Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals was one of the last RPGs released for the Super NES. Although Taito was unable to self-publish Lufia 2, Natsume jumped at the chance to become the new US publisher for the Lufia series.
Lufia 2 is actually a prequel to the first Lufia game; the story of Lufia 2 takes place 100 years before the first game. The hero is Maxim, the ancestor of the first game's hero. At the beginning, Maxim is a resident of Elcid, a town on a small, remote southern peninsula on a large continent. Whereas most people in Elcid have normal jobs, Maxim is a professional monster hunter. When he is not busy fighting jellies, Maxim spends time with his friend Tia. Although Maxim only thinks of her as a friend, Tia, through subtle comments, has been trying to convince Maxim to become her fiance.
Maxim's adventure begins when he learns that monsters have locked the exit to the cave leading to Sundletan, a town north of Elcid. Since Maxim is the only fighter in Elcid, he volunteers to retrieve the key from the monsters. After he successfully re-opens the path, he finds another challenge awaiting him in Sundletan. This new task ultimately leads to another, and Maxim's quest quickly escalates from simple monster hunting to protecting the world from the onslaught of the Sinistrals.
Like its predecessor, Lufia 2 uses a turn based battle system with rounds. All of your characters and most enemies take one turn per round, but some powerful enemies will attack two or three times per round. Faster characters carry out their turns first. Enemy encounters are random on the world map, but in dungeons, enemies are visible. In a dungeon, a battle occurs when an enemy character is next to Maxim. Battles with normal monsters are fairly hard, and there are even some regular enemies that can kill off your entire team if you are careless or if you underestimate them. Lufia 2 was designed so that individual fights are hard, but survival in dungeons is easy because healing items and abilities, as well as save points and healing stations, are plentiful. Boss enemies are very powerful, and battle strategy plays a big part in defeating them. The concept of elemental damage is very important in Lufia 2.
Weapons and magic attacks deal damage of elements including fire, ice, water, wind, electricity, holy, and dark. The amount of damage dealt by attack is greatly influenced by the target's resistence or lack thereof to the type of attack. For example, a skeleton is weak to fire and strong against water. If a fire attack hit the skeleton for 250 points of damage, a water attack of the same strength may only do 30. In addition to normal attacks and spells, characters also have IP attacks. Some weapons, armors, and accessories have special moves called IP attacks associated with them. IP attacks can be used to hit all the enemies, attack for 3x normal damage, perform attacks that are especially effective against specific types of monsters (eg. insects, undead, "strong" monsters), increase allies' stats, or heal your party. Characters gain the IP needed to perform IP attacks when they take damage. Each IP attack uses a different amount of IP, and all IP is lost when a character dies.
Puzzles are a very big part of Lufia 2. Each dungeon contains several puzzles. Some puzzles must be solved in order to complete the dungeon and open new rooms leading to the goal, but there are also a few puzzles which are optional and yield special items and armaments to those who solve them. Some of the puzzles are simple in design, such as hitting switches and levers, luring enemies to step on switches, and killing certain monsters, but there are also several very original and clever puzzles in Lufia 2. The puzzles are all very simple early in the game, but in later dungeons, some of the puzzles are very difficult.
The player's team of heroes changes at several points during the game, and the team has a maximum size of four. Maxim, the main character of Lufia 2, is always a member. Maxim has high HP, attack and defense, and he can use many spells, but there are a few attack spells that Maxim cannot use, and he has fewer MP than other magic-wielding allies. Maxim's friend Tia has high MP and she can use more spells than Maxim, however she has low defense and only fair attack strength. Guy, a fighter from Tanbel, has more HP and defense than Maxim, and about the same attack strength, but he has no MP and cannot learn spells. Dekar, a soldier, also has no spells or MP, but he has by far the most HP and highest attack of any of the heroes. Dekar's defense and speed are lower than Guy's. Selan, commander of the Parcelyte army, is a very versatile character. She can use both swords and mage staffs, she has high speed and MP, and she can use nearly all the spells in the game. Selan's attack strength and defense are not as high as Maxim's, but she can still function as a fighting ally as well as a magic user. Finally, Artea the elf has many powerful attack spells and average attack and defense, and is the only person who can use a bow as a weapon.
In addition to the playable characters, the player can be aided in battle by a capsule monster. Capsule monsters are computer controlled NPCs. Capsule monsters must be found in their hiding places, usually dungeons or hidden places on the world map. There are 7 capsule monsters: one for each element plus one with no element. Only one capsule monster can be used at a time, and the active monster can be selected on the menu screen. Capsule monsters gain experience and advance in level just as the heroes do. Capsule monsters also gain power and new abilities by evolving. Evolving a capsule monster is accomplished by feeding it. Feeding the right items to capsule monsters will increase their growth meter by a certain amount depending on the item. Monster fruits work best, but weapons and armors also work well (the stronger, the better). When the monster's growth meter is full, it will evolve into its next stage. Each monster has 5 different forms.
Lufia 2 is a little better than Lufia 1 in terms of graphics. As before, Lufia 2 uses 2-D block based movement. Sprites used for people and monsters are a little smaller than those in Lufia 1, but they are more detailed and lifelike than those used in Lufia 1. Normal enemies feature improved detail, but most enemies aren't as colorful as other monsters in Super NES games. Also, bosses are not as large and imposing as they were in Lufia 1. Cities were done well, as they look much like real towns with details such as household appliances and flowers. On the whole, Lufia 2 looked pretty good for a 2-D game on a 16-Bit system, but its graphics are rivaled by many other Super NES RPGs.
The music for Lufia 2 is decent, but some of the songs aren't as captivating as those in other RPGs. A remixed version of the great song used for Doom Island in Lufia 1 is used in Lufia 2. The battle victory and boss music are my other favorites from this game. Most other tunes are fitting to the atmosphere of the situation, but I didn't find them as addictive as some other RPG's music I have heard before.
Natsume translated the story of Lufia 2 quite well, but they made a few careless spelling mistakes in a few places. Perhaps the most notable spelling mistake was 'Gorem' instead of 'Golem'.
All in all, Lufia 2 is an enjoyable game, and a nice classic 2-D RPG. Fans of Lufia 1 would be the people who would enjoy Lufia 2 the most. Although Lufia 2 is technically a prequel, the story is best experienced by playing Lufia 1 first and Lufia 2 second. Lufia 1 left several mysteries unsolved; Lufia 2 reveals the answers.