Somewhere out there in an alternate universe, our counterpart JRPG fans are enjoying a history where the original vision for Lufia III became a reality, and it rocked an outstanding soundtrack. On this plane of existence, though, the cult franchise grounded itself out after two stunning games and never quite gained the lasting status of other B-tier RPG franchises like Breath of Fire or Suikoden.
In the late 90s, developer Neverland and publisher Nihon-Flex did have plans to wrap up the overarching plot in a game for the PlayStation called Estpolis 3: Ruins Chaser, Lufia’s Japanese title. Both companies went so far as to tap Neverland’s in-house composer Yukio Nakajima to create a single track for the game’s soundtrack, and it used this track to show off Estpolis 3 at Tokyo Game Show 1998.
Unfortunately, Nihon-Flex filed for bankruptcy later that same year, and the original vision for Lufia 3: Ruins Chaser never came to be. It was reborn a few years later as a Game Boy Color game called Lufia: The Legend Returns and on a much smaller scale than what the team originally had in mind. It was hardly the fitting conclusion to Lufia’s massive storyline that both the fans and writers were hoping for.
A few scraps of concept art are all that remains of Lufia 3, but far and away, the best existing remnant is Nakajima’s Tokyo Game Show track, which he donated to fan sites shortly after cancellation. It’s been in circulation on the Internet for over 15 years now, but I only stumbled upon it a year or so ago. It has been a mainstay in my video game playlist ever since.
The biggest shame about this whole affair is that this incredible track never has and never will turn up in a video game. It comes off as a perfect mid-90s Japanese gaming theme that strikes images of Chrono Trigger, Gradius, and, yes, Lufia. Don’t worry about piracy either, because this track has long been available for public use.
Our story today doesn’t close out with a horribly sad ending, though. Despite his piece never making it into a game, Nakajima remained with Neverland for many years after the cancellation. His name pops up in the credits for several other Neverland favorite hits like the Rune Factory games and most noticeably Lufia II’s ill-advised remake, Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals.
For as much flak as that remake gets, the soundtrack is definitely one of its high points.
When Neverland went bankrupt in 2013, Marvelous AQL snagged up the Ruin Factory franchise and its development team, securing at least a piece of Neverland’s legacy within its halls. We haven’t heard a peep from the Lufia franchise since the closure, but it could be possible it got gobbled up in that transfer. I find it hard to believe that it’s only been five years since we got an actual Lufia game. Seems like longer.
As for Nakajima, he is still developing soundtracks on Japan’s booming free-to-play market, and he has an active Twitter account that he tends to frequently. Plenty of pictures of cats and meat, by the way. From what we can tell from this Lufia 3 track, his style sounds like he would do well working on the likes of Nihon Falcom games like Ys and The Legend of Heroes, but as long as he is employed somewhere in the gaming universe, that makes us all the happier.