Game Review: Alundra
Release: October 12, 2010
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: Matrix Software
Available Platforms: PSN (works on both PS3 and PSP)
ESRB Rating: Teen
More than decade ago, the now defunct publisher Working Designs released the fondly remembered Action RPG Alundra for the PSX; a Zelda clone with more personality than what meets the eye and a somewhat difficult, mature and somber adventure. Now, fans of the original and newcomers alike will be able to sink their teeth into this PSOne Classic via the PlayStation Network at a bargain price.
As previously stated, Alundra is pretty much a Zelda clone. It’s got the same top-down view, very similar items (like bombs), a pretty big world to explore, with areas not accessible from the beginning, dungeons with chests and door keys, and the ability to get money when cutting the grass. Heck, even the main character kind of looks like a pirate Link. But don’t be fooled by the similarities, the game still boasts an actually interesting story (as opposed to most Zelda iterations) with charming characters and some really difficult puzzles and hazards.
The game tells the story of Alundra; a dreamwalker with an ancient ability to enter people’s dreams, and a personal quest to go to the Inoa village, only because his dreams tell him to do so. Unfortunately the ships he travel in gets trapped into an awful storm, and our hero ends up cast away on a beach near the village he was going to. He is picked up by an Inoan blacksmith called Jess, who takes care of him. After waking up and exploring the village a little bit, Alundra discovers the villagers are having horrible nightmares that compromise their physical and psychological integrity. A scholar called Septimus informs Alundra of his abilities, and the later decides to use them in order to help the villagers with their nightmares. It might sound a little basic, but this is just the beginning of an engrossing story, which is surprisingly mature and dark. It touches complex themes like fate, religion, death and the essence of human existence.
Gameplay-wise, Alundra shares many similarities with Zelda, except for details like the ability to dash, jump and being able to throw unlimited bombs. The controls in general are pretty tight and wont give you any trouble. In fact, there are only two issues worth mentioning; some awkwardness when entering doors, and some graphical inconsistencies regarding the height of things. That means you’ll usually have trouble knowing if your jump is high enough to reach a platform.
In terms of presentation, Alundra is quite charming, although I personally found the main character a little plain and uninteresting (he also wears some gigantic shoes in his sprite form). The sprite animations are well done and overall the locales make for a vibrant, moving world. The interface design is simple but very effective, but still try to keep in mind this is a little old-school title, so it wont really hold your hand through the whole game. This might be a little frustrating to casual gamers or little kids, but if you’re willing to get a little lost from time to time, and take advantage of that by exploring the world even further, then you’ll definitely enjoy this game. Also, be aware, some puzzle are extremely challenging, and most of the time, not solving them properly, will have you losing an item forever (unless, of course, you start a new story).
The music is good, but not fantastic. The composers tried to set the mood in very conventional ways, like using upbeat melodies on villages, and heroic marches on the outskirts of the towns. Overall it’s well done, and it really fits the game, but you probably wont remember any tune after playing. The sounds effects are equally average, and there’s understandably no dialogue.
In the end, it never matters how old a game is, how outdated its graphics may look, or how clone-ish it may appear. Alundra is very enjoyable and definitely worth playing. This is a long (it’ll last 40 hours), fun, hard, mildly mature and full of personality adventure. Some people refer to it as a classic and I really believe it is. If you’re into the Action RPG genre, you’re probably looking forward to Fable 3 or The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, but do yourself a favor and give Alundra a chance. It wont disappoint you.