Lennus II is a direct sequel to Paladin’s Quest, not that you would know it from the outset. Like a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest it shares gameplay mechanics and aesthetics with its predecessor, but there’s very little in the way of direct story ties. The game opens on the Underworld, a group of four islands floating in a featureless void. A piercing light shines from above and awakens the game’s hero from a 10,000 year status. Emerging into a temple dedicated to him, priests explain to the hero that prophecy has foretold that he will find four magical goo-gaas that will bring about The Great Union, a mysterious event that’s said to bring happiness to all. The first five or so hours of the game are spent searching for the for the four thingies in The Underworld, which, even by Lennus standards, is a very weird place.
That’s the Temple of the Young Raigan there. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It has more in common with a piece of modern art than it does a building. It’s like a landing platform, on stilts… with a head on top. That the architecture here is more to the service of design than function highlights the alienness of the Underworld (not that the giant polyps and speargrass nearby don’t). That the hero is known as the “Young Raigan” is-so far-the only story tie to Paladin’s Quest. In that game, the Raigans were a set of powerful figures from the distant land/planet/other dimension (the translation doesn’t make it clear) of Raiga. These (presumably old) Raigans are implied to have genetically engineered the various races to better survive on Lennus, to have brought magic to the common folk, and build the doomsday device that drives the action. Busy guys. If nothing else Lennus II promises to shed some light on just what Raiga is, and exactly what role the Old Raigans had in shaping the history of Lennus.
That’s all a ways in the future. In the beginning there’s no clear understanding of what the Underworld is and how it relates to Lennus at large. Nothing like a mystery to drive a fetch quest.
Lennus II is a beautiful game, and like Paladin’s Quest, rich in detail. For example, the rocky outcroppings on the Underworld’s cliffs are, on closer observation, revealed to be composed of repeating geometric shapes. Unlike Paladin’s Quest’s mountain ranges, these feel manufactured. There’s a technological aspect to them that contrasts with their function as landscape. Sharp angled zig-zaggy design was a motif in Paladin’s Quest that was associated with technology. Look at the wires and piping on the weird walky-talky object again.
These sharp right angles show up all over the place, but never in natural formations.
That the Underworld breaks this rule makes it unique even in the context of larger Lennus weirdness, and perhaps provides a clue to its origin. I’m still poking around in the Underworld, so we’ll see if my theory holds any water once the four deal-o’s are united.
Here in the obligatory fire dungeon is another little detail that impressed me. These wormy things (I forget what they’re called… Flat Worms, Fire Worms, Flat Fires… something) will try to inhale your party members. If they succeed the party member gains a status of “eaten” and you can see their legs sticking out the Flat Flat’s mouth. A totally unnecessary little thing, but I find it endearing.
I’m glad that Lennus II continues the tradition of ambiguity. Some houses have these things in them. Are they decorations? Stoves? Something of which the function can’t even be guessed? Lennus II never tells. This is an effective way of expanding the boundaries of the world. In Brickroad’s new Final Fantasy II LP people liked on how the background in the Watery Passage with the distant rivers and waterfalls created the illusion that the world was bigger than it was.
It’s very effective. There are places we can see, but can’t get to. So the world must be larger than it is. The artifacts in the houses in Lennus II do the same thing. They suggest lives beyond our comprehension, a world where people make and uses these things that we don’t-and won’t ever-understand.
Lennus II gives us a fascinating world to explore, one filled with wonderful details that imply all sorts of crazy possibilities. Let’s just hope that unlike Paladin’s Quest it gives us something interesting to do in it.