Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Challenge – Alundra

Chronological Challenge – Alundra

December 9, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

Wow, I’m bad at posting these every day. I apologise for that. I hope I can post more in the coming days, but I can’t promise because that would potentially be a lie. But I will try!

Anyway, this one’s a good one. The last game of 1997 I actually finished. Let’s gooooo!

Alundra
Publisher: SCE/Psygnosis | Developer: Matrix Software | Released: April 1997 (Japan)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Find all Gilded Falcons and Life Vessels, and then defeat Melzas

Actual Outcome: Melzas defeated, all Falcons and Life Vessels found!

Alundra is one of those games that I have very strong feelings about, but very few people, if any, know of its existence. I’m surprised that I know about it, to be honest, since it’s kind of unusual for an obscure Japanese action RPG to turn up in my collection from childhood, but it’s been there a while, and I love it to bits.

Alundra is essentially A Link to the Past for the PlayStation. Has the same top-down view, and the same explore-dungeon-explore structure as that game. You find weapons and tools that allow you to progress to new areas that get you closer to unlocking the seven mystical items that you need to reach some kind of embodiment of evil you must destroy. However, while Zelda as a series is often fairly whimsical and presents an idealistic view of a small boy being able to save the whole world, Alundra is what happens when Zelda stops taking anti-depressants.

Alundra is a lot more about the plot than ALttP, with a single village, Inoa, being the centre of every event in the game. Every villager has a name and a backstory and you learn about every single one of them as the game progresse. They act independently, have their own motivations, and react to you in different ways. They’re a far cry from the nameless NPCs running about in other similar games spouting off the same inane lines for eternity. And this is the central hook of Alundra – you grow to care about these doomed residents, something that never happened with the Kakariko residents of ALttP.

You see, Inoa Village is cursed. The villagers experience harrowing nightmares, and they’ve lost their ability to create. They pray to their gods for salvation, but salvation never comes. Alundra is a Dreamwalker, meaning he has the power to project his soul into people’s dreams, where he can monitor their thoughts and help them overcome their struggles. He becomes the town’s resident doctor/wandering swordsman, and attempts to save the lives of these helpless people, while trying to track down the source of this curse and lift it once and for all. It’s fairly standard stuff, but it’s incredible in its execution. And without spoiling too much, there is a lot of death in this game. You will not be able to save everyone, and this heart-wrenching aspect of the storyline may be covered in a Losing the Plot feature sometime soon, as I feel it’s worth exploring further.

The game flip-flops between dream dungeons and standard dungeons in the real-world map, while the world fans out as you progress through the game. There is no in-game map, something I’ve complained about for some other games, and yet I never really found it to be a problem here. The game provides helpful signposting, and the areas have unique designs with key landmarks sitting fairly close together. Exploration is challenging, especially in dungeons, but it never once becomes incomprehensible, and this nice balance is part of the reason I love the game so much.

The gameplay is also very smooth and easy to handle. Alundra himself is responsive, and the jumping aspects of the gameplay offer an interesting new dimension to the top-down proceedings. There are plenty of jumping puzzles that have the potential to annoy, admittedly, especially with the awkward forced perspective that sometimes doesn’t line up in the way you’d expect, but on the whole these jumping puzzles made the gameplay a little more interesting than the standard JRPG. In fact, the puzzles in general are the height of challenging without being completely obtuse. There’s always a clue, or a pattern, or something that helps the solution along. There are tests of dexterity, where practice really does make perfect, and even enemies have the potential to offer up unique challenges.

Graphically, this is about as good as late 90s sprite art could get. The animations are smooth, the locations are all lovingly designed and the colour palette is vibrant enough to please the eyes. The soundtrack is fantastic too, with the sound design weaved in to the gameplay. The music is wonderful too, and the Inoa Village theme has been engraved into my brain for eternity and I have no complaints about it.

In fact, I have very few complaints about Alundra as a game. There are some parts that can cause minor frustration, and that Roulette game side-quest can sod off, but on the whole, Alundra is an underrated gem that really need to be played by a wider audience. One of my favourite PS1 games of all time, in fact.

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  1. December 10, 2015 at 2:38 am

    Never heard of this game, but I was sold on “Alundra is essentially A Link to the Past for the PlayStation. Has the same top-down view, and the same explore-dungeon-explore structure as that game. “

    • December 10, 2015 at 10:55 am

      More specifically, it’s a more plot-oriented ALttP with a jumping mechanic, and I actually kinda prefer it. It’s definitely worth checking out if you can track it down. It was released on PSN as a PSOne Classic a few years back, so if you’ve got a PS3 kicking around it’s definitely worth taking a look.

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