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Alundra (アランドラ Arandora?), released in Europe as The Adventures of Alundra, is an action-adventure/action role-playing video game developed by Matrix Software for the Sony PlayStation, originally released in 1997. It was published by Sony in Japan, Working Designs in North America, and Psygnosis in Europe.

The game's protagonist is a young man named Alundra, who learns that he has the power to enter people's dreams. He is shipwrecked on an island, near the village of Inoa, where locals have been suffering from recurring nightmares that sometimes cause death. With his dream walking ability, Alundra proceeds to try to help the locals. The narrative becomes gradually darker and more twisted as the game progresses, dealing with mature themes such as death, clinical depression,[3] fate, religion, and the essence of human existence.[4]

The gameplay involves extensive exploration of the island and various dungeons, with an emphasis on challenging puzzle solving, real-time action combat, and platforming,[5] as well as interaction with non-player characters in the village of Inoa. The main gameplay innovation is a dream walking mechanic, where Alundra can enter people's dreams, with each of the dream levels having its own unique twist based upon the dreamer’s personality and traits.[3]

Upon release, Alundra earned unanimous critical acclaim as well as some initial commercial success. It was praised for its well-written story and characterization, smooth game mechanics and platforming, challenging gameplay and puzzles,[5] and expansive overworld exploration. However, it was criticized for its dated 2D sprite visuals, and suffered from a low production run, becoming obscure over time.[3] Retrospective reception has since been more positive towards its 2D art design,[5] and considers the game to be a classic of its genre.[5][4]

In recent years, Alundra has been made available as a downloadable game on the PSone Classics service for the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network.[6] A sequel entitled Alundra 2: A New Legend Begins, which had very little in common with the original Alundra, was released in 1999.

Gameplay

Alundra is considered a spiritual sequel to Climax Entertainment's Landstalker on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive.[7] In addition to a similar looking main character, the game's development team consisted of former employees of Climax Entertainment. The gameplay includes a combination of top-down action role-playing and platform elements, quite similar to Zelda series. It is known for containing many extremely difficult puzzles, some of which cannot be accessed if the player progresses further in the game, making some items unattainable. It is also known for its music and dark storyline. A range of terrain and surfaces also add variety, from sand, which causes the player to move more slowly, to lava, which damages the player. Upgrades throughout the game can help the player to overcome many of these obstacles, encouraging exploration.

Plot

Alundra, the protagonist and player character, is an elf from the clan of Elna, the Dreamwalkers. He is a silent protagonist. He set out for a place called Inoa because of a recurring dream in which a mysterious figure who calls Alundra "Releaser" tells him that he must save the villagers from the evil of Melzas. His ship is caught in a storm and he is later found washed ashore on an island, unconscious.

Alundra has drifted to a beach, where a man named Jess finds and rescues him. Jess carries Alundra to his house at the village of Inoa and lets him sleep in his guest room. In the village, Alundra discovers he is a Dreamwalker and helps the villagers get rid of the nightmares that have been possessing them. Since Alundra's arrival, bad things have started to happen in the village, with various villagers being murdered in their dreams. Some of the villagers eventually start blaming Alundra for what is happening.

Another dreamwalker, Meia, from the clan Elna arrives to the city and she helps Alundra fight off the nightmares of the villagers, while he gathers the information and items needed to access Melzas' palace and eventually kill the demon. Later in the game, it is revealed that the demon, Melzas, has disguised himself as a god, and he is the source of all the nightmares of the village. His goal is to make the villagers pray for their god, and thus gaining power from their prayers. Ronan, the priest of the village, was also on the side of Melzas and helped him to deceive the villagers.

Story

The game starts with Alundra being on a ship. After walking around and talking to the crew, Alundra decides to take a nap. He has a mysterious dream where a strange being named Lars tells him that he is a wizard and one of the guardians of the seal. Suddenly, Alundra sees a vision from the village of Inoa. After the vision, Lars calls Alundra a 'Releaser' and tells him that north of the village there is a dark lake and below it there has lied a demon for over 1000 years, and it has awakened recently. After telling this, a creature named Melzas appears and points out that nobody has the power to stop him, especially not a human like Alundra. After talking with Lars about humans and the 'Releaser', Melzas disappears. Lars tells Alundra to travel to village Inoa and stop the demon.

Suddenly Alundra wakes up to the ship shaking, and after getting out of his cabin, he finds out that there is a huge storm above the ship. The captain tells the crew not to worry but they sail into the reef, causing the ship to sink. After this Alundra loses consciousness.

Alundra has drifted to a beach, where a man named Jess finds and rescues him. Jess carries Alundra to his house at village Inoa and lets him sleep in his guest room. In the village, Alundra discovers he is a Dreamwalker and helps the villagers get rid of the nightmares that have been possessing them. Since Alundra's arrival, bad things have started to happen in the village, and some of the people blame Alundra for them. Later in the game, however, it is revealed that the demon, Melzas, has disguised himself as a god, and he is the source of all the nigthmares of the village. His goal is to make the villagers pray for their god, and thus gaining power from their prayers. Ronan, the priest of the village, was also on the side of Melzas and helped him to deceive the villagers.

Another dreamwalker, Meia, from the clan Elna arrives to the city and helps Alundra fight off the nightmares of the villagers, while he gathers the information and items needed to access Melzas' palace and eventually kill the demon.

Characters

  • Alundra, the protagonist and player character, is an elf from the clan of Elna, the Dreamwalkers. He comes to Inoa because of a recurring dream in which a mysterious figure who calls Alundra "Releaser" tells him that he must save the villagers from the evil of Melzas. His ship is caught in a storm and he is later found washed ashore unconscious. After arriving, he starts being blamed by the townsfolk for all of the terrible happenings that occur. Alundra is a silent protagonist.
  • Meia is also part of the clan of Elna. She is also seeking to destroy Melzas. She has a troubled past that is eventually revealed during the course of the game.

Villagers

  • Jess is the blacksmith in Inoa. After Alundra's ship is swept ashore and destroyed in a storm, Jess finds the unconscious Alundra and takes care of him for as long as he remains in Inoa. He is good-natured and always trusts Alundra, even when others do not.
  • Septimus is a scholar and a close friend of Alundra. He travelled to Inoa to help lift the curse that has afflicted it, but has met with little success. He helps Alundra discover many ancient and forgotten secrets of the world and his power of dreamwalking.
  • Cephas is the gravekeeper of Inoa Village, and right from meeting him, it is obvious that he knows a lot more than he is letting on about the goings on in both the village and Torla as a whole.
  • Sybill has the ability to dream only when she's awake. Her dreams seem to eerily portend future events with uncanny accuracy.
  • Yustel, as one of the oldest residents of Inoa, has watched the village's descent into darkness with a sense of helplessness. For a small fee, she uses her crystal ball to give advice to anyone wise enough to inquire of her. For a further pittance, she tells those who asks her where their destiny lies.
  • Elene, whose mother left and father turned alcoholic. She spends much of her time in a multiple personality infested dream world.
  • Gustav is Elene's father. He has a drinking problem and when spoken to, commonly hiccups a lot. He later tells Alundra that his daughter, Elene, is trapped in a nightmare and asks him to rescue her.
  • Giles became extremely religious when he lost both of his parents in a freak gardening accident. He now works very closely with Chancellor Ronan in the Sanctuary, and lives with his long-suffering sister, Kisha. He is critical of Alundra some time after the Dreamwalker's arrival into the village.
  • Kline, despite his stern appearance, is a kind and likeable man. Not only is he known as the best fisherman in the village, but he is also known for his pinpoint accuracy as an archer. He is regarded by many of the villagers as their best defender against the Murgg.
  • Bonaire is a laid-back, feel-good kind of lad. Because of his seeming lack of interest in the fairer sex, his aging father, Phineas, is losing hope of seeing his son married.
  • Nadia, who has an interest in Bonaire. Despite Myra's pleas for her to get involved with any other person, she does not give up on her one true love. Nadia is also cursed by making objects explode whenever she falls asleep, causing her to become an insomniac by choice.
  • Beaumont is the village mayor, and has been busy trying to keep both the villagers and his family happy. His wife Thyea, is humble and intelligent. His son, Talis, on the other hand, is an arrogant little brat.
  • Meade and his wife Rumi move to Inoa from the capital city. They live in the quiet little village with Meade's father, Wendell, and their twin sons Bergus and Nestus, who are almost exact opposites. Bergus tends to be a loud and brash kid, while Nestus tends to be quiet and well-behaved.
  • Lutas and his wife Fein are friendly and easy-going. Fein is proud of her husband's sense of justice. Lutas has even been known to draw arms and fight when he perceives that an injustice has been done to another.
  • Naomi owns a small store in Inoa where villagers can buy healing herbs and other special items. Her husband Yuri spends most of his time roaming the land in search of herbs.
  • Yuri is Naomi's husband. He spends most of his time roaming the lands in search of herbs for his wife, Naomi, to sell in her store.

Antagonists

  • Melzas is an ancient and powerful demon. Though he was imprisoned long ago by the Guardians of the Seal, he has returned and is terrorizing the villagers of Inoa. He is the primary villain of the storyline.
  • Ronan is the priest of the village's church, the Sanctuary. From Alundra's first arrival in Inoa, Ronan constantly acts to turn the villagers against him due to his hidden agenda.
  • Zazan is the leader of a clan of white monkey-like creatures known as the Murgg. He is being commanded by Melzas to destroy Inoa and steal the seven crests.
  • Zorgia is a powerful demon and a servant of Melzas. He is vicious, cruel, sadistic, and utterly loyal to his master.

Development

The game was developed by Matrix Software. Several of its employees were former employees of Climax Entertainment, the developer that created Landstalker: The Treasures of King Nole for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and Dark Savior for the Sega Saturn, both which were similar action role-playing games.[8]

Alundra was published in North America by the now-defunct publisher Working Designs, which handled the game's localization. The original Japanese script, written by Ichiro Tezuka, was translated into English by Working Designs staff members Victor Ireland, Zach Meston and Akiko S. Peterson.[1] Zach Meston, who was also a contributing editor of PS Extreme magazine at the time, wrote an estimated 30% to 40% of the translation.[8]

Reception

Commercial reception

Alundra was well received upon release. The game had sold 143,114 copies in Japan by the end of 1997.[9] Following its North American release, Working Designs sold over 100,000 copies of the game in North America within a single month in early 1998.[3] Despite an initial successful pressing, along with critical acclaim, the game suffered from a low production run and had "all but vanished" from North American stores, according to Gaming Bolt. With its low production run, dated 2D sprite visuals, and general perception as a Zelda derivative, the game eventually "receded into obscurity" over time, according to Gaming Bolt.[3]

Critical reception

 Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 84%[10]
Metacritic 86/100[11]
Review scores
Publication Score
Computer and Video Games 7/10[10]
Electronic Gaming Monthly 34.5/40[12]
Famitsu 31/40[13]
Game Informer 25.5/30[14]
GamePro 4.5/5[15]
GameSpot 8.8/10[16]
IGN 8.5/10[17]
Official PlayStation Magazine (US) 4.5/5[10]
PSM 4/5[18]
Gaming Age 90%[19]
Next Generation Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[20]
NowGamer 8.6/10[21]
PS Extreme 90%[8]
RPGamer 9/10[22]
RPGFan 87%[23]
Thunderbolt 9/10[24]
Ultra Game Players 9/10[25]

Upon release, the game received unanimous critical applause.[3] It currently holds aggregate scores of 86 out of 100 at Metacritic based on 9 reviews,[11] and 84% at GameRankings based on 13 reviews,[10] making it one of the highest-rated PlayStation titles of 1997.

In January 1998, IGN stated, "Never have I been so tested and challenged since the old Genesis adventure title, LandStalker. And Climax has made Alundra twice as hard, twice as challenging, and twice as good as its LandStalker counterpart." The review further states that it has "a really cool story," as well as "some great music and graphics that totally suit the game," and concludes that "this game is awesome."[17] GameSpot praised the "finely drawn sprite-based graphics", "fitting" music, "tight" controls, "nicely balanced" gameplay, and "great" dungeons for there being "something new in just about every one of them". They praised the script as "maturely written", with a fitting "tone and feel", each character having a "distinct personality," and religion becoming "a major player" in the plot as "townspeople slowly begin to realize what's behind their suffering."[16] Electronic Gaming Monthly's four reviewers gave it ratings of 9, 9, 8 and 8.5 out of 10, adding up to 34.5 out of 40 overall (or 8.625 out of 10 average). They praised the "excellent" translation, the puzzles as "downright brilliant in design", and the action as "challenging and well-paced", concluding it to be a "solid" quest and "great game."[26] The 1999 Video Game Buyer's Guide described it as a "great RPG" that "plays a lot like" LandStalker.[12] Famitsu gave the game a generally positive score of 31 out of 40.[13]

GamePro gave it ratings of 3.5 for graphics, 4.5 for sound, and 4.5 for control, with an overall fun factor of 4.5 out of 5. They noted it is "reminiscent" of The Legend of Zelda's "real-time battles and nonstop exploration" but stated it "plays great" with challenging puzzles and "tight" controls enabling "you to run, jump, tackle enemies, and lift and throw items." While critical of the "less than inspired" graphics, they concluded its "off-the-hook action and challenging gameplay elevated it to must-have RPG status" and that "missing out may cause you to have nightmares."[15] Game Informer's three reviewers gave it ratings of 8.25, 8.75 and 8.5 out of 10, adding up to 25.5 out of 30 overall. They noted the "graphics won't wow you," but praised the "intriguing" story and "character dialog" as well as the exploration and puzzles.[14] Next Generation criticized the graphics as "a little weak" compared to "the recent RPG offering from Square," but praised the gameplay for "depth not ordinarily found in today's games" and the puzzles for requiring "a lot of thought, planning, and persistence". They stated the game is "a perfectly balanced mix of action, involvement, and evenly paced progression."[20]

PlayStation Magazine noted the "variety and range of tasks always keep gamers thinking and acting in a methodic fashion," a "challenge not found in most games." They described the "tone of the game" as "fairly serious," with an "interesting" story and character development, but stated the "real thrill" is the exploration of the "massive landscape." They criticized the "graphics and soundtrack" as "somewhat uninspired" but concluded its "strength lies in its incomparable gameplay and challenge" as the "real appeal."[18] PS Extreme reviewed the game despite a "conflict of interest" with their contributing editor Zach Meston being one of the game's translators. They criticized the "disappointing" graphics and similarities to Zelda, but praised Alundra for its "sheer amount of action/adventure gameplay", "dozens of increasingly tricky logic puzzles and studly monsters", "hefty amount of dialogue" with "just about every event" causing villagers "to say something different", and "serious" plot with "heavy religious overtones" and "a surprising amount of death" but with "some wonderful jokes" to "lighten the mood."[8]

Retrospective reception

In 2009, Destructoid's Conrad Zimmerman described Alundra as a "fresh and innovative" game and "one of the finest examples of action/RPG gaming", noting how it combined platforming elements and challenging puzzles with an innovative storyline revolving around entering people's dreams and dealing with mature themes. He particularly praised it for featuring "a plot the likes of which I had never seen before in the genre," the strong "writing and characterizations," and the "clever and challenging puzzles". He also praised the 2D graphics, noting that 3D "RPGs from the PlayStation generation have a terribly dated appearance" while "this still manages to look fantastic."[5] In regards to the PSN release, Platform Nation's Julian Montoya said the game "is very enjoyable and definitely worth playing" as well as stating it is a "long, fun, hard, mildly mature and full of personality adventure." He also notes that it is a "fondly remembered Action RPG", states the puzzles are "extremely" challenging, and praises the "engrossing story" for being "surprisingly mature and dark" while touching on "complex themes like fate, religion, death and the essence of human existence." He concluded that some "refer to it as a classic and I really believe it is."[4]

In 2010, Gaming Bolt's George Reith described it as one of the "Awesome Games That Time Forgot", stating that while it looked "more like Zelda than a lot of" Zelda games, it had "fiendish puzzles" and a more adult tone, combining a "bright visual aesthetic" with a darker story that is "filled with morbid themes" such as clinical depression and not "afraid to kill off the odd character hear and there," giving it "tension that other RPGs" lacked. He also praised the level design, with "well made" dungeons that require thinking "outside of the box", and the "dream walking" mechanic for giving the "levels a unique twist" based "upon the dreamer’s personality and traits," adding "variety to the game’s locales" and providing insight on the characters, but noted this was balanced by an expansive overworld "full of secrets and side-quests," with "an equal amount of dungeons both inside and outside" of dreams.[3]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps/196598-alundra/credit
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps/196598-alundra/data
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 George Reith (2010-06-17). Awesome Games That Time Forgot: Alundra. Game Revolution. Retrieved on 2015-01-14.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Platform Nation's Alundra Review
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Zimmerman, Conrad (2009-03-20). An RPG Draws Near! Alundra. Destructoid. Retrieved on 30 January 2012.
  6. アランドラ. PlayStation.com(Japan). Sony (2007-10-10). Archived from the original on 14 May 2008 Retrieved on 2008-05-26.
  7. Webber (03/02/1998). Alundra. RPGFan. Retrieved on 31 January 2012.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Alex (February 1998). "Alundra". PS Extreme. http://web.archive.org/web/20041217165435/http://www.workingdesigns.com/games/playstation/alundra/reviews/index.html. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  9. Video game software sales in 1997. Geimin.net (1997-12-28). Archived from the original on 10 February 2012 Retrieved on 10 February 2012.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Alundra. Game Rankings. Archived from the original on 25 December 2009 Retrieved on 2010-01-13.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Alundra. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2010-01-13.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Electronic Gaming Monthly, 1999 Video Game Buyer's Guide, p. 121
  13. 13.0 13.1 http://www.famitsu.com/cominy/?m=pc&a=page_h_title&title_id=8717
  14. 14.0 14.1 http://web.archive.org/web/20041217163417fw_/http://www.workingdesigns.com/games/playstation/alundra/reviews/a-ginf.htm
  15. 15.0 15.1 https://web.archive.org/web/20071005051330/http://www.gamepro.com/sony/psx/games/reviews/177.shtml
  16. 16.0 16.1 Chris Johnston (January 8, 1998). The Adventures of Alundra Review. GameSpot. Retrieved on June 28, 2012.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Alundra - PlayStation review. IGN (January 9, 1998). Retrieved on June 28, 2012.
  18. 18.0 18.1 http://web.archive.org/web/20041217165435/http://www.workingdesigns.com/games/playstation/alundra/reviews/index.html
  19. https://web.archive.org/web/20040926091840/http://www.gaming-age.com/reviews/archive/old_reviews/psx/alundra/
  20. 20.0 20.1 http://web.archive.org/web/20041112195656fw_/http://www.workingdesigns.com/games/playstation/alundra/reviews/a-nxtg.htm
  21. The Adventures of Alundra (April 24, 1988), NowGamer, Imagine Publishing
  22. Tidwell, Mikel. Alundra - Staff Review. RPGamer. Retrieved on 30 January 2012.
  23. Gann, Patrick (11/11/10). Alundra. RPGFan. Retrieved on 30 January 2012.
  24. Terence Gage (September 28, 2007). The Adventures of Alundra - PSone review. Thunderbolt. Retrieved on June 28, 2012.
  25. "Alundra". Ultra Game Players. January 1998. http://web.archive.org/web/20041217165435/http://www.workingdesigns.com/games/playstation/alundra/reviews/index.html. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  26. Alundra, Electronic Gaming Monthly, issue 103, February 1998

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