Alundra is a special game in many
ways. Alundra was released in North America by Working Designs in 1997. At the time I wasn’t really into RPGs so I paid
no attention to the game. Unfortunately Working Designs released a limited amount of copies of the game which at least by
my estimation sold fairly quickly. By the year 2000 the game was very hard to find unless you went on Ebay.
It was in that year that I first started
looking for the game at local EBs. I read numerous of reviews from Spanish and English video games magazines praising the
game as a masterpiece and as a classic. I spent almost three years looking for the game until I finally found it. The journey
I had to undertake in order to get my hands on this game was incredible.
I skipped college, and with less than
half a gas tank on my car I went on to uncharted territory, it took me two hours of driving to get to the closest EB
to the area where I lived that had the game. It was a tough trip, there was a rainstorm, and I got lost because I had never
been to that particular town. But because of my determination to experience this classic first hand I managed to get to the
store and acquire it. So was the incredibly difficult trip worth the game? Absolutely.
THE DREAM WALKER…
To start it has to be said that Alundra
is in many ways a Zelda rip off. But there is nothing wrong with taking many aspects of Zelda and making them better. Because
that is exactly what Alundra does. In many ways it out performs Zelda in fact I dare say this game is vastly superior to any
two-dimensional Zelda and superior to any Action-RPG with the exception of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
For starters the story puts any of
the Zelda story lines to shame while at the same time managing to outdo many other RPGs. I used to have the notion that due
to the dungeon crawling and collecting item nature of Action RPGs that it was nearly impossible to have a good story line
in one of them. But Alundra slapped me silly with its brilliant story telling. The basic goal in Alundra is to collect seven
crests to be able to fight the evil Melzas.
This basic story has been done dozens
of times before in Zelda games in which you collected gems, medallions, masks, tri-force shards etc. in order to reach the
final boss confrontation. However unlike Zelda, Alundra makes you feel like you are actually part of a truly sinister tale.
Melzas is not the Stereotypical Action RPG villian. He has clear reasons for being evil, unlike Ganondorf but I will go in
to detail on that later.
Alundra is an Elven boy from
the tribe of Elna. He can get inside peoples dreams and change their outcome. He has a dream instructing him to make a journey
to the village of Inoa. Thus your quest starts with Alundra on a ship that is heading to Inoa. From there Alundra will eventually
reach the village which is going through some rough times as the villagers are dying in their dreams. This is where Alundra's
dream entering and walking abilities come into play. From there you will witness death, corruption, religious issues, love
and other common themes in Japanese RPGs.
The one problem I always had with
Zelda games was that the storylines were just too childish and predictable. Alundra fixes those issues because it features
a plot that is mature and extremely unpredictable.
At the beginning of the game the story
gives you the sense that you are only saving individual people and not the world. This is one of the key points of the plot.
As you play you never really feel the urge to save the world because simply no one knows what is causing the nightmares. It
is a mystery you must solve. What you know is though that people need your help and that you must enter their dreams to save
them. So unconsciously I became attached to the villagers because I felt like I was truly living among them, helping them.
you progress through the game the story takes you to different dungeons to collect the crests. When you go into dungeons to
collect these crest the sole motivation isn’t to reach the final boss like in most Action RPGS, unlike other action
RPGs Alundra's plot always gives you a powerful reason to enter each dungeon other than usual to get powerful enough to face
the villian (last boss) yada, yada.
Alundra's plot is dark, there is a
lot of death going on and you always have the "who will be next?" question in the back of your mind. There are many things
going on in the story at once and yet the plot never for even one-second becomes confusing. The translation, which is one
of if not the best I have seen, played a huge part in this.
character, even the ones who had small roles, had an unique personality and something interesting to say. There are four letter
words, and slang used in the text. I often laughed at some of the humorous lines from NPCs (Non Player Characters). The game
is just that brilliant; it has humor when it needs it while managing to keep the sad depressing theme going strong at the
same time. Oh and there is also a love story going on with Meia that is simple yet incredibly believable by the game's end.
The ending itself is very satisfying,
but leaves plenty of room for a sequel. (Note: There is an Alundra 2 on the market, but that game has nothing to do with the
original, and its utter crap. Some key members that developed Alundra left Matrix (developer) so they didn't work on Alundra
2 which is part of the reason why that game sucks and the storyline is totally different.)
As far as the main character is concerned,
much of him is a mystery. His past is never known the only thing you ever get to know about his background is that he is from
the tribe of Elna. However his past is not truly important because, even if it was told it would have no effect on the story.
Which brings us to another strong point of the plot; it doesn't waste time by putting in unnecessary sub plots that have nothing
to do with the main plot. The Narration tells every thing it needs to tell to get you involved and to keep you playing for
more. It's good that we don't know anything about the main characters personality or background because it allows us to Role
play him perfectly because we can draw our own conclusions of how he came to be who he is.
Finally all the other villagers have
separate issues, and as I stated before personalities which are realistic, and interesting. I felt sad when one of them died.
It's not that they had long scripts, it's just that they all had something interesting to say. Even if some of them only had
two lines of speech per day, whatever they said in those two lines gave them more life and more importance than the 50 pages
worth of text that a lot of main characters in other RPGs have. In short I have never played an RPG in which characters with
so little to say, said enough to make them seem like such an important part the of the game world and the story as a whole.
The Villain is not really involved
in much of the story, and there is a reason for it. He is in fact everywhere in the story if you pay attention to the plot
but his physical presence isn't present until the very end. However he is developed in such a way that it didn't matter to
me if he wasn't directly interacting with Alundra. The villain was real menace and one of the better villains in RPG history.
Alundra is not a kids game. This is
an incredibly hard RPG that makes any Zelda and any Action RPG for that matter look like child’s play. The exploration
and dungeon crawling features are reminiscent of the two dimensional Zeldas. In your arsenal you have, a sword, an Iron flail,
hunters bow, and a fire and ice wands etc. Plus you can find some hidden weapons throughout the world too. In Zelda you collect
hearts for life, in Alundra you collect Life vessels which can be found, while exploring the over world map and inside the dungeons.
You can also collect magic seeds to use magic spells.
There are plenty of health items that
you can use from your inventory. It's all very similar to Zelda in fact you can use bombs too. So what is different from Zelda
you say? Well you can jump by pressing X this adds a new dimension to the exploration side of the game and a new twist to
some puzzles. This also makes the game harder…way harder.
Some puzzles require you jump from
platform to platform in a certain amount of time other wise you will fall and have to start all over again. I especially remember
one instance in which I had to jump across switches before they fell down. I had to repeat it like 20 times to get it right.
So while there are many advantages in being able to jump at will. The disadvantages are that to me it seems that jumping wasn't
meant for two-dimensional RPGs. In some occasions I found some jumping puzzles down right frustrating. Not only do you have
to figure out what to do but once you figure out what to do, you have to figure out how to do it and then do it and unfortunately
the ‘doing it’ part is usually the hardest.
Some puzzles that don't even involve
much physical movement are incredibly tough you can spend an hour just thinking in how to move some pillars inside one room
in the right order and direction just so they can be placed on top of a switch. These are the puzzles where the game shines,
they are tough to solve but once you solve them the satisfaction is unparalleled. On some occasions I would call myself a
genius as I played.
The world map in this game is HUGE,
bigger than any other two dimensional RPG before, yup that includes A Link to the Past. I haven't found all the secrets yet
because of this, and because there are many, many hidden caves and dungeons waiting to be uncovered. The main dungeons themselves
are huge including when you enter in someone's dreams, in fact for the most part the dream dungeons are the toughest, with
the exception of the very last dungeon of the game (that castle is tough!).
get a concept of how huge the game is, realize this; in one section of the game, going through the Murgg woods to be exact.
I found myself wandering for three hours trying to navigate my way to the Murgg tree. That perhaps was the most frustrating
part of the game for me and it was all thanks to the 2-D graphics. I couldn't find my way through a cave because I couldn’t
see a pathway through a wall. I finally managed to beat that part when I stumbled and accidentally went in what it seemed
a wall to find my way out of the woods.
The scope of this game should not
be underestimated, its bigger than any action RPG I have played (Take the endless oceans of Wind Waker out and Alundra kicks
its butt in scope). The excellence of its dungeon layouts, over world design and just clean polished gameplay mechanics are
only surpassed by Zelda Ocarina of Time. The only knock on the gameplay on those areas are the sometimes frustrating puzzles,
control breaking platform jumping sessions and very minor confusions in key areas due to the 2-D graphics. Other than that
the game is flawless in its execution.
Moving onto the battles. All the bosses
are tough; some of the latter bosses require constant repetition to find key weakness and patterns to exploit in order to
defeat them. The only complaint I have is with the last boss battle which consists in two tough fights and a third one which
is ultra hard. You have to fight them one after the other with out a chance to save or replenish your healing items. What
this means is, that you have to die like ten (or more) times to finally figure out how to fight the first two fights
almost perfectly so you have enough healing items for the non forgiving third last boss. The third last boss is a tough
bastard. Make one tiny mistake and you will either die on the act or take heavy damage. To beat that last boss you have to
be fast on your fingers and have almost perfect timing to: Evade, run, jump hit the boss on head with the sword
once, run back, evade, run some more, hide and repeat for 30 minutes until if you are almost perfect and manage to survive
the boss finally goes down. Keep in mind the “almost perfect” because you will have to be just that.
The last boss attacks you with like
six different attacks from all sides. This can turn off a lot of gamers especially if they are the unlucky bastards that fought
tooth and nail for 29 minutes only to die and have to start all over again. This game is enjoyable if you are a very
skill full and patient player, if you are not then you will have to become one.
Overall save that last battle all
the bosses are excellent, and after you have beaten those three last bosses once, they will become much easier the second
The only thing that really puts this
game's gameplay a notch below Ocarina's is the lack of mini- games and side-quests. All you pretty much get to do in Alundra
besides playing through the plot is collecting guilded falcons and life vessels. But since the game came out before Ocarina
then the lack of mini games is excusable.
2-D Graphical Power House!
This game is a two dimensional masterpiece,
I dare you to find a 2-D RPG that is better looking. The character sprites are large and well animated. The over world is
varied with lakes, rivers, water falls, deserts, snow (in a dream), forests, beaches, in other words any locale imaginable.
The houses and the village of Inoa all look authentic even today on 2003 the excellence in the graphics was enough to make
me believe I was in that world. The bosses were beautifully designed some are huge and well animated. The architecture in
some of the buildings was a sight to behold too.
Inoa village at nighttime has that
magical feel of the Kokiri forest in Ocarina of Time, complete with the fireflies. If there is any graphical flaw in the game
is that the graphics are more on the dark side that on the bright side of things. Some areas felt like they needed brighter
colors. But that is just nit picking because maybe the graphics look like that to help the dark mood of the story. In short
you will be hard pressed to find a better-looking 2-D game.
Music wise Alundra is tough to rate.
There are some compositions that are brilliant right up there with Nintendo's Koji Kondo's best (The Legend of Zelda's composer).
Like the over world theme (which is pretty much the game's theme), the sad song that plays when some dies and lastly the brilliant
and I mean brilliant song that plays when the anime scenes are playing in the ending. It must also be added that some of the
bosses songs are truly menacing. However as you can see by my list you get like five truly classic songs and then the rest
ranges from good to average. This was a situation that really never became a problem, because the music got the job done when
Kohei Tanaka is a good composer who
has his moments of brilliance during the game but most of the time he sinks into average land. He is not the most consistent
man. The sound effects are well done though especially for a 1997 2-D game, you hear anything from creeks and waterfalls,
to the smallest sounds such as footsteps, birds and roosters. Some insects can be heard at nighttime in Inoa.
The debate is open as to which Action
RPG is the best of all time. To me Ocarina takes the crown simply because it does everything Alundra does in full 3-D glory,
plus it’s much easier and there is simply much more stuff to do (Side quests, mini-games etc.). Some players short on
the patience and brains department might find it impossible to play simply because they will get tired of the brilliant puzzles
and tough battles. RPG fans looking for a challenge need not look any further for this is your game.
Alundra is simply a jewel and might
as well be the best 2-D action-RPG of all time, and indisputably the greatest Action-RPG in any system that isn't made by
Nintendo. If any one believes Alundra is greater than Ocarina then I have no quarrel with that for the game is truly a Masterpiece.
Shame on Matrix for not coming out with a true sequel.
Gameplay: 9.8-The best puzzles
I have ever seen in an RPG period. Frustrating at times but brilliantly designed nonetheless, Misses perfect mark, thanks
to the ULTRA hard last boss and some frustrating platforming segments.
Graphics: 9.5-The best 2-D
graphics in an Action RPG.
Music: 9.0-Good enough to
match Zelda's. But not good enough to compete with some of Square’s heavy hitters which is nothing to be ashamed of.
Story: 9.8-This game rules
all action RPGs in this department and many traditional ones too.
Addictiveness: 9.0-If you
are a completist it will keep you playing until you find everything.
Overall: 10.0-The second best
Action RPG of all time behind Ocarina of Time.