Prequels can be a rather precarious thing in the video game industry. If titles are set within a span of time too close together, there may be a concern as to whether or not people could get really invested when they already know the outcome. There is also a concern that adding too many mechanics or elements that are present in the prequel, but not the original title. It takes finesse to create a prequel that can engage people, pay proper tribute to the original game and include new elements, and fortunately Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is such a game. This is one of those instances where a prequel can stand solidly on its own and surprise people.
People going into Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals go in knowing exactly what is going to happen to the heroes and who will be a part of the final group to challenge the Sinistrals. We know Maxim and his wife, Selan, will be joined by Guy and Artea. We know that they will fight and believe they defeat the Sinistrals, but the group of gods is not really defeated. But, knowing what happens to them does not keep people from enjoying the story. Rather. it perhaps makes things more satisfying.
We start with a rather amateurish Maxim. He is certainly a strong young man and adventurer, but he is nowhere near a legend yet. At the very start, it is really just him and his childhood friend, Tia. Throughout Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, we get to see how he becomes this iconic figure renowned throughout the series. We see how he meets his wife, Selan. We watch has he recruits people like Guy, Artea, Dekar and Lexis. Even though we know what happens, Lufia & the Fortress of Doom really only shows us the final fifteen minutes of this game. The process of getting from point A to point B is made incredibly engaging, as we see a relationship form, various challenges overcome and people come together and side against evil. We watch a man go from ordinary to extraordinary.
Seeing Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals after Lufia & the Fortress of Doom offers us a chance to see how the world grows. In JRPGs, we are always limited when it comes to the number of towns we can visit. Even though the world map may be huge, we only have a small selection of places we can actually see. Between the two games, multiple different locations are available. The map changes gradually, impacted by rising seas and events over 100 years. We see the ability to have friendly monsters disappear, but gain increased lore. After all, certain characters in Lufia & the Fortress of Doom are aware of the Energy Breaker story, but people here aren’t. And, going further into the future, people in Lufia: The Legend Returns acquire their IP skills from ancient texts, while people in the previous games have to rely upon equipment to gain such abilities.
Even the implementation of a new gameplay element is handled well. Lufia & the Fortress of Doom does not have Capsule Monsters, monsters that can fight alongside the party. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals introduced the idea of creatures people could raise and fight alongside. While this might make the original seem like it could be lacking something, the handling of the mechanic in other games makes its disappearance seem more natural. In Lufia: The Ruins of Lore, a side-story set after Lufia II, we see a variation on this with Disc Monsters. The critters are entirely absent in the original, but only one returns in Lufia: The Legend Returns, Mousse. It gives the impression that such monsters are a long lost secret, one that was prevalent and possible in early eras before being lost and reemerging with a sole monster in the final installment.
Finally, there is the matter of accessibility. Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is not only a game that people who played Lufia & the Fortress of Doom can enjoy. One could say it makes it easier to become invested in the series as a whole. Coming into the story in medias res in the original game is an interesting choice that does a good job of setting the stage. People who start with the prequel get a chance to get even more enveloped, because then they come into Lufia & the Fortress of Doom knowing who the Sinistrals are and what they are capable of. We know exactly what happened with Maxim and his allies and what they had to endure along the way. I would even say it helps us appreciate characters like Lufia and Guy even more.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals is a game people may not have expected to be as good as it is. Yet, it does many things so well. Even though we know how everything will end, the lead up to that final battle is an interesting one. A new mechanic is implemented in a way that makes it plausible it would be absent in the original game, but somehow present in subsequent installments. It is presented in a way where you can pick up here or come back after playing other entries. It is a prequel that is handled exceptionally well, and anyone interested in the series should consider playing it.