Lufia: The Ruins of Lore
Game Boy Advance
Reviewed: 12/15/2006

Are you looking for a game with monster training, 11 classes, multiple characters, and over 50 hours of gameplay for your Game Boy Advance? Do you want a game forged from a classic series that takes you back through memory lane and reminds you why you first started playing RPGs? If so, Lufia: Ruins of Lore may seem like the game for you, but be warned: prostitutes in New York are ENVIOUS of the level of suck this game brings.

Ruins of Lore starts when the ever-silent Eldin and his hot headed friend Torma plan to follow in Eldin’s father’s footsteps by becoming a Hunter (a licensed Treasure Hunter) and travel the world they inhabit. Things go well the first hour of the game as these characters eventually get their licenses and decide to head to the town Torma grew up in. All hell breaks loose when the Kingdom of Gratze wages war on neighboring countries in search of something called “The Beast.” A botched job curses Eldin, and he finds himself directly involved with this search.

Any player who finds the basis of this story interesting will be surprised at how quickly it turns lukewarm and eventually frost-cold. Especially during end game, the story’s allure is lost amidst inane dialogue, uninspired characters, and a surprising lack of moments of interest. The story is boring, and surprisingly uninspired given the source the writers had to work with.

Screen Shot
Oh Goody, this time I get to fight plants!

Graphics are standard RPG fare. Colors are vibrant and the sprites are fitting. Battle graphics take a step backwards to a time when characters could sway back and forth in five frames of animation, and equipment has no effect on a character’s look. Sadly, attacks use the same animations regardless of who uses them, so when an enemy attempts to frighten the group the exact same sequence will be shown as when the party returns the favor. However, it isn’t the repetition of graphics that holds the game back, but rather the fact that this game suffers from noticeable slowdown with some attacks and when too many sprites are on the screen. The only thing more annoying than watching graphical smog envelop the battlefield regardless of who cast that poison spell is watching the game slow down as the GBA tries its hardest to produce it.

The sound design is effective and solid, but little more. Some pieces from the SNES Lufia games have been remixed for the GBA, with a mix of results which average out to be nothing noteworthy. There aren’t any songs in this cartridge that a player will find themselves humming after they are done playing, but not once will a player come across a tune they’ll find grating or out of place.

Overworld movement and area exploration take players back to a simpler time when only one character was capable of lighting a fire on the map regardless of how many spells they mastered. Main characters each have their own dedicated ability; for example, Eldin can use his sword to cut bushes and break most pots, Torma uses his chain to cross chasms and flick switches, and the NPC Rubius can read ancient script that befuddles normal party members. This creates some varied and interesting mazes while dungeon crawling. Some puzzles may cause a player to scratch their heads and backtrack a few times too many, but there is nothing here that hasn’t been seen before in a dozen other titles. Thankfully, there are no random battles; encounters are represented by enemy icons that move which each step the player takes.

Screen Shot
This priest lies – my INT dropped considerably playing this game.

The game’s biggest pull and its greatest drawback is the fighting system. In typical old school style, players select their commands from a picture menu, wait their turn to attack, get attacked, rinse, lather, repeat. While the system feels comfortable, the battles drag far past their due date. There are games with boss battles that do not last as long as the regular battles in this game, and the fights are plentiful. Further annoying is that the rewards in battles, including experience and items, are terribly miniscule, and the difficulty level increments itself in annoying jumps. The amount of special abilities are exhaustive, although very few of them look awesome. Sadly, even these abilities add to the tedium, as instead of breaking up skills learned into their respective classes they are all jumbled together, ensuring a tedious process as a player navigates three pages of techniques to find exactly the one they were looking for.

A monster capturing aspect has been added to the game, which sadly adds nothing but frustration to the gaming experience. Players can capture monsters with special discs, level them up, evolve them, and use them in battle. However, monsters take even longer to level than main characters and are quickly outdated. Characters can “install” with a monster when their IP guage is full, creating a stronger monster that players have no control over for three rounds; this often leads to disdain as this invincible creation repeats a useless attack for three rounds before reverting back. Even more frustrating is that each monster can only know eight skills at a time, but will constantly attempt to relearn skills it has forgotten, creating an additional few times at the end of each individual battle that a character will have to press the cancel button. What could have been an interesting perk to this game turns into a tedious chore that almost feels broken and is definitely counter-intuitive.

The game does have an optional dungeon called The Ancient Cave, which allows for Eldin (and oddly, only Eldin) to take a pet and 10 items and embark throughout 60 levels of randomly created obstacles. This cave is definitely challenging, and there is some decent treasure to be discovered, but death causes the loss of everything brought into the cave including the shirt on the character’s back. While a solid diversion to the game, it ultimately feels like a lousy excuse to revisit the game after it has been beaten.

Only the truly dedicated will be willing to put in the 50+ hours it will take to beat Ruins of Lore. While the game does have a few enjoyable moments, poor implementation of features leads to a level of tedium only the insane could find enjoyment in. This game truly sucks the player in with promises of fun and enjoyment, only to break those promises. Fans of the SNES Lufia games will most definitely find this game’s side story nature to be a step backwards from other Lufia fare, and players looking for an RPG to dedicate time to will definitely not be pleased with the fruit their effort will bare. Stay away.

-Tim Wilson

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Bad
Story Bad
Graphics Bad
Sound/Music Average
Replay Value Offensive
The Verdict: 3