Alundra- PlayStation game- RPG

In this day and age, games companies are turning more and more to graphics and gimmicks. Strategy and tactics, puzzles and gameplay are being left to flounder- And so much is merely the same thing stolen from other games, like the repetative "walking, walking, surprise fight, walking" combats. Roleplaying games in particular fall under the Final Fantasy syndrome, turn-basing everything and leaving the idea of "pick up and play" on the roadside.

Most games (and gamers) are now mainly interested in the graphics, not caring much for little details like playability, or relying on using the series name rather than a plot.

Games like the old ones are out there- ones that're easy to pick up and play but are addictive and enough of a challenge to while away a day, able to be played shortly with no loss of playability rather than spending years in front of one screen yet capable of being played solidly for hours.

Alundra is such a game- a game from bygone years thrust into the present. If it had had a bigger press release, perhaps it could have been as big as Final Fantasy; it's of the Old School of RPG, the type of games that should not have been lost.

From the start, you play as Alundra, a (an Elven?) boy with the ability to step into people's dreams and alleviate their nightmares (Similair to in the film Dreamscape); this is a major part of the game itself.

The story's beins with Alundra on his way to a village named Inoa. This is said to be because he saw it in a dream, told by someone called Lars. The ship gets involved in a storm during the voyage, and sinks; Alundra is safely washed up on a beach not far from the village. There he is found by someone called Jess, a blacksmith in Inoa, who takes Alundra in and treats him like a son. But things are not right with the townspeople.

A plague of lethal, terrifying nightmares starts washing over the sleepy village, causing restlessness and harm within. Paranoia sweeps through Inoa, some blaming Alundra- but few to his face, though you can feel how the people feel about him. The only one to be able to stop these locally is Alundra himslef, who uses his natural ability after being advised by the local doctor, someone called Septimus.

Released in 1998 in America under Psygnosis and Eidos, Alundra quickly grew in popularity even though it was little advertised.

Alundra's graphics harken back to the days of the Sega Genesis/Megadrive and SNES graphics with finely drawn sprite-based graphics, far different from the modern graphics used in games such as Final Fantasy.

The game is set in a three-quarter top-down view, somewhat different from Landstalker, closer to the perspective used in The Legend of Zelda and Wild Arms; while this detracts little from the game's appearence, it does make jumping- which is a common activity- harder than necessary.

This game does resemble both Zelda and Landstalker massively, with the same hack-slash combat and similair jumping requirements. There is, however, more to this game than hacking your way through dungeons with a few scattered puzzles; while those two were combat and trap heavy, Alundra has matured and combines them with a deeper plot than "rescue princess, find sword, kill baddie" or "find treasure, kill traitor."

The only problem with the graphics- other than severely 16-bit like- is that while playing you'll run into areas where you're not able to judge height or distance before going ahead by trial and error. If you're stuck in a dungeon where you've seemingly tried everything, trying to jump across an area that seems like it'd be too far might be the answer. The end of the game shows you some exquisite animé sequences, parts of which are shown at the title sequence.

During the game, the dungeons are what the game is mainly about. There are plenty of places to explore on the overworld map, some of which aren't reachable unless a certain item or weapon has been found first, but bost of these merely lead to the next dungeon. (There are, however, a healthy dose of Landstalker-like hard to reach places which you need to backtrack on after gaining the use of a particular item to break through)

Each of the game's main dungeons needs you to figure out dozens of puzzles and traps before reaching the end. Though there is combat, the puzzles are more than "kill all enemies in this room", and more involve pressing down buttons or such. At times, you even need the enemies to, say, hold down on buttons to keep the doors open!

The great thing about the dungeons is that there is something new in every single one of them, right up until the end- So if you're getting through the game at a decent pace, there's bound to be something up ahead that will completely throw you off. Each little area will have another trap or monster that is not like you've seen before and will take more than a little luck or trial and error to face off against.

Alundra's gameplay is nicely balanced. The control is tight, but at times jumping to successive platforms (especially when they move) can be frustrating if not downright annoying. Being surrounded by enemies can spell disaster as well, but running from your enemies is not always the best route to take. Sometimes special items or switches appear when all the enemies in an area are defeated, though this is less often than in Landstalker again.

As for music, Alundra's tunes fit the mood of the game - from upbeat and adventurous to solemn - and the music will stick in your head, with pleasent, humable tunes. There's also a hidden sound test, which reveals new songs as you hear them during the game (a nice touch). Also, there is a great song at the end of the game wth excellent voice talent.

What is really good about Alundra is the translation- for those who have complained about Psygnosis' past liberties with American humour (see the Landstalker node for an example), there is very little to complain about here, except one joke with a bunch of flowers.

Alundra is maturely written and has a tone and feel that fits the game to a tee. Each character has its own distinct personality, instead of being caught in a trap where the dialogue could be described as "one size fits all." As the story progresses, religion becomes a major player in the game's plot, as the townspeople slowly begin to realize what's behind their suffering.

If you're a fan of Zelda, Landstalker, or other action RPGs that have hit consoles before, then Alundra should be your next stop. It's an addictive, well-rounded game that is balanced, challenging, and, most of all, fun to play. If you're speedy, on the quick end it'll take around 30 hours to complete. If you take your time and really search while trying to figure out every puzzle, it'll take a lot longer... in this respect, it reminds one of Metal Gear Solid, more about what you want to do than doing everything through one path.

One big down side is it's linear. Like many other RPGs, it's one cohoice of what to do next normally; you MUST visit this dream eventualy to advance the plot, or you MUST go to see Nava or whatever.

If you're a hard-fought turn-based RPG veteran who's not so good when it comes to button-pressing dexterity, then Alundra will take some getting used to... but if you're a fan of action games, or a fan of the old-school RPGs, you will fall in love with this game.

Disclaimer: Yes, this does come from a source on H2G2... MY source, I wrote that. I used to be an H2G2 member. I have modified and added to it.