPANESE PEOPLE YELL AT EACH OTHER. I can't imagine that hiragana is hard to program, even by NES standards. Speaking of Japanese, this game is essentially an 8-bit demake of Fragile Dreams. Hear me out. I kept wondering to myself where the actual kingdom of Hyrule was, because it's not anywhere in the game. It was then that I realized that Hyrule was destroyed long ago, leaving only a shadow of human civilization (there are graveyards and dungeons; clearly, this isn't too long after the incident). You take the role of the hero, searching for a woman in hopes of confirming that he is not alone, and trying to bring down the threat that promises to destroy said hopes. I know that this may be hard to accept, but is the old guy at the beginning really all that different from this?
  Demonstrated: Zelda's
 Demonstrated: Zelda's "point at things to kill them" system.
Hell, both games open with the protagonists getting wooden swords. The only difference seems to be in how much shit each character gets; while Seto's limited to swords, crossbows, sticks, hammers, trading cards, and a bunch of other things, Link gets a lot more. OK, so Seto could upgrade his sword, too, but could he blow shit up? What about lighting things on fire? Link can do all of this and more. Not that he needs to do any of it, though; a lot of the power-ups you get are pretty useless in combat. In fact, I never really found any use for weapons like the arrows or the magic, since none of the enemies can be stabbed or lit on fire. Compare this to the bomb: I can just lay two bombs in front of most bosses and watch them die instantly. No need to fuck around with a sword that shoots magic bullets or anything; just throw a couple of firecrackers at them, get the Triforce piece, and move onto the next level. Actually, now that I think about it, the bombs are probably the most important item in the game. Think about it: you kill most of the bosses with them, use them to open up new paths, uncover all five hearts in the overworld, and a helluva a lot more. Wait, no, that's pretty much all there is to bombing, but trust me when I say that this makes up an incredibly huge portion of the game.
And I know exactly why: because it's not a well designed game. Anybody who's played this game should have seen this coming. If I remember correctly, the manual tells you how to get to the first dungeon, mainly because there aren't any obvious hints as to where it is. Unfortunately, it ends there, so once you finish the first dungeon, you're kinda fucked. (I'd say "until you get the warp flute", but good luck making it that far on your own!) The only reason I can think of for designing this game, besides Miyamoto not knowing any better, is to make the game longer. I was able to finish it in a day, and I was using an overworld map that did what Zelda could not. To make things worse, enemies don't drop a lot of hearts or money (for a long time, I thought that it was impossible for them to drop that shit in dungeons), so you're going to die quite a bit, even when you're grinding for those two things. You know, like when you restart with three health. What the shit? Speaking of shit, if I'm complaining about this game so damn much, why do I like it a bit? Simply put: the dungeons. This is what Zelda's all about: making your way through dungeons, collecting power-ups, and all that other crap. It's much more manageable than exploring the overworld, since you have things like maps and automaps. Sure, it doesn't have the cool puzzle solving elements that later Zeldas have, but you know what it does have? Buyable keys, because every door in the world uses the exact same key. Why'd later Zeldas get rid of this feature? It's awesome! I'm giving the first game the Kingdom Hearts Award for Excellence in Keys, and the rest of the games in the series a stern look.

Review Synopsis

  • Oh god.... OH GOD!!!!
  • Tons of cool weapons and stuff that you'll very rarely use.
  • The dungeons are a lot of fun to navigate; exploring the overworld is vague and almost demands strict adherence to a FAQ.