|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
Final Fantasy VII may have been a dream come true for gaming fans, but others still hunger for more role-playing games (RPGs). Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get blessed — or cursed — with Alundra, for the Sony PlayStation.
Alundra was translated by Working Designs, a company long-known for its excellent RPGs. This particular title is from the same group responsible for Landstalker (Sega Genesis) and Dark Savior (Sega Saturn), and as such, is similar to those games' perspective and gameplay, but not their characters or setting.
The world of Inoa has had its gods ripped from them by an evil king; its people have lost their creativity and are plagued by horrible nightmares. Alundra is of a race imbued with the ability to enter people's dreams and affect their outcomes. The fates have chosen him to prevent an ancient evil from claiming Inoa as its own.
This action/RPG hybrid is similar to Nintendo's Zelda series: Alundra moves about from an overhead view, battling enemies in real time. He does not gain strength from experience but does find items to increase his health, money to purchase items, and occasionally, new armor and weapons.
The young adventurer is a character easy to control. Two main items are assigned to two buttons while the other two are for jumping and running; the latter is rarely useful. A subscreen of utilities is quickly accessible from many buttons.
Adventuring in Inoa is a colorful journey. From the mangy mutts to the eclipsing clouds to the graveyard ghosts, everything has a wonderful, pastel appearance. But there are no incredible bursts of jaw-dropping special effects, or a creature so monstrous that you can only feel a tinge of awe. Alundra's graphics are consistently above average.
Music is especially important in an RPG, and Alundra passes the standard. Its overtones and instruments produce perfect atmosphere. Sound effects are often average, but sometimes a scream or blast will some across as especially powerful.
The plot starts off slow, and rarely picks up pace. Many goals seem to be attacking the symptoms of a greater evil without focusing on the source. Almost all minor characters have unique names and faces, and it takes while to get to know the townspeople.
The game's challenge comes not from powerful foes (Alundra's enemies are actually quite easy to defeat), but intricate puzzles. You'll spend more time pushing switches and making jumps than anything else. I came across one puzzle which had twenty-four possible solutions, and no helpful clues about which was correct. These tiresome motions greatly hindered the overall fun factor.
An item easily overlooked in other products, Alundra has a beautiful instruction manual. From the glossy cover to the stylish illustrations to the original Japanese lyrics to the game's songs to the editor's candor, it's a pleasure to have. Kudos to Working Designs on a fine complement to the game.
Alundra is an action/RPG without enough elements of either genre. It gives a worthy presentation but is frustrating, and sometimes even boring, enough to hamper its potential. Alundra may be a dream come true for some, but a nightmare for others.
This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 19-Jan-98