Fans of Action RPGs have been waiting a long time for a new game in the genre to appear. Not since the days of the 16-bit systems have we had any good Action RPGs to play in North America. With the release of Alundra, Working Designs has fixed this situation. Alundra is basically the sequel to the classic Sega Genesis Action RPG Landstalker. Fans of the original will recognize the similar styles instantly upon playing Alundra.
Gameplay- If you’ve played Landstalker, then you know what you’re in for. If you haven’t , then get ready for a very high learning curve. Gameplay is good but tedious, and there will be tons of instances where you feel like smashing your controller into a wall. Alundra features lots of platforming, ranging from moderately difficult to very difficult. There are particular spots in the game where the player will attempt a sequence of jumps, and it might take them 20 or 30 tries to get it right. There is also plenty of puzzling fun for the player, ranging from basic switch flipping, to more difficult styles such as timing puzzles. There are tons of puzzles, and Alundra will humble you with them. Since this game is an Action RPG, all monsters are faced in realtime. There are plenty of areas in the game’s dungeons where the player can encounter as much as four to six enemies on screen at once, but once you get the hang of the game’s controls, you won’t have trouble dispatching enemies. The boss characters are another matter altogether. WD decided to make them a tad more difficult for the english version, and it shows. Gamers must be patient, as some bosses will require upwards of thirty hits to kill. I had my butt kicked by half the bosses, when I first encountered them. There will be players who hate this game, because of its slow and tedious gameplay. As a fan of the original, I like it, but I do wish that occasionally certain obstacles had been removed, because it seems like overkill sometimes. Overall gameplay is fun, but frustrating, This game will test your patience, so make sure to practice your breathing techniques while playing Alundra. I give gameplay an 80/100.
Graphics- Alundra features 2D backgrounds viewed at from the classic three-quarter overhead perspective. This view has been used in so many of the classic Action RPGs, like Zelda, and Secret of Mana. It’s an acquired taste now, but personally I find the graphics to be very good. The backgrounds have good detail, and, while the color palette isn’t the best, everything looks good. Most of my favorite areas were in dream sequences, which encompass everything from tropical forests to snowy castles. The sprites in the game animate well, and slowdown is pretty rare. The boss characters look good, especially some of the latter monsters. Spell effects unfortunately are boring and get old very quickly. I give graphics an 85/100.
Control- Control is decent, your character will respond instantly to touches of the buttons or the D-pad, but I would have preferred it to be more precise. There are many instances where the player will make a jump onto a small platform, and then slip off the other side. The game’s overhead perspective doesn’t help the control much either. Sometimes the player will have trouble identifying what jumps can and cannot be made. This is more than a little annoying , considering the backtracking that missing some jumps will force. Spells are cast immediatly upon touching the correct button on the control pad. The menu system is excellent, with ease of access and use. I give control an 70/100.
Sound- This is the one area of Alundra that I have real problems with. The sound effects are okay, and there are plenty of them. However, I did not enjoy the game music at all. I found it to be boring, and in many instances to not fit the situation that was onscreen. In general WD has put forth some the best game music ever, and this game is really the exception to that rule. I give sound a 60/100.
Story- Okay, probably the most important aspect of an RPG. Yes, Alundra has a good story.You take the role of the main character in the game, Alundra, a dreamwalker, and you are fighting an evil demon called Melzas, who is trying to destroy your world. You do battle against him in both the physical realm, and in the dreamworld. Alundra has the ability to enter the dreams of others and rid them of the demons which have possessed them. The story can be a tad confusing at times, and requires the player to really pay attention to all the conversations within the game. The story is also sad at times, as the character is confronted with the death of many NPCs in the game, some to which Alundra will be very close. There are also plenty of subplots, some dealing with lies, and star crossed love. I did like the story, and felt it was one of the strong points of the game. I give story a 90/100.
Overall- I really like Alundra. This type of game isn’t for everyone though. It’s difficult, and many players will not have the patience to see it through. It is the best Action RPG available on any Next Gen system though, and will most likely remain so until Zelda 64 is released later this year. If you’re looking for a good Action RPG, then Alundra should do the trick.