This sticky thread is a communal area for posting about retro games recently beaten by HRG members. The point isn't to encourage a tallied challenge between members, but rather for members to offer their opinions concerning retro games they've recently completed. Please share your related experiences and conclusive thoughts here.
Post by dunpeal2064 on Dec 29, 2017 6:17:25 GMT -5
I suppose I'll kick this off, since I just finished a game last night.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
The Lufia series is one that I've always had in my peripherals. Lufia 2, in particular, always seemed to sort of game that you'd hear one or two voices shouting for amidst the hundreds screaming for Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, or Earthbound. Having never played it, my thoughts were "This must be decent, but likely sits outside the top tier of SNES RPGs". Lufia was the first game released by Never-Land, a company that would end up releasing a few even-more-obscure RPGs for the SNES (Chaos Seed and Energy Breaker), along with Record of Lodoss War on the DC, and the Rune Factory series. I've read that Never-Land was initially developing a game very similar to this for the PC98, but it was either cancelled, or Never-Land pulled out and decided to re-use some assets on what appeared to be the new RPG powerhouse, the SNES. As of Lufia II's launch, the company had released only it, Lufia I, and Hat Trick Hero 2 (A soccer game), so they were quite the fledgling studio at the time.
In case it seems odd: Yes, my first experience with Lufia was with Lufia II. That is because Lufia II is actually a prequel to the first game. Now, while many games are linked through various means, and it often doesn't dictate the order those games should be played in, the Lufia games are very directly linked. The start of Lufia and the end of Lufia II are the same, and thus playing the first game first would actually spoil the ending to this game. On top of that, Lufia II seemed to be held in much higher regard, so I figured I may as well jump in at the best point available.
The first thing that always stood out to me in Lufia II was its graphical style. Its... odd. Its certainly of a higher quality than the first Lufia, and many early SNES efforts. That said, it also feels like it falls short of its piers at its time of release (1996 in NA). Its really colorful, and lacks nuances tones often found in games around this time. Its sprites are big and chunky, with simple character design and no facial animation to speak of. It always came off as a simple design, and it is, but... as I spent more time with the game, I fell for this style more and more. It became apparent to me that this was a design choice, and not a lack of ability, as the game eventually begins to show some truly beautiful work. Some of the latter boss sprites and magic spells can trade blows with even the heavy hitters of the SNES. The game's story, ironically, follows an almost identical arc. It starts off very traditional, with many cliche "Help this town" quests that happen to introduce you to party members. While admittedly the game takes just a bit long to get there, the story does come into its own, with a few rather impactful moments. As others had recommended to me, I would highly suggest to play this game before the first if possible, as the game wraps up in quite a special way, and it certainly left a mark on me.
The player explores the world in a similarly-familiar way, traversing a world map to go from town to town, eventually upgrading to vehicular movement to cover more ground. Yet again, the game goes a step further than it may initially appear, and on top of providing air travel, eventually even lets the player explore under water! This opens things up quite a bit, not only letting the player access more of the map, but providing access to even more hidden areas. As someone who was introduced to the genre via FFVII, this brought a huge smile to my face.
Where Lufia II is more of a grower when it comes to graphics and story, quite the opposite can be said about its gameplay elements. Lufia II does quite a lot to set itself apart from its peers here, to the extent that its almost silly. Combat itself is familiar, a simple turn-based system with no active time meters or anything. You control each character, and are able to attack, cast spells, defend, or run from battle. To add to this, each character also has an IP Meter, which functions similarly to later Final Fantasy's "Limit Break" meters, where the meter fills the more you take damage. Each piece of equipment your characters is using can have an IP Ability on it, and you can use some of your IP Meter to use those abilities in battle. This not only mixes up traditional combat, but makes judging equipment upgrades far more interesting than usual, as there are a wide variety of IP Abilities available. Lufia II also strays away from random battles (except for the world map), and instead uses on-screen sprites to represent encounters, similar to Earthbound. However, unlike Earthbound, Lufia actually allows the player to interact with monsters by stunning them, or trapping them in areas to avoid battles. You won't be insta-killing foes here, but being able to actually avoid enemies is great, and lets the player tackle the game at their own pace.
Interacting with sprites isn't the only thing you'll be doing out of combat, either. Lufia II's dungeons are also chalk full of Zelda-esk puzzles. As you traverse the world of Lufia, you'll unlock different accessories that you can use outside of combat, such as Arrows, Bombs, and a Hookshot (These are also how you stun enemies). The puzzles, accordingly, will become increasingly demanding as well, involving lots of block-pushing, switch-hitting, hook-shotting, etc. The game is not shy about its puzzles, it is a feature focus here, and often times are surprisingly clever. Things can get a little ridiculous at times though, none more present than what the game itself dubs "The Most Difficult Trick in the World", an optional puzzle that is obscenely tough. Someone had a computer generate the most optimal solution here, and the puzzle still takes a whopping 116 moves to complete.
Lufia II isn't done setting itself apart yet, though! On top of having up to 4 player characters on your team at a time, you will also find Capsule Monsters thoughout your journey, which will take a spot as a 5th party member, though they act on their own rather than being player-controlled. There are 7 total, and on top of leveling up with your team, they can also be fed to increase their "Change" meter, which, once full, will cause them to evolve. Each Capsule Monster has forms I-IV that can be obtained by feeding, and a final "Master Form" that must be obtained via a special item. Not only does each monster have its own stats and moveset, but each evolution does as well, and you can freely select between forms to suit different scenarios. While an interesting aside, it is rarely useful, as higher evolutions tend to have higher stats, and once you are in Master, you can't freely switch back without feeding another special item. Each monster has different behaviors too, meaning some will run from battle more quickly, or use specials more often. Its not a hugely complex system, but I think that benefits the game, as it is something fun and enjoyable to do during your journey without distracting. It also makes grinding more beneficial, since fully evolving these monsters can be quite costly, and if you are switching between monsters, you'll need to level each of the 7 separately.
Lufia II still isn't done making its mark, as outside of its general mechanics, it goes above and beyond in other areas too. The game has a sort of pseudo "New Game+" mode, here named "Retry". This is essentially just a new game, but with a 4x modifier applied to both Exp and Gold received. This puts the game at a nice middle ground between just playing again at normal difficulty, and most NG+'s "completely OP" difficulty. The game also has Dragon Eggs hidden about its world, and collecting 8 of them means the Dragon will grant you a wish. These are pretty great wishes too, greatly boosting the team. Once completed, the Dragon will scatter the eggs, so you can find them again. Do this enough times, and you can challenge the Dragon itself, which presents here as the game's "Super Boss". Interestingly, the player is never forced to either find these Eggs, or traverse to the island where the Dragon is, so this is a through-and-through side quest chain.
Probably the most well-known side quest in the game, though, is the Ancient Cave. A little over half way through the game, the player can visit an optional town residing near this cave. The Ancient Cave is a 99 floor, procedurally-generated rogue-like dungeon, in which the party looses all gear, levels, items, etc, and must progress and find everything within the Cave itself. Not only are the floor and enemy layouts random, but the items, gear, and spells you find are too. To give some purpose to this, the player has a chance to find Blue Chests, which will contain items that the player can take outside of the dungeon (Everything else stays when the player leaves). On top of already being awesome for just including such a wonderful side quest, Never-Land went the extra mile and made it so that, if you clear the game in Retry mode, your file will be given a 2nd star, and you can now access "Gift" mode, which lets you pick any party/monster loadout and tackle the Ancient Cave without having to play up to the point in the game where you'd meet or have those characters. You can even make cannonically-impossible loadouts here. It is a truly wonderful addition to an already very fleshed out game, and I can honestly see myself coming back and clearing in "Retry" just to have quick access to this mode. There is even a small speedrun community for this mode. Yes, not the entire game (Though that exists too), but just this one side dungeon of the game has a community that have been playing and working on optimizing loadouts and playing to RNGsus for years.
As surprising as the absolute wealth of content that Lufia II provides, what surprises me even more is that the game never has a "Everything but the kitchen sink" feel. Its never overwhelming, and honestly feels more accessible than RPGs with even less content. The game is balanced, from the difficulty curve of its fights and puzzles, to what it reveals to the player, and how much it lets them explore. This isn't a "2 hour intro tutorial" game. It is snappy, well-paced, and... intentional. Everything here feels intentional. Well, almost everything. The NA release does have a few bugs, most notably in a few zone names being mucked up (a town called Gantze ends up reading 3ye when entered), and one small area having its background sprites completely jacked, to the point where you might think the game cart was kicked mid-play. Those minor things aside, though, Lufia II far and away surpassed my expectations. Its a turn-based RPG with Zelda puzzles, no random battles, Pokemon, Dragon Balls, Limit Breaks, NG+, and a side dungeon so cool it could be its own game. That sentence is ridiculous!
I fully enjoyed my time with Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, and give it the highest of recommendations.
I fully enjoyed my time with Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, and give it the highest of recommendations.
I fully enjoyed your excellent lengthy review, thanks! I agree with most of it too. I first played through Lufia II myself back in 2008. I'm referencing slightly dusty memories here, but to add some feedback:
What I liked about Lufia II
Charming presentation Excellent music Wickedly great dungeons Fantastic puzzles Nice battle system Great boss battles
What I didn't like about Lufia II
Boring towns (that kinda always look the same) OST could have used more variety Kinda boring plot The game is full of glitches (some are game breaking)
Overall I'd personally give Lufia II an 8/10. I certainly consider it a classic JRPG for SNES.
Lufia II is my favorite 'hidden gem' game. It's the game that I don't think many people know about it and I wish they did because it is so wonderful.
I saw a list of the best or favorite Non-SquareEnix JRPG's and for me, it's between Lufia II and Suikoden II. Lufia II takes so many good ideas from other games and makes it all work. It was one of my favorite SNES experiences and I can't wait to go back and try that 100 Level tower!
Overall my favorite thing about Lufia II are its puzzles. That game did puzzles RIGHT. So much variety in their construction and implementation. A far cry from most action-RPGs that just use push buttons or levers to move blocks.
This could very well be a nostalgia rating, but I've always loved Cadash. It captured my imagination when I saw it in the arcades, and even though it's pretty simple overall, I still find it quite fun. I've beaten the Genesis and arcade versions, so this time, I put the Turbo EverDrive through its paces.
To keep this short, the game is a little bit of Rastan, with actual RPG elements. Unlike the arcade game, you don't have a timer here, so you can grind if necessary. Unlike the Genesis version, you can use all the classes, too; the Ninja and Priest actually made it in. Good thing, too, because the Priest might just be the best character in the game. She has a spell that lets her tank quite a few hits, and a life restorative to boot. Of course, if you're using the barrier, you'll probably never touch the life spell beyond a certain point. She's that good.
The graphics are pretty decent, surviving decently from the arcade. The localization is translated a bit better, but the last boss is... weird. Having this lord of darkness saying he's fleeing to fight another day, and "c'ya!" is just strange. Even stranger is him referring to the teachings of Carl Sagan about how the strong survive? What? So out of place. This is the only version that has that line, too.
Lufia II sounds like I’d have a hard time getting into it. I’m super standoffish toward JRPG’s with turn based combat. I gave up on Lunar for the Sega CD for that very reason. The puzzles sound like they’d be an extra moodkiller. I used to play stuff like that when I was younger, like Golden Sun, but for some reason I don’t have the patience for it now. I couldn’t even really enjoy the likes of Zelda: Link to the Past.
As for my most recent retro gaming conquest, that would be Alisia Dragoon for the Sega Genesis. It’s a platformer set in a swords and sorcery world. You play as a girl who can shoot lightning out of her hands like Emperor Palpatine. She also has one of four mythical animals following her around (a dragon, a lizard, a phoenix, and something like that pissed-off sun from Super Mario 3).
When I first got it in 2015 I kept getting destroyed. However the graphics and sound were both really nice. I could tell it was made by competent people. So, 2 years later I gave it another shot. The first thing I learned I was doing wrong in my first playthrough was failing to explore the stages thoroughly enough. Both you and your dragon start off very weak, with short health bars and no extra lives. You have to search hidden areas in the stages to power up. It reminded me the secret areas in Doom, except in 2D and you probably won’t beat the game unless you find enough of them.
The second thing was kind of bullshit, which is just memorizing the stages. Crap jumps out at you with no warning at all. There’s a cave level where stalagtites come crashing down on you with no warning, visual or audio cue, or anything. There’s also a mountain level where moles burrow up around your ankles and nibble away at your health bar. The only way to avoid them is to know in advance that they’re waiting for you. Stuff like this just gets worse deeper into the game.
There’s probably a reason that people still talk about Super Mario World and not Alisia Dragoon, but I’m still glad I played it. I’m the sort of gamer who gets shivers down my spine just from hearing FM synth music. If you’re the same way you’ll probably dig Alisia Dragoon. They sure don’t make them like this anymore.
As for my most recent retro gaming conquest, that would be Alisia Dragoon for the Sega Genesis.
I want to extend congratulations to you for beating it. Alisia Dragoon is an incredibly difficult game. I agree with you the aesthetics and music are quite nice, and I always enjoy having a female protagonist.
That was my big problem with this game. I felt like I was always being constantly mobbed by random enemies and projectiles, and when that wasn't happening, environmental hazards galore. In that regard the pacing isn't good in Alisia Dragoon, the game needs to give its player chances to breathe more.
No they don't, but I'm glad you stopped by to tell us about your experience with the game. Even though they don't make them like this anymore, as long as we keep talking about them, they keep living on.
One last thing I want to say, is Alisia Dragoon is one of those rare games that despite having completely different Japanese and USA artwork, both artworks are very good:
As I said a while back, one of my problems with Alisia Dragoon is that it felt like the graphics were a bit hard to parse. Not only do enemies and hazards jump out at you, but it's exacerbated by a lack of contrast and visibility in spots. It's a decent enough game, but I wasn't really impressed, either. I'd still love a copy, though.
Ninja Spirit might be my last finished game this year. We'll see!
The game itself is a port of the titular arcade game. There's some downsampling of the graphics, as you'd guess, but overall it looks pretty nice. One of the neat components borrows from Ninja Gaiden II (or maybe it borrowed from this!), in that you can have two "shadow clones" that mimic your moves. Think of them a bit like the options in Gradius if you haven't played NGII. You also get a complement of four different ninja weapons: a sword, throwing stars, a sort of grappling hook, and some throwable bombs. I found all of them to have their uses except the hook. They all each have an upgrade level as well. The structure of the game is the usual single-plane "kill everything that moves" much like Revenge of the Shinobi, although the complexity is a bit simpler, in a sort of Kung Fu / Spartan X way (which is fitting, given its IREM heritage).
So, the game itself can be pretty tough at moments, but it's pretty easy overall. Or so I thought. The console version has been gimped a bit, as it defaults to "PC Engine" mode. This gives you actual life, where projectiles will take away one of your five health points. Sword attacks will still instantly kill you, however. Set the game to "Arcade Mode", and you'll feel the pain of one-hit deaths throughout the game. Fun times! At least the game gives some clemency in the form of unlimited continues. To be clear, I did not finish Arcade Mode, only curious about the differences after I'd blown through the game in the other mode.
Not a bad way to spend some time, but like most arcade ports, the experience is short-lived.