Retro Review: Lufia and the Fortress of Doom

by Jason Parker (Ragachak)

Lufia 1 Review - Story

The story seems standard … but tragedy awaits.

I’ve reviewed Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals in the past, but I think it’s time I go back to where it started. What I think is fascinating is that Lufia 2 takes place before Lufia 1. Lufia and the Fortress of Doom is the first in the Estpolis/Lufia series, one that captivated me in Middle School, many thanks to that friend for letting me play/borrow it that wonderful summer. It’s bright, cheerful graphics hide a pretty dark story of loss, god and man clashing, and horrific, powerful beings coming down to the regular folk and ruining their lives. Within the first hour or two, an entire town is devastated by one of the Sinistrals, killing everyone in his path in probably one stroke. The only person that seemed to ultimately survive that wasn’t hidden deep in the castle was the Priest, and that’s only because he’ll save your game. In Lufia, you play the role of the Hero, who is the descendant of Maxim. Maxim was the legendary hero that led the cause to fight at the battle of the Fortress of Doom.

Lufia 1 Review - Lufia

Surely this young girl isn’t the key to something tremendous.

Somehow, the world seems to be in danger again, about a hundred years later, and the Sinistrals, once defeated by Maxim, Selan, Guy, and Arty are now alive and well. Somehow they resurrected. It was said that so long as Erim lives, the other Sinistrals can and will be reborn, but we have only seen Gades, Sinistral of Destruction. So Maxim sets out with the mysterious Lufia (replacing Selan) and meets the mighty warrior Aguro (who replaces Guy) and the young elf Jerin (taking up Arty’s role). The cycle of violence and destruction begins anew, and these young heroes will stand up to save the day if it can truly be done. Some might think it’s bland that these tropes were used here, but this was the first game! Not to mention, prophecy is funny like that in fantasy stories. Prophecy tends to want uniformity, and having the same types of people again in Lufia 2 (or 1 in this case) fits.

Lufia 1 Review - Battle

Awww, just look at ’em!

This is a turn-based RPG, and one of the only reasons I play Lufia 2 more than 1, is it suffers from Final Fantasy 1 syndrome. When an enemy is defeated and more than one character still has an attack queued up for them, they just whiff and that attack/spell was ultimately wasted. I can’t believe this was done in the SNES lifetime, but here we are. All of the enemies look pretty childish and silly, but I still like it. Every RPG up to this point had ultra serious, gritty looking enemies that I can recall. In a way, it makes sense to me to see the enemies this way from the eyes of young characters. It’s an interesting take and surely makes it stand out. This is not a difficult game beyond that though. Despite losing attacks and MP on dead enemies, combat’s pretty easy. Even the hardest fights in the game are relatively easy, with the only hard parts being dealing with Aguro taking tons of damage from magic, much like Guy did in 2.


Hey look! An ECW cameo!

Another positive is that you don’t really need to grind for levels too badly. You will grind because gear can be expensive, but that’s for your first playthrough only. Lufia (and Lufia 2) have a Retry Mode for subsequent playthroughs, to make them a little easier and enjoyable. This will multiply the gold/xp you receive from battles, and now you can just play the game, bask in the story, the giant enemies, and the wonderful party interactions. Maxim and Lufia quarrel like young lovers, and overall, your whole party is well written. The game itself is far more simple than its sequel, which shows growth. The puzzles are far and few between, and are far less difficult compared to Rise of the Sinistrals. That’s not really a negative though – the focus is more on the story and less on having to look up puzzle walkthroughs, pushing around blocks of various colors, shooting down bushes, et cetera. There are some, but not quite as many.

Lufia 1 Review - Beginning

It felt so awesome starting so strong like this. Then… level 1 Hero.

There aren’t too many sidequests, but there is a powerful series of gods waiting for you at the end. The first time I figured the story out and got to the end, I was blown away. I did not expect such a gripping, sad moment in such a cheerful-looking RPG. I’ll spare you the spoiler, but man. One of the reasons this game still has such a hold on me is the storytelling. It may look charming and cute, but it’s anything but. Difficult decisions, sad moments, paired with one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever listened to, thanks to Yasunori Shiono. There have been few games that are so memorable for me, despite being so simple and easy to access. In a time where RPGs weren’t quite mainstream yet, this was one of the smartest things I think they could have done, make it so anyone could pick it up and enjoy the game for themselves. It makes me sad that there have not been more successful Lufia titles, and the last one I recall was a subpar remake of Lufia 2. It’s a damn shame; this series had so much promise. It’s never too late though.


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  • samueleverstar

    i loved this JRPG and its sequel both where great games with great storylines and both had a good battle and leveling system. its good to see people remebering such a good classic

  • Eric Marsh

    I rented this game and its sequel enough from Blockbuster I should have just purchased them. #nostalgiatrip #wortheverypenny