The chronology of RPGs has always been strange. It is not common to see an RPG in the same franchise serve as a direct sequel to another game. Usually, games in the same RPG series will take place in the same universe, have similar enemies, spells and weapons, but be their own standalone stories. Lufia & the Fortress of Doom is a rare anomaly in that regard. Not only is it a sequel, but it is the follow-up to a game that had yet to be released.
The Role You Play
You play as the yet-to-be-named descendant of Maxim, one of the heroes who saved the world from the titular Fortress of Doom 100 years ago. He has become a soldier for the kingdom of Alekia. He is brave and quick to rise to the occasion when evil threatens the world again. Joining him in his quest is his longtime friend Lufia, who is skilled in spellcasting. They are later joined by Aguro, the knight captain of Lorbenia and a half-elf named Jerin.
One hundred years ago, the strongest heroes of the land, Maxim, Selan, Guy and Artea traveled to the fortress of Doom to defeat the Sinistrals who threatened their land. They defeated the Sinistrals and destroyed the fortress, but Maxim and Selan perished in the process. Now, the Sinistral Gades has returned and threatens the peace of the land. It is up to a new generation of heroes to defeat Gades, prevent the rebirth of the Sinistrals, and maintain the peace of the land.
The gameplay in Fortress of Doom is rather simple for an RPG. The combat is turn-based with both player characters and enemies taking alternating turns. Your characters can’t target specific enemies with attacks. They can only target groups, and when that group is targeted, your characters will attack a random enemy within that group. This means you don’t have a lot of control over which enemy you target in combat. There are spells and attacks which target entire groups, and some which target all enemies on the field, but not all party members have that ability.
Most of the game consists of making your way from one town to the next to pursue your goal of defeating the SInistrals. You will usually have an obstacle of assisting townspeople with a missing person or helping a sick person or learning how to navigate a maze. There is always some different explanation, but it is usually some variation of the same formula of hopping from one town to the next. There are not a lot of sidequests, but there is an incentive to grind since some of the dungeons can be a bit difficult. With that in mind, Fortress of Doom ends up being about 15-20 hours long.
The soundtrack to Fortress of Doom is honestly pretty mediocre. There are no tracks that really jump out at you or leave any impression. The sound is watered down and heavily compressed, almost as if it was intended for a previous generation console. The entire sound is just dull and doesn’t evoke any sense of adventure or excitement at all.
It gets even worse when you directly compare the tracks in the game to the same ones that were used in the sequel: Lufia II: Rise of the SInistrals. In that game, the instrumentation was a lot clearer. Since both games were on the same console, there is no real excuse for the lack of quality.
One thing I could never get over is just how mediocre the entire game looks and feels. It honestly feels like Fortress of Doom was supposed to be developed for a previous generation console like the NES. The music, graphics and gameplay are all very primitive and reminiscent of an early Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game. While Fortres of Doom did end up on the Super Nintendo, it doesn’t have the necessary polish to feel like it belongs.
The Talking Parts
The dialog is very bare bones. It exists only to direct you where you are supposed to go and little else. The characters don’t show any real facial expressions except for the menu screen. The dialog also does little more than convey information about the plot. It’s not very expressive or emotive and mostly comes off as dull and monotonous.
Z…We’ve Reached the End. Anything Else?
There are a lot of concepts in Fortress of Doom that went on to be used in Lufia II. A lot of the items and equipment were carried over. Szeveral of the spells were reused. Also, many of the enemies were later brought over and used in Lufia II. Many of the enemies were redrawn and updated, but it makes sense since this is all supposed to have taken place in the same world. It also carries over some of the stranger ideas, like the HP and MP restoration spots and the teleportation rooms.
Lufia and the Fortress of Doom feels like a stepping stone for its inevitable sequel and little else. It’s unpolished, it mediocre, it’s monotonous and in general it’s just not very fun. The only reason to have been interested in playing it was to feed your curiosity for Lufia II, and that has now lost all relevance. It’s only for the extremely curious, and even that will only get you so far. Just play Lufia II instead.