Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lufia and the Fortress of Doom (Super NES, 1993)

Time for an old Super Nintendo classic. And judging from this title screen, the first openly gay RPG. Cue up Ace of Base and we'll party like it's 1993! Massive spoilers abound, so read at your own risk.

So... is Doom Island a spacecraft, and the Sinistrals are extraterrestrials? Someone get the producers of Ancient Aliens on the phone.

The game deserves props for not going with the cliched route of Plague/Pestilence/Death/War for its version of the Four Horsemen. Technically, the Sinistrals are Three Horsemen and One Horsewoman.

 Here's the intro in all its glory.

I get ahead of myself a bit. If you're unfamiliar with this game, it involves four heroes challenging four villains on their flying island-spaceship-base, the Fortress of Doom. The villains are the Sinistrals, four extraterrestrial beings. Pretty standard stuff, but well carried-out regardless. This is a game that I played once or twice in the past. Always thought it was a fairly average game, but I like it a bit more now.

The four heroes in the intro are well into their 70's in levels, and have tons of potent items. Too bad this isn't the party you go through the game with. How unique would it be for an RPG to START you at stats like this?

The enemies in the Fortress of Doom give a large amount of experience, and even at their advanced levels the four heroes can build up a bit here if one is so inclined.

The spells in this game have some interesting names. Things like Valor, Champion, and Stronger might sound like buffs. They're actually heals, though. They follow the Dragon Quest trajectory of single and group-target heals of varying strength. I usually go by MP to know how powerful any given heal is, since it's hard to keep track of the spells by their odd names.

One major failing of the battle system in this game is apparent right away. If a character attacks an enemy that is no longer there (and doesn't have any other grouped same-type enemies to move onto), they'll attack an empty space. I thought that sort of thing went out with the original Final Fantasy?

Funny how there are plaques in this endgame dungeon to tell you protips. An endgame dungeon also functioning as the intro dungeon... interesting.

When I play this game, I always walk on this line in the floor as if I've been pulled over for drunk driving.

In any case, the first area of this game is (spoiler alert) the FINAL area of Lufia 2, which is a prequel to this game. But I'll get to that.

Seen here in statue form are the aformentioned god-aliens, the Sinistrals. If one squints closely at the female statue, they might notice more than a passing resemblance to one of the game's characters. Those playing this for the first time, however, would be none the wiser. It'll make sense later.

Maxim and Selan are star-crossed lovers doomed to fall in the process of saving the world. It's a sad tale that makes an impression on you the player right off the bat.

The SUPER AWESOME Guard Daos final battle theme plays as our heroes face off with the bad guys. Seriously, how rad to the max is this tune?

Maxim is the wielder of Dual Blade, a weapon of great power. This awesome intro is making me want to jump ahead to Lufia 2, a superior game that follows the prequel adventure of this group. I'll get to it soon enough, though.

The Sinistrals decide to be polite and attack us one at a time like kung-fu movie villains. Gades, the Raditz of the clique, is first up and somewhat easily dispatched. He's the physical Sinistral, lacking any real magic power.

Next up is Amon, the coolest-looking Sinistral. He's balanced, with a lot of physical AND magical power. He's also much more of a threat than Gades. All of the others are tougher than Gades, really.

Selan dishes out THUNDER.

Next up is the female Sinistral, Erim. She's a caster through and through. None of these fights are particularly challenging for Maxim's overpowered group, as long as you figure out how to heal by the end of the Amon fight.

Their leader is the mysterious Daos, who attacks with pillars of fire.

 He's sorta dressed like Pope Rodrigo Borgia in Assassin's Creed 2. He's the most powerful of the lot, I suppose, and another caster.

Not just fire-element, he also attacks with water. And he really hates this Selan lady for some reason.

Due to the Sinistrals making the bush league, Dragon Warrior mistake of attacking our heroes one at a time, they lose the war.

That tenuous-looking glass bridge, unsurprisingly, ends up shattering after the battles. This leaves Maxim stranded with a wounded Selan.

A somewhat wrenching scene follows as Artea and Guy are forced to abandon their comrades. With the castle exploding and no way to reach Maxim and Selan, they don't have a choice. We barely even know these characters but we still sympathize with their plight. Well done, game.

And that was the end of Maxim and Selan. However, they had children at home, and one of their descendants would take center stage many years later.

The intro might well be the most interesting part of this whole game. It's no wonder that they took this scene and turned it into an entire prequel game with Lufia 2.

I used to wish they'd do something similar with the flash-forwards in Terminator 2. Give us more Future War, Cameron! Salvation was cool but it was only 2018 and didn't have all the lasers and cool terminators like 2029.

Fast forward 90 years. Maxim's descendant is this fearsome lad, Jeros.

One fateful day, he meets this little girl with opposing hair-color. And her name is...

...this. She's pretty much the focal point of this game, though you experience it through Jeros. Sorta like Yuna and Tidus.

Fast-forward nine MORE years, and Jeros is grown up. Which means 99 years have passed since the Doom Island conflict. This will be significant, as this game utilizes the "ancient evil returns every century" trope.

Jeros and Lufia still live together in this town, and they're in love with each other though neither will admit it.

This guy wants to go watch...Yuria. I don't know dude, that seems like something you should do on your own personal time.

Jeros and Lufia enjoy some relaxation in a field of flowers. This seems like it would be a magical way to spend one's time.

Foreshadowing alert! Well, we don't know how many months we are into the 99th year, so perhaps we can round up to 100.

Exposition alert!

At some point Lufia gets angry and storms off. Since Lufia is being such a woman (hold your boos), Jeros offers to partake of her tea and pie.

She has the same reaction I do.

Moments after this picture was taken, Roman LEAPED over the counter and gave Jeros a SUPERMAN PUNCH!

Our heroes are really into this tea and pie thing. Currently, Jeros is enjoying the tea before moving on to the pie.

Later that day. My question is... when do we start fighting some stuff? Or solving puzzles? Or making choices? Or...something. This kind of game really isn't my bag anymore, though it was back in the day. I still like Lufia 2 a lot because it's so puzzle-centric and challenging.

Jeros takes a moment to go to church and confess his sins.

Whoa, an old man. Since this is a Japanese game, it's amazing that he isn't a pervert. Then again, he immediately mentions an inn. He's probably got hidden cameras installed there or something. Get outta here, ya sick 'perv!

I don't know, dude. I have a feeling that someone named "Yuria"...may not be into men.

It's probably just PMS. She's having one of those heavy days.

Here's Estea, who has shockingly normal-colored hair for this game. Great name.

Good thing Jeros isn't the feisty Gazpacho, or he'd rifle through her drawers for undergarments to wear as a hat.

Finally, I reach the overworld and some action... and am immediately thrust into a fight with two breast implants slimes breast implants.

Look at those bad boys. Seriously, I joke about Dragon Quest slimes looking like breast implants, but they've got nothing on these.

What kind of tosser hates rain?

Lufia is flipping out. You gotta eat the pie, Jeros.

Spoiler Alert: She never forgives him.

...until a minute later when she's being a bit...clingy. These two have been dating friends for ten years... Hopefully it wasn't like this the whole time.

Time to hoof it to the next town, now armed with two party members. Jeros is (fittingly) a red mage (or battlemage, for the WRPGers) type character, while Lufia is more of a general caster. She gets both heals and attack spells. Jeros gets heals, buffs, and better physical powers.

We save the king, who was trapped in a jail cell with two women. Since that's the plot of every porn ever, the king is probably pissed that we saved him.

Before long, Jeros encounters the first of the Sinistrals. Yes, the Sinistrals have returned to Earth for the first time since the great battle in the intro. We're diving right into the plot here.

The Sinistrals aren't much for realism in character development. What villain just announces that they're evil?

Gades proceeds to hit Jeros so hard that it creates a momentary rift in time.

What is this strange, portable universe? ...Where am I? Is that Gades?

And we're back to reality. Gades is basically just a total asshole. He's also the Sinistral of Destruction. I think this battle might be possible to win if you're leveled high enough, but you aren't supposed to win it.

With Roman's blessing, the game really begins. Our heroes have to find a way to stop the revived Sinistrals from taking over the world, the same way the four legendary heroes did in the past.

The only problem is that they're like... a couple of kids. YOU go stop the Sinistrals, Roman! Go Superman Punch them or something.

Jeros and Lufia pick up another woman in the next town. I had no idea they were this kinky. I guess the jailed king gave them an idea.

Moments after this picture was taken, Jeros looked around and said "It's great to be here... in Treck" before waiting for a crowd pop that never happened.

Lufia... does not look tough. If she were tough, Dubstep would play when she walks into a room.

Lufia has a good retort for the guy. I notice all of the NPCs have wild hair color too.

The old men of the land are the only ones who seem to know what's up, because they were around during the Doom Island Conflict in the past.

Jeros and Lufia pick up another woman in the next town. Man, this swingers lifestyle is a bit much.

Next we get a scene right out of The Matrix. Who is The One?

The port gets attacked by an army of Murlocs. They bite and thrash while foaming at the mouth. Animal Control had to be brought in.

Also, "One Winged Angel" played the entire time. It was a dark night.

OH. It seems I didn't mention my new party member. That's Aguro, a formidable soldier. With his green hair, the only major hair color we're missing now is yellow.

Our heroes head for the bar, where they get "cider". Meanwhile, Lufia orders a double entendre, and the bartender gives it to her.

It's good to put Lufia in the back row for battles from here on out. Jeros and Aguro are good physical fighters, while Lufia is a spellcaster through and through. Aguro completely lacks spells altogether, so he's pretty much relegated to launching physical attacks every round.

Next up, I get ahold of a boat. Sweet.

People often refer to Lufia as Jeros' "ladyfriend". I guess it's one way to say "girl you have a thing with who isn't your girlfriend".

Instead of getting anything for Lufia, Jeros buys one earring, puts it on, and starts chewing gum really loud. What a punk.

The shops/equipment are pretty standard fare for an RPG of the era, as you can see.

You know what? I'm not going to say anything.

Stuffed Dog? Chinese people everywhere are licking their lips.

This concludes my quick synopsis of Lufia's early-game. But I'm not done yet. I'm going to cover not just the rest of this game, but ALL FOUR games in the series. Stay tuned.

More Lufia 1 Posts

Other Lufia Series Posts


  1. Back in the day every RPG seemed to have their own unique spells names. Phantasy Star's always gave me trouble.

    "One major failing of the battle system in this game is apparent right away. If a character attacks an enemy that is no longer there (and doesn't have any other grouped same-type enemies to move onto), they'll attack an empty space. I thought that sort of thing went out with the original Final Fantasy?" - It hadn't completely gone away yet at this time, though Lufia is probably one of the last games to do this. Interesting side note, I recently watched two youtube reviews of this game by younger folk who point this out and they both considered it a "feature" that "adds to the strategy of battles and prevents mindless button pressing." Back in 1993 everyone playing just considered it a programming holdover from the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games and we were all relieved when it was gone. Strange how the passage of time can alter perceptions of things.

    Pressing "X" to see what the spell can do also helps you to learn what the unique spell names do.

    I have to admit I totally didn't see that Superman Punch coming!

    There is absolutely no way to beat Gades here in Lufia 1, there's no strategy on the planet that can do it. Game Genie invincibility MIGHT make it possible to beat him but there's nothing coded for a victory like in Lufia 2 so the end of the battle would just be as if you lost.

    Out of time here, I'll return for the rest of the post later!

  2. If you trimmed up the story bits in this game people wouldn't care about it very much today. Having so much of it was exceptional in 1993. Putting aside preferences for or against that sort of thing, I think that game earns a pass in the beginning here considering it starts with a small dungeon and multiple bosses. There's not really that "I wanna fight things" rush since the game gave you plenty of that in the intro.

    If he said "It's great to be here in Treck" while they were in Chatam, he was lucky the crowd didn't eat him alive like R Truth.


    1. That's true about the dungeon at the beginning. Starting out with a wave of action before the requisite "first town chill-fest" is a lot better than just starting the game with lots of non-action. Dragon Quest VII was probably the worst at this, giving us around two hours of wandering around and talking before the first battle.

      I missed out on reporting on Guy in this series. It's a big regret.

  3. The younger people thinking an ineffective attack adds strategy rather than shows bad programming is FASCINATING. I want to hear more revisionism like this!
    I love this long hallway walk at the beginning. The statue thing is so brilliant...also a reason you shouldn't play this game with friends your first time through, speaking from experience.
    Whooa you brought out a Mario Paint tune! Nice! This is a great intro, and the colors of this game are really popping off the screen.
    I always thought Amon was the coolest-looking, too. Really they all have great designs. And HUGE ones, way bigger than Dragon Quest's.
    An ultraboss where you had to fight all the Sinistrals at once would have been totally rad. And hard.
    The intro really is the best. Of course, the whole game is good, too.
    These flowers are mesmerizing. So much brilliant color they're hitting my eyes.
    I remember these townspeople now. They're very well-introduced.
    The tea and pie thing is really unique. ...jokes aside.
    You're already antsy?!
    THIS is where the Estea name comes from?! I totally forgot!
    The king's imprisonment.....ahhhhahahahahaha!
    I forgot how early this is! And I love how hard he hits you. WHAM. You're lucky you didn't die.
    You rolled right through Aguro and Guy. You're a man on a mission!

    1. I had to bring out a Mario Paint version of that one tune simply because I couldn't find the real version. And then when I did find the real version I went... heck, this Paint version is really cool, leave it in.

      I like the huge Sinistral designs. One of the very few things I dislike about Lufia 2 is how tiny a lot of the bosses are. That wasn't the case in the first game. It carries over into III and Ruins of Lore, too. Especially RoL, which has large bosses. They're all tiny, unimposing sprites. It sucks.

      I kinda regret rolling through Aguro and Guy. I lacked screenshots of those parts from the first run, and I didn't go that far in my early-game playing this time around.

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