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Developer: Matrix Software OPTIONS: S.SHOT
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Distributor: Working Designs 1 Player
Game Type: RPG Memory Card
Review Date: July 1998 Standard Joypad

Setting the Scene

Working Designs is well known for it's American conversions of Japanese
RPG titles for the Saturn game console.  They always had a unique way of
grabbing some of the best overseas RPG's and modifying them to fit an
American audience...often adding their own special blend of humor to
each title.  So when Working Design's announced around a year and a half
ago that they would start doing the same service for the Playstation, I
was ecstatic!   

After waiting around for what seemed like forever, Alundra was the first
title selected by WD for American release (not counting RayStorm from
their Spaz division).  The title was originally touted as a "Zelda
Killer" and while I cannot say that I agree with that statement, it's
does compare quite favorably to the old Zelda titles from the Super NES

Okay, so let's not waste anymore time on a history lesson and instead
jump right into the review. 


Alundra is an action first, role playing game second kinda title.
Actually, I should probably say that it's a puzzle solving game above
all else because brain teasers virtually dominate this game.


The graphics in Alundra are of the sprite-based variety.  I wouldn't
quite say that they are "16 bitish", but it's close.  

Alundra and the rest of the characters in the game are quite detailed
and possess average animation.  Certainly nothing to make you stop and
say "wow!", but surely detailed enough to make out which character is
which.  If you have ever seen or played the game Wild Arms, you can draw
a pretty good mental image of what to expect with Alundra minus the
polygon based battle scenes and the vibrant color scheme.

While the world that Alundra travels through is certainly detailed and
imaginatively depicted, the colors used are rather...well, drab.  It's
kind of hard to put into words but there are very few locations that you
will visit in this game that you would consider colorful.  Yes, there is
a decent color palette in use here, but it's very muted and "earthy".

There are some very nice special effects used in the game though.
Transparencies are liberally applied throughout the game for such
effects like mist, clouds and smoke.  This adds a nice atmosphere to the
game and sets an eerie mood in many situations.  There are also nice
sprite lighting effects used for explosions, sword trails when you swing
your weapon and the ripples and splashes Alundra makes when walking
through water.

Overall, it's just a shot over the 16 bit RPG style games you may have
been used to seeing, mainly because of all the detail in the backgrounds
and the smoother animation.  If you were expecting Final Fantasy VII
graphics, you should look elsewhere...but the graphics in Alundra work
just fine to progress the game along.

Sounds and Effects

There are some really cool sound effects in the game.  From subtle
splashing noises that Alundra makes while treading water or the stone-on
stone sound of a huge rock slab scrapping across the ground, up to the
blood curdling shrieks that some of the creatures in the game make.
The sounds serve the game well in creating the proper tone and mood
while traveling from location to location.

The music is also nicely done with grand majestic themes playing in the
background when you have accomplished something worthy of note, to the
more subtle haunting music when you are exploring some deep dark crypt.
Overall the music is nicely scored and fits in with the overall theme of
the game.

I am a firm believer that sound and music make up a good portion of the
overall game experience and luckily, Alundra comes through in this
category very nicely.

Oh, I should also note that the song for the opening anime sequence
totally kicks ass.  It reminded me instantly of an old Iron Maiden for me!


Let me just start out by saying that I thought Alundra was a relatively
well executed game.  It walks that fine line between being so
frustrating that you want to nuke your controller and too easy that you
end up breezing through the game in a few hours.  Truth be told it is
much closer to the nuke your controller line than the easy one...

Alundra is a rather unique title in that it is not your typical RPG
game.  Yes, your character does increase his attributes...kind of, and
yes you do find items and weapons...rarely, but the game doesn't set
levels for you to attain with experience points.  It's kinda
weird...whenever you complete a certain mission in the game, you will
normally find a special diamond shaped object that will extend your life
meter...that's about it for the experience gained stuff in the game.
Weapons and armor can be found or purchased but they don't seem to have
as profound an impact as in other games of this type.  So anyway, it's
not your typical RPG by any means, but it does allow you to kind of play
a role as the main character.  

The game predominately features action and puzzle elements quite often
melding the two successfully into one...I'll get to the puzzles in a
moment.  On the action side, you move Alundra through a rather large
environment that surprisingly takes place very close to the main town.
It's just that there are so many rooms and nooks and crannies to
explore, the overall scope is much larger than the actual world that you
visit.  Dungeons are huge, very maze-like and can become confusing, but
they are always laid out in a very logical manner that makes you think
instead of just reacting.   Alundra can run, jump, swing his sword and
use stuff from his inventory to progress himself along.  The control is
pretty good, but could have been a bit better in my opinion.  There are
a lot of jumping sequences in the game that can become overly
frustrating due to the somewhat unresponsive controls...errrr....  My
two biggest complaints though with this area of the gameplay is that
there is no map world overview...nada...I really like that
feature in a game of this type and it was sorely missed.  The other is
the save feature.  Save stations are few and far between and normally
placed after several difficult puzzle sequences and a final boss
confrontation.  This means that you should be prepared to spend a lot of
time figuring out the puzzles, then fighting and probably dying on your
first or second boss encounter and then having to go back and run
through the same area all over again.  Not my idea of fun. 

Now, onto the puzzles...and oh boy, what puzzles they are indeed...I
would say that Alundra's primary purpose in life is to throw as many
brain frying puzzles at the gamer as possible.  It seems that right
after you proudly solve a rather difficult brainteaser and start to get
all cocky and full of yourself, the game throws a mind masher at you
that will knock your pride down a few notches.  Some of the puzzles are
just plain devious in nature and had to be created by some sadistic
fellow that just loves to inflict mental pain. There are some of us that
view all this as a challenge and you will be happy to know that while
the puzzles can often seem daunting or nearly impossible to solve, once
done you can say to yourself, "yeah, that made sense...I wonder why I
didn't think of that sooner".  For the most part the puzzles do make
good, logical sense...they are just damn hard, so make sure you have a
few extra controllers handy or something else close-by should the need
to smash something overwhelm you.

The battles in Alundra are fought out in real time.  What this means is
that as you wander through the game you will encounter all sorts of
creatures to get your frustration out on.  All you have to do is walk up
to them and start hacking load time to a special battle
screen, no flashy special warping effects, just walk up and start
swinging your sword.  Of course sometimes the creatures don't always
cooperate and you have to plan certain attack patterns to be successful,
but that's just all in a days work.   

The gameplay is rather linear in nature, as you always have to complete
a particular area to advance forward.  This is not to say that you can't
wander around and explore, but certain areas may not open for you until
you complete things in order.  Suggestions as to what to accomplish next
are offered by townsfolk, so make sure you talk to everyone!

Overall I would certainly not recommend Alundra to a novice or first
time RPG'er.  It would either totally frustrate them or mentally disable
them for life.  I am of course just kidding about that last part...kind
of, but with all of the puzzle elements and somewhat non-RPG like
gameplay, Alundra is better suited towards those of you that loved the
old Nintendo Zelda games or for someone looking for an RPG game with a
little twist.  

Value for Money

Alundra is certainly not a short game to complete first time around.
You will be spending plenty of time getting stumped by the puzzles and
having to go back and do things over again due to the positioning of the
Save stations, so the actual game time that is tracked may not
accurately reflect the real time you spent on the title.  

Certainly going through the game a second time would greatly reduce the
time to completion, but I am not so sure most people would be compelled
to do so.

The game offers a good challenge and for people that like this type of
game, you will surely feel you got your money's worth.  Other's may want
to test the waters by renting first and maybe buying later. 
GRAPHICS: 14/20 Well, I give Alundra credit for trying something a bit new and action/RPG. Yes, it's been done before just not very often and with so very little traditional RPG elements involved.

The world you travel is complex, well laid out and presented nicely. The graphics are pretty nice and the music above average...there is just nothing in the game though that shouts "hey I'm way above average here!!" You just kinda jump into the game and start plugging away at all of the vexing puzzles, without really getting involved or caring about any of the characters.

If you love to solve puzzles, hey by all means go for it...this game has 'em in spades, but if you are looking for something that will leave you in awe or move you in some way like many RPG's do, you may want to look elsewhere.

In the end Alundra winds up being a rather uninspired, but enjoyable enough experience. You will probably walk away feeling a real sense of accomplishment for solving the all of the puzzles, but the game itself will in all likelihood, not leave much of a lasting impression.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 15/20


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