Tag Archives: Alundra

Alundra dreams about one obtuse puzzle at a time

alundra early thoughts PS1

According to an online walkthrough, I’m just about halfway through Alundra. And yes, I’m playing with a guide at my side; if I didn’t, I would have given up on the action-adventure Legend of Zelda wannabe sometime back during the saint puzzles in Lars’ Crypt. Or maybe even in the Coal Mine. No doubt about it. But like a bad dream, I’m jumping around and getting ahead of myself. Let’s take it back to the start, just after the awesomely anime cutscene that reinforces the fact that this was most definitely made in the 1990s by Matrix Software, a Japanese video game development company from Tokyo.

The story, while cliché in places, like collecting a bunch of crystals via one dungeon at a time to stop a big baddie, is actually kind of interesting: Alundra, the silent protagonist you control and name of the game, is an elf from the Elna clan of Dreamwalkers. He comes to Inoa after getting shipwrecked, but also because of a recurring dream where a mysterious figure calls him “Releaser” and says he must save the villagers from the evil wizard Melzas. After a while, the people of Inoa begin blaming Alundra for all of the terrible happenings despite his earnest attempts to save them. It’s a pretty straightforward and rather serious story, with some goofy moments and characters now and then, such as Bonaire, the surfer dude and his dream of winning over Sara, a bodacious babe.

I can’t recall if Alundra was ever called “the Zelda killer” though I do know that phrase was used around Dark Cloud, which was not at all a Zelda killer, but did eventually lead to a fantastic sequel that I still need to beat one day, but only after I restart and get all the vital photos along the way. Sorry, got distracted. To get to the point: Alundra is no Zelda killer. Far from it. If anything, it’s a Landstalker/Zelda clone, but much harsher, with subpar controls, and doesn’t give a lick if you can’t figure out its puzzles. Sure, you are traveling across an open world, slashing grass, tossing bombs and pots, charging your sword up for a more powerful attack, and gaining new powers after specific dungeons that can help you advance in the next one, but that doesn’t mean you can toss away your yellowing copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past now that Alundra is in your life. We all know that Charles Caleb Colton said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” and I’ll leave it at that.

Just kidding. Alundra is not terrible, but it’s probably one of the more frustrating games I’ve played in a long time, and I really don’t know how people played this back in 1997 without a helpful walkthrough at their side. I’ve had to look up just about every puzzle past the first few dreams Alundra jumps into, and it’s not because I’m a mindless idiot; in fact, I’d like to think I’m fairly smart, intelligent enough to figure out many point-and-click game puzzles. For many of Alundra‘s puzzles, it’s not all about figuring out the solution, but also executing the moves to get the job done. There’s a lot of platforming- and timing-based moves you have to do to open the door to the next room, and unfortunately, Alundra does not move very well. You can only walk in four directions, and the jumping never feels good. Run is assigned to the triangle button, but it is useless because you can’t run and jump–only run. Plus, there’s a lot of depth perception going on in hopping from one column to another, and oftentimes, if you miss a landing, it means starting the jumping all over again, usually from much earlier in the process. That’s my biggest hurdle here: identifying what jumps can and cannot be made.

A couple of negative nitpicks include that while you pick up new armor, like boots and chestplates, these are not visible on Alundra. Fine, I can let that slide. Not every game is about that, but unlike The Legend of Zelda, you can’t even see what gear you have collected in your inventory menu. You just have to remember. It is automatically found and applied, which is disappointing, especially since you get a decent jingle when opening treasure chests and defeating dungeon bosses. I like seeing everything I’ve found along the journey, whether it is useable or not. Fighting enemies is tedious due to Alundra’s inadequate ability to move fast, as well as move and attack at the same time, leading me to avoid combat in most cases.

But despite all that, I’m still really curious. About everything. Just to see what happens next, what special tool Alundra will earn, and so on. It’s probably because I’ve been dreaming myself of playing this game for so long, ever since I read about it in some nascent issue of PSM, but by the time I got around to being able to buy videogames at my leisure, stores no longer carried PS1 games. Flash-forward many, many years, and you can now find Alundra on the PSN for a couple of bucks, and dang it, I really need to know if it was worth all the waiting, all the hoping. Given how much frustration I’ve already encountered eight or nine hours in, I’m thinking no, but one never knows, and I’d rather see it to the end and know for sure then spend some more years living in uncertainty.

Some RPGs I’ve never gotten to play and maybe never will (PART ONE)

I once lived only on wishful thinking, and one of those gleaming nuggets was this: to play every videogame that came out. That hope quickly dashed itself into non-existence when I learned about time and money and headspace and all that jazz that keeps us from spending hour after hour in a digital world. And so, as it often happens, a good number of videogames get released and pass on by. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can test a demo out and get a feel for whether I really need to play more or not. Most of the time–eh, no. And back in the day, back before online Let’s Play forums and countless YouTube videos, not playing a game yourself really meant not experiencing it all, save for some magazine articles, tiny screenshots, lunchroom gossip, and whatever magic your imagination could work.

And that’s sad. I’ve missed out on a lot of videogames over the years; there’s just not enough time to play ’em all, as much as we’d all wish there was. RPGs especially, considering the majority of these are 3o+ hour games versus the more standard 8+ hour adventures of non-RPGs. They take so long of a time to play that when you do finally hit the end credits, a good four or five new RPGs were already released and taken off the shelves for other new releases. Oi.

Anyways, here’s some RPGs that I, unfortunately, missed the boat on:

Final Fantasy X

Something happened here, and I still don’t understand it. See, I played pre-ordered Final Fantasy VII and started playing it the very day I got it. Same goes with Final Fantasy VIII. I did not buy Final Fantasy IX immediately, but I really didn’t wait too long to get that one. Then I went to college–the very same time Final Fantasy X dropped for the PlayStation 2. Oh man, was there hype! This one was sporting voices. People were going crazy over it, and I just didn’t have the time or money to invest in it. Alas, I did not know many other gamers in my dorm, and so this passed on by without a beep. By the time Final Fantasy X-2 came out, I was over the idea of going back to see what made it so special. Was it 95% soccer under water and 5% fun? Can’t say. But I feel like I should try to play it eventually considering just how many of these Final Fantasy games I’ve already played at this point. Funny enough, a used copy still comes in at like $20.00.

Alundra

Modeled very much after The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Alundra was about a boy with the power to go into people’s dreams and fight back their nightmares. It was released for the original PlayStation in 1997 and went with the exact opposite of what that system was trying to push. 2D sprites and anime-inspired FMV were its most obvious strong points in terms of visuals. Heard the puzzles got hard, and the music very repetitive. However, I distinctly recall never seeing this game on store shelves when I’d be browsing.

Suikoden III

This is the series that truly started it all for me. Loved the first game, loved the second game even more. That seems to be the status quo for just about everyone that set off to collect 108 Stars of Destiny. And then I completely missed out on III and IV (the latter is supposedly a good thing)…again, I blame college. I had very little time to play back then despite my continuous subscription to PSM for all four years of learning. Anyways, heard that this one kept up the grand tradition of an epic story of war and waging politics, but this time did it through several different POVs. Not sure if the 3D models have aged well–I mean, they were only just okay in Suikoden V–but I still feel like I missed something solid here.

Secret of Evermore

There’s traditional fantasy RPGs, like Final Fantasy, and then there’s this. Like Earthbound, Secret of Evermore strives to be quirky. That’s kind of all I really know of the game. Oh, and that you follow a boy and his shape-shifting dog (yes!!!) through a fantasy world reflecting different periods of time and the magic system throughout is focused on alchemy. Sounds good to me. Really good, actually. A shame I knew nothing about it back when I owned an SNES and spent all my car-washing money on Shaq-Fu. No, really. I bought Shaq-Fu. I’m saving that juicy story for another time on Grinding Down; y’all will just have to wait. Insert evil laughter.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Wait, what? You’re shouting at me? Grand Theft Auto isn’t a role-playing game series! There’s no turn-based action gameplay or any stats to worry about! Hmm…maybe not the first four games or so, but from what I’ve gathered, that all changed with GTA: San Andreas. Character development is totally a thing, with clothes and accessories affecting how the streets see the main protagonist. One also has to eat and work out to stay slim and fit, and there’s skills to work towards (driving skills, firing skills, lung capacity skills, bowstaff skills). Sounds like quite an RPG! I’ve always had trouble staying interested in these sorts of games, but if the above is true and solid, well…this might be the GTA for me.

Well, that’s all for this post. Certainly there’s about a hundred more RPGs I’ve yet to play, and you’ll find out about them down the road. Have you played any of the above? Tell me in the comments below. I’d love to know if any of these are worth tracking down–if possible–and playing this day and age.