Further Exploration: RPG Worlds Worth Revisiting

Alundra - by Dennis Rubinshteyn
Alundra There are tons of traditional RPGs with a one hit-wonder I would love to see have a sequel (Skies of Arcadia) and many franchises I wish would get revived (Lunar 3) or continue on further (Suikoden VI). Despite all of that, I chose Alundra, a Zelda-esque game that Working Designs released in the 90s, to deserve a sequel above all else. Why? Despite it being pretty well known as just a Zelda clone, it has a couple of very strong points going for it, and the experience it ultimately delivers is one of a kind amongst action-adventure games.

You play as the titular character, Alundra, an elf with the unique power of entering people's dreams. At the start of the game, he gets shipwrecked and washed ashore on an unknown beach. A local blacksmith from the village of Inoa rescues Alundra and allows him to reside there. The plot starts innocently enough with Alundra settling into his new home, getting to know the residents and using his power to dispel a villager's nightmare. Shortly after, the plot becomes dark, bizarre and downright twisted, but so captivating that it left me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.

One aspect that stands out is how death plays a major theme in Alundra to the point where even the death of a minor NPC feels relevant and contributes to the central plot. It's a theme I rarely see used in JRPGs outside of Shin Megami Tensei, and I would like to see more of them take on this type of grim storytelling. Darker stories are more common nowadays, but Alundra stood out heavily to me back then because I'd played no other game like that.

The gameplay plays out like a Zelda game with some decent action elements and some cool bosses, but it is best known for its heavy usage of puzzles. The game has a huge number of them and they're notoriously difficult. The puzzles in Alundra utilize mixtures of speed, skill, and riddle solving, and as tough as they might be, they really are well done and pushed my reflexes, skill, and brainpower above and beyond my limit. While I do get frustrated with puzzles from time to time, Alundra's provided a challenge that never felt cheap and left me immensely satisfied when I overcame them all with my own skills. Looking back now, I had fun with these puzzles (save for the sliding puzzles, which I hate in every game and were evil incarnate in Alundra.)

Kohei Tanaka's music is also great, contributing a lot of atmosphere to the dark feel of the game, but with enough style and melodic substance to make it memorable. I still listen to some of the songs, and the extremely beautiful "Shrine in the Lake" is amongst of the best and most unique final dungeon themes, ever. I really wish that Tanaka would do more video game compositions.

There is actually an Alundra 2 out there, but it's a "sequel" purely in name only. Not only does it not star the titular character, but there is zero mention nor any bit of reference to anything that happens in its predecessor at all. It's not that bad a game, but I still question why it's even called Alundra 2 when it has absolutely no relation to the Alundra lore set up in the first game. It's even more disheartening because the first game takes place on just one region, AND ends on an open-ended note with Alundra setting off to another place. That makes it an easy setup for future sequels where Alundra would reside in another place and take on any trouble that occurs. Perhaps it is because of this misleading installment that the Alundra "series" came to a grinding halt, but who really knows.

The developer, Matrix Software, is active these days, developing many great games alongside Square Enix for the DS such as the Final Fantasy IV remake and, most recently, 4 Heroes of Light. With Alundra out on the PSN store, I hope interest in it revitalizes and that Matrix Software has enough motivation to develop a true successor with more gritty tales to tell and more nerve-wrecking puzzles to solve. And, as mentioned earlier, Tanaka would have to provide the musical score for it. It's pretty much wishful thinking on my part since Alundra was never popular in the first place, but there have been some surprise sequels and franchise revivals, so you truly never know how things might develop.

Read More:
Alundra - by Dennis Rubinshteyn Anachronox - by Kyle E. Miller Final Fantasy VI - by Mike Salbato Final Fantasy Tactics - by Bob Richardson The Legend of Dragoon - by Bryan Grosnick Lunar - by Patrick Gann Septerra Core - by Neal Chandran Skies of Arcadia - by Stephen Meyerink Suikoden - by Abraham Ashton Liu Vagrant Story - by Robert Steinman Xenogears - by Liz Maas

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Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT

Star Ocean: Second Evolution • 2:30pm PDT/5:30pm EDT
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Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep • 2:30pm PDT/5:30pm EDT
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