Don’t let some crazy people fool you… Lufia: The Ruins of Lore is a terrible game. So terrible, in fact, that the Game Boy Advance game scared me away from the series for years, and I refused to play another title in the series until Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals for the DS (and that took a LOT of convincing to do). The Ruins of Lore is considered a “gaiden” or side-story to the series, which if it doesn’t have the word “ninja” before it, it usually means you’re not going to like it. It’s sad too, because not even Dekar could save this train wreck of a game.
While I could go on for pages about this game’s multiple flaws, I’ll just focus on the part that gave Lufia: The Ruins of Lore its title… which of course is the ‘ruins of lore’, better known as the Ancient Cave.
The Ancient Cave has been a staple in the Lufia series ever since the first game, and usually holds some interesting mechanics. Your party enters the cave and magically reverts to level 1, losing all items, equipment, and abilities they had. You have to find everything (and regain levels) in the 100-level randomly-generated dungeon. In addition, you can only leave with a specific item, which, like everything else, is random to find. You might be asking why you’d want to venture into such a dungeon… well, you also have a chance of finding rare, blue items, that not only help you out greatly while inside the Ancient Cave, but can also be taken out of the dungeon, giving you a huge boost when you return to the story. Also, should you manage to make it to the bottom floor, a plethora of awesome rewards (and a super hard boss) await you.
Okay, you got all that? Good, now throw it out the window, because Lufia: The Ruins of Lore handles the Ancient Cave far differently.
I’ll state the similarities first: Like the other Ancient Caves, this one is also randomly generated. Also, you need a Providence to leave the dungeon. Oh, and that super hard boss (and a cool reward) is still waiting at the bottom floor.
…And that’s about it. The Ruins of Lore changes up the formula for the Ancient Cave in a lot of ways that might seem better, but end up making one of the more interesting aspects of the series a boring, frustrating drudge.
For starters, only Eldin (the main character) and his Pokemon-like Disc Monster can enter the Ancient Cave. This is justified with in-game reasons, but that’s not very well explained. Eldin can also take ten items in with him and his current equipment, allowing you some degree of preparation before going in. Finally, Eldin does not revert to level 1… which may sound like a great thing, but brings up one of this Ancient Cave’s biggest flaws. Unlike other games in the series, where you could enter the Ancient Cave at any time and receive useful items from it, entering the cave early on in The Ruins of Lore is practically a death-trap. Since you do not level up within the dungeon itself, the floors have predetermined levels Eldin should be, and of course, the bottom most floors require 35+, so it’s barely worth entering before the endgame point. In addition, if you die, you’ll lose all the items obtained within the dungeon, any items you took with you, and all of Eldin’s equipment, effectively scaring off any attempts to try the cave before you’re ready.
Another problem lies within the shrines you can found throughout the Ancient Cave. The shrines can do a variety of helpful things, such as healing HP or status effects. However, these shrines can also be hidden as ‘thieves’, which can damage you or other nasty effects. Of course, you can’t tell which is which, and you can effectively kill Eldin by simply choosing the wrong time to visit a booby trapped Shrine. In the end, why even go to a shrine when you have items that can heal you beyond a shadow of a doubt?
Finally, there are the bosses. Guarding the exit to each of the sixty floors is a boss that Eldin and his pet must defeat. Problem is, unless you’re looking at a guide, you know nothing about the monsters and their weaknesses. Say Eldin or his Disc Monster don’t have a fire spell, or have items equipped that the have the element the monster absorbed? You’re out of luck! In addition, if you don’t train Eldin in the right classes or learn the right skills, then you’ll be doomed to dying quickly or having battles be painfully drawn-out… and since leveling (both normal levels and job levels) is a long process, who would go through the effort when by the time you’re leveled properly, you could beat the final boss effortlessly?
The Ancient Cave sets the mood for the rest of The Ruins of Lore: Boring, frustrating, and ultimately unnecessary. I guess somewhere along the way, Atelier Double forgot what made the random dungeon fun in the first place, and instead stuck in something they thought would be more suiting for a single-member tromp. Really, though, it’s only the icing on the cake for this mess-up of a game.