Game Boy Advance Month Recap Capcom Month Recap Konami Month Recap Like us on Facebook! Subscribe to us on Twitter! Check out our Tumblr!
CONSOLE: PlayStation DEVELOPER: Matrix Software PUBLISHER: Working Designs
RELEASE DATE (NA): December 31, 1997 GENRE: Action-RPG
// review by Jeff

Ask your doctor if Alundra is right for you.

Yes, Alundra sounds more like an allergy medication than a proper game title, and yet it is. Alundra is an action-RPG title developed by Matrix Software, whose latest developments have been mostly centered around porting old Final Fantasy games to mobile devices, and published in North America by Working Designs, known for taking potential cult hits from Japan and localizing them for a new audience. The end result? Something I will never touch again.

Alundra stars Alundra. Yep. An elf with the distinct power to enter the dreams of others (he doesn't turn into some supernatural cloud of sparkles and float about; he just hovers over you while you sleep), he is the subject of a horrible storm at sea and is later found washed ashore by the small seaside town of Inoa. As Alundra arrives, the village is plagued with horror, where demons invade the dreams of those who dwell there, trying to kill them. Initially, the townsfolk just blame Alundra, but they eventually learn that this is the work of Melzas, a god/visiting alien that preys on the praise and the weakness of human hearts and minds to survive. How do you solve a problem like Alundra? The plotline ends up being more of a deeper examination of religion as a tool for contentment and self-appeasement; it is quite interesting. Or it would be if the game didn't suffer from a few other distracting setbacks.

At heart, Alundra wants to be what the Legend of Zelda is: an action-RPG with a slew of dungeons and excessive numbers of slashable shrubberies. The concept of Heart Containers are simply replaced with a different icon, Life Vessels, these diamond-shaped gems that somehow instill an extra boost of life for our fluffy-haired hero. For PlayStation owners who had not delved into a Nintendo console in a while, this seemed like a boon, mana from Heaven, for those missing out on the delectable Zelda goodness. But we have to face the bitter truth: Alundra isn't Zelda. It never was; it never will be. Alundra is far less enjoyable than Zelda, and this can be attributed to a number of things.

First and foremost: the guy jumps like he's a human butter factory. The game doesn't have a straight top-down perspective, nor is it a side-scroller. It's a slightly awkward birds-eye view while partially laying down, so knowing exactly where our titular hero will leap and land is a game in and of itself. I tried to keep a count of how many times I tried to make a jump, only to fail because it's so difficult to judge distance here. My counter caught fire. Every leap is a leap of faith, and this makes the game far more difficult than it really needs to be. Monsters aren't the enemy: platforms are. (Okay, monsters are pretty annoying as well, but they're at least manageable.) And it's because of this, mostly, that the game proved itself far more taxing on my patience and far less fun than it could have been. Alundra relies so heavily on jumping, of all things, and with that mechanic flawed to the max, it makes every dungeon a slog.

One thing you'll notice as you play along through the game is that it never ends when it should. Zelda knew its limits; Alundra says, "Eh, I'll keep going." With well over twenty lengthy (multi-hour, if you're visiting without a walkthrough or any prior knowledge of where to go... and even if you do) dungeons, this game just keeps going and going like the Energizer bunny. The bunny only lasts for 30 seconds before the next commercial comes on, but Alundra overstays its welcome. All the dungeons here are excruciatingly lengthy and convoluted, filled with really annoying puzzles that often require the pixel-perfect jumping that Alundra simply can't provide. If your dungeons have one or two save points INSIDE them, they're TOO LONG.

Worse yet, without any in-game map to speak of, dungeons are far less manageable and more confusing. In most Zelda games, I could do without looking at the map the majority of the time, but here, with such grandiose labyrinthine excursions into darkness, some sort of navigational mechanism would've been greatly appreciated.


All the colours, people!

Another issue I had was with the handling of inventory. Yes, you can only hold one Strength Elixyr at a time, and I've made peace with that. It's that Alundra decided to include some equippable items in that list, and considering you can only have one item selected at a time, in order to use, say, a simple Herb, you have to basically take your shoes off. Boots were meant to be equipment, not items. If you need to heal at the same time you need the boots to live... well... Matrix Software, you dun goofed!

As long as we're talking about inventory, let's talk about all that fine weaponry he can bring with him. Swords, balls 'n chains, magic wands, bows... Alundra must have an Al Borland tool belt on hand to carry all that equipment. Different situations call for different weapons: bows can shoot switches from a distance, the flails can bust giant rocks, the sword... well, it's good for cutting through those pesky ficuses, and possibly a monkey sternum. Switching between the weapons is a bit of a pain, not because it's hard to do, but because you'll switch to a new weapon, use it, then quickly switch back because who wants to use that flail for fighting? It's so slow. And the bow is weaker than a moth on Dormalin. Too bad they didn't take the Mega Man approach and use the shoulder buttons for that. Alundra can also use magic spells he learns along the way, but with such limited uses for these before he just runs out of MP, I wouldn't rely heavily on that.

The game's difficulty really varies from time to time, but usually it's a frustration. As I've stated, the platforming will probably be the most hair-pulling aspect, and that was where most of my cursing at the television came from. Meanwhile, enemies, though not horribly offensive in and of themselves, often at you in droves in small quarters, whittling down your health while you hope to slash your way to freedom. The boss battles range from moderately sadistic to "so easy a bear could do it". Even the final boss is pathetically weak, to the point where you may very well get out of that battle with only very minor paper cuts.

At least it's pleasant to look at. The sprites are quite detailed, and the occasional special effect is much appreciated. Most of the music falls short of being memorable, save for the Inoa village theme song. I'll be remembering that one for years to come, especially the "UNH!" sound effect it uses from time to time. Other aspects of the game, like its incredibly wordy script, could use a little work. I'll bet Working Designs had a field day on that, but did we really need references to marijuana, Ritalin, and Roger Ebert in the dialogue here? They don't even FIT.

I was ecstatic when Alundra came to a close. It took me longer to complete than it should have, mostly because I walked away from it for a month simply because of how tedious and disheartening the whole experience is. Enough people disagreed with me in 1997 to warrant a sequel, Alundra 2, although it is that in name only, for it is a 3D action-RPG that has nothing to do with the previous game. There isn't even anyone named Alundra in it. ...Maybe there's hope.


Widget is loading comments...
Random.access and its contents are © 2005-2017.