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The Alundra game with... Alundra!
Alundra is a man with the ability to dream walk. Is it a gift, or a curse? Alundra follows the words of Lars, an old man in his dreams, and boards a ship to find the village of Inoa. The ship he boards is destroyed in a vicious storm, and Alundra is lost at sea.
Fortunately our hero is rescued by the Jess, the local weapon maker, in the village Alundra sought. As Jess nurses Alundra back to health, he tells stories of how the village of Inoa has lost its sense of creation. Even Jess himself has not made a weapon for some time. While nothing can explain it, there is a real sense of despair among the villagers.
Unlike the traditional RPG, Alundra does not always happily progress once he defeats each challenge. The most memorable aspect of Alundra is its heart-ripping story. More than once I had to take a break from the game to fend off the gloom and doom the story brings down on the innocents of Inoa village. While the game is not depressing, the player can really feel for what the people must suffer through. While they don't trust Alundra, they almost have no choice but to allow an outside to assist them, and it shows how much that bothers them.
Since the driving force to complete the game is the story, the time spent on the solving the puzzles can be considered time well spent. The story contains many surprises, and like a good mystery, refinding those surprises by playing through a second time isn't near as exciting. Add to that the fact that the player will be hard pressed to remember how to solve the puzzles a second time, and Alundra's replay value sags quite a bit.
To add to the scenes is an above average score of music that entwines itself in the player's mind as he or she stares aghast at the next puzzle. A moving piece may bring a player to tears as another life slips from Alundra's fingers, leaving the player feeling helpless and distraught. A battle cry emerges from the player's lips as the latest boss looms before Alundra, the music score carrying beyond simply playing the game, into the battle itself.
Set in an overhead two dimensional world with sprite characters, Alundra won't blow players away with fancy new graphics. Alundra's time was a simpler one. The gaming world was not yet caught up in the new craze of the three-dimensional environment. While the sprites were small, they contain more feeling and emotion than almost all of the recent polygonal characters in today's more recent games. The only true disappointment I found was the lack of anime cut scenes, even though quite a few were shown in the introduction video.
If there is one thing that makes Working Designs' games stand out from typical translations, it's the use of zany humor and Western clichˇs. Alundra was the first game Working Designs brought to the Sony PlayStation, and while the story did not leave many openings for such antics, a few priceless gems will be found for those looking.
For those who have already played Alundra, this retroview either rings true to home, or you gave up on those ice block puzzles and never did complete the story. While Alundra is now over three years old, it still holds a special place in my library. The complexity and deep emotions that run through the story can be used for measuring other stories for years to come.
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