Forgot password?  |  Register  |    
User Name:     Password:    
Blog - General Entry   

Retro Review: Lufia & the Fortress of Doom

On 08/26/2023 at 11:14 AM by The Last Ninja

See More From This User »


This SNES RPG doesn’t set itself apart much from the competition  

Released in 1993 for the SNES, Lufia & the Fortress of Doom is a turn-based RPG. It was developed by Neverland, a Japanese company who would go on to give us such RPGS as Record of Lodoss War (DC) and the first four Rune Factory games. This was their very first game—and it shows. Don’t get me wrong, the game could be much worse, but what’s here is lacking quite a bit compared to other RPGs on the SNES. 

First of all, Lufia has one of the coolest prologues I’ve ever seen in a game. You play as Maxim and three other heroes as you scale a tower to face the four sinistrals (god-like warriors who want to take over the world). This plays just like a final boss of an RPG, and it’s awesome! Don’t worry, your characters are very powerful, so you can wipe the floor with the four bosses. However, the game doesn’t tell you about the items or spells, so you just have to figure it out yourself. It’s a great opening, and after defeating the sinistrals, the tower collapses and the world becomes peaceful again. 

pic 1

The story picks up 90 years later, and you play as a descendent of Maxim. Basically, rumors start popping up that the sinistrals have returned, and so you go out to investigate, discover that it’s true, and set off on an adventure to defeat them. That’s the gist of the story. Along the way, you will travel across the world, find allies, help villages—you know the drill. 

This game borrows heavily from the Dragon Quest playbook. The hero is nameless, there are four (and only four) playable characters, they follow in a line, you have to go to the priest to revive dead characters, and little stories play out in villages where you help someone. This isn’t bad, of course, but it also means that the game lacks its own identity. There were times when I thought I was playing a DQ game. Even some of the enemies look like they were ripped right out of DQ. 

pic 2

The progression of the game can be quite tedious. You will travel from one village to the next, and along the way, you will have to do certain fetch quests. NPCs will tell you where to go, but I still got lost a few times on the huge world map. To make matters worse, the random encounter rate is ridiculous. At times I would only take two steps before getting attacked. Thankfully there’s an item called “sweet water” that keeps enemies from attacking, but it doesn’t always work. So you will be fighting a lot of battles. 

Speaking of battles, the battle system is also pulled right out of the DQ playbook too. Your characters are represented at the bottom of the screen with the enemies just above. If there are multiple enemies, you can choose who to attack, and if the same kinds of enemies are grouped together, you can attack the group (although the attack will only hit one of those enemies). If the targeted enemy is defeated before your character attacks, then he will simply attack thin air (that’s old-school). So you need to strategize a bit. Again, the game doesn’t give you any indication of what items or spells do, so you have to figure it out yourself. I discovered that “drain” was not the same “drain” as in the Final Fantasy games; instead “absorb” was the same thing as drain. 

pic 3

Despite all this, the story is done very well. The characters are mostly fleshed out well, especially the hero and his girlfriend Lufia—they tend to argue a lot over ridiculous things, which can be quite funny. The writing isn’t bad for a game like this, and it kinda resembles a 90s anime. The game is also quite generous with chests, as dungeons usually have quite a few of them, and they tend to give you very helpful items (like hi-potions). 

The graphics aren’t anything amazing. In some ways this looks like an enhanced NES RPG. It doesn’t look good compared to later RPGs like Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger, but it also doesn’t compare to contemporaries like Secret of Mana. All the dungeons and towns tend to look the same (with different layouts). However, most bosses are huge and detailed, and look great. Again, the style here eschews very much to DQ. 

The music is hit or miss. At times it sounds very nice, but you hear the same themes over and over, and they can get annoying (especially the battle music—you’ll hear it a thousand times). I think the real stand out is the boss theme—it’s exciting, dramatic, and fun. But most the other tunes are quite forgettable. 

pic 4

Final Verdict—3 Stars: It’s Okay

I want to recommend this game, but I found myself frustrated from the high encounter rate and the endless fetch quests to progress the story. There’s certainly good things here, but the game doesn’t really do anything to stand out from all the other SNES RPGs. If you like classic RPGs, I would say check it out. However, the game has never been ported or rereleased, so you have to get the cartridge, and that can be a bit pricey. Let me say that this game DID lay the foundation for its sequel, which is an improvement in every area. Maybe some day I can review that one too. 



Cary Woodham

08/27/2023 at 03:42 PM

I rented the first Lufia game once.  It was very bland and made me want to go back and play Final Fantasy 2 (4) instead.

Lufia 2 is WAY better.  Battles are pretty standard but they way they dealt with random encounters in dungeons and using weapons to solve puzzles was very fun.  Quite a playable game.  And the music was great too.  Awesome boss theme!

The Last Ninja

08/27/2023 at 04:06 PM

Yes, I'm hoping to get the second game some time (it's pricey). I'm aware of its greatness. 


08/28/2023 at 01:43 PM

The agressive encounter rate was something I came across in Suikoden IV (or was it V?), and it made me stop playing it. Nice review btw!

The Last Ninja

08/29/2023 at 01:02 PM

Thanks. A high encounter rate is one of the most frustrating part of any RPG, but sadly, most old-school JRPGs have them. 

Log in to your PixlBit account in the bar above or join the site to leave a comment.

Game Collection


Friend Codes