Lufia: The Ruins of Lore, henceforth to be called Lufia IV, is a sidestory set 20 years after the events of Lufia II. Released for the Gameboy Advance in 200, it is the second game chronologically and as a side story, does not contain traditional Lufia elements such as decendants of Maxim, the Dual Blade, or even the sinistrals. To compensate for these losses a Dragon Quest-esque job system was added along with a Pokemon-esque monster collecting system. Forgoing Maxim, the story instead focuses on three friends turned hunters who are on a mission to explore ancient ruins scattered throughout the world to learn about the mysteries of ancient civilizations.
The characters themselves are pretty flat and one-note, they were better developed in Lufia III and considering that there were 13 characters in that game, that’s really saying something! Our hero is Eldin who has followed in his father’s footsteps to become a hunter, he has average natural stats. Torma, his best friend and fellow hunter joins him on his quest through the ruins; he uses a grappling hook and has a tank-like build. The last main character is their somewhat bratty friend, Rami, and she - like all good female RPG heroes - has a typical mage build. Other characters that join you on a temporary basis are Bau, a half human/half beast and Dekar - the same Dekar from Lufia II! Finally, Rubius, a travelling priestess who hires the party to help open the door to the “Promised Land” tags along, but does not participate in battle.
From a gameplay standpoint Lufia IV takes much more from Lufia II than from any other game in the series. Even the world map is that of Lufia II, though you can’t explore it; the interface is pretty much just point and click. Random dungeons are gone and replaced with traditional puzzle based dungeon crawling. Though you no longer collect tools as you traverse through the game, each party member has their own tool, Eldin a sword to slash bushes and vines, Torma a grappling hook to cross cliffs, Rami a lighter to melt ice or destroy obstacles and Bau’s hammer to smash barrels to smithereens.
Capsule monsters are back as well, though they are called Disc Monsters in this iteration. Also, they are not special monsters found in secret areas, instead they are captured through battle, ala Pokemon and they are tied to the party member that captured them. The monsters take a portion of the experience from combat and as you use them their relationship with the party members will increase. When a monster’s relationship is high enough charater’s can perform “install” attacks where they fuse together once their IP (installation gauge) is full. You will lose control of both characters for three turns and you have the choice of invincibility or a special attack for those three turns. You can’t choose invincibility for one turn then an attack for the other two turn - it’s one or the other. Some players choose to forgo the monster capturing system entirely though since they take a portion of the experience from the party. though I think that the extra character is worth going from a 33% to a 25% split in experience.
The job system is pretty bare bones and ripped entirely from Dragon Quest VI and VII. Basically you can choose to become a swordsman, fighter, thief, priest, mage or chemist, all of which are pretty self explanatory and you gain job levels and abilities by fighting a predetermined number of battles. Also, once a base job is mastered, all of them, except for chemist, can move to an advanced job, the Knight, Brawler, Rogue, Bishop, and Wizard. While they may seem pretty fun to plan out your party, in reality you just need everyone to master “chance hit” from the fighter, which will do a random amount of damage from 20-200 to one enemy and since most standard attacks deal 30-50 damage, using chance hit every turn is pretty much a winning bet. After that you will want some priests for healing then maybe a thief for his exit ability.
Although the sinistrals are in remission the world is still not at peace because the war mongering kingdom of Gratze is searching for “the beast” in order to conquer the world. Rubius, who is searching for the promised land, needs magic shards in order to enter it, and one just happens to be in Gratze’s fortress, while searching for the shard they stumble upon Gratze’s plan of world domination and the party and plot switch from lighthearted exploration to a “save the world” plot.
The Ancient Cave is back, but it’s only 60 randomly generated floors and only Eldin and his Disc Monster can enter. You can still bring in 10 items and if you leave, you can continue at any previoulsly reached floor, however if you die or leave you lose everything you gathered inside. But in a strange twist you are able to bring in equipped items and have the same level and abilities you had before entering - you are no longer converted to level 1. However, you can’t access the menu between fights and there is a boss fight at the end of each floor. Upon completing the cave you are rewarded with an egg ring, which increases every stat and you can continually go through the cave if you want to get more of the rings.
Overall, I think that Lufia IV is an ambitious game that set out to tell a nice story using the best world that the Lufia team ever created, but they failed somewhere along the way. They had everything they needed, puzzle dungeons, job classes and on screen enemies but they left something crucial out - Fun Factor. Quite frankly, the game is just plain boring. It’s uninspired dungeon interspersed with uninspired towns, coupled with an insipid storyline. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid RPG that does a lot of things right from a gameplay perspective, but it just can’t keep my interest.