Go ahead, enter a gaming forum, and search for an action RPG discussion. The Legend of Zelda Series will usually feature a prominent role, couple with more modern titles such as Dark Souls and The Witcher 3. One game, that few, if any mention is 1997’s PlayStation’s Alundra.
Alundra is a wonderfully crafted 2-D Action RPG much in the vein of Zelda, but with a much darker and mature take on its storytelling. Alundra is the work of Matrix Software (of Shining in the Darkness, Shinning Force, and Landstalker fame), and it seems to be their greatest critical achievement as the game in my opinion is the finest 2-D Action RPG ever made.
Alundra is an Elven boy from the tribe of Elna. He can get inside people’s dreams and change their outcome. He has a dream instructing him to make a journey to the village of Inoa. The quest starts with Alundra on a ship that is heading to Inoa.
From there Alundra will eventually reaches a village, which is going through some rough (and tragic) times, as the villagers are dying on their sleep as they dream. This is where Alundra’s dream entering, and walking abilities come into play. From that point forwards you will witness death, corruption, religious issues, love and other common themes in Japanese RPGs.
What makes Alundra superior to previous Action RPGs in that regard, is Working Designs excellent translation and trademark humor. NPCs always have something interesting to say. The village of Inoa is as lively a place as I have ever seen in two dimensions.
As beautiful as Alundra is in terms of artwork and storytelling, none of that would matter if the game design and gameplay were not up to par. Alundra follows A Link to the Past’s blueprint to perfection, as road blocks are placed all over the world to impede progress, and items have to be found in order to overcome said obstacles and the game’s massively difficult dungeons.
While no one would ever call most Zelda games “thinking man’s puzzlers”, Alundra manages to be just that in some of its most difficult dungeons. The target audience for the game is a bit older than Zelda’s, and as such, Alundra features some (sometimes frustratingly hard) puzzles and platforming sections in its dungeons.
The boss battles themselves, are some of the toughest that the genre had seen before the inception of Demon, and Dark Souls. The last stretch of battles against Melzas was hellish, requiring timing and precision even when the final foe’s pattern had been deciphered.
The only negative thing that I can say about Alundra is that the game ends, and that it endeared me to its main cast. I consider this seemly positive statement as a negative one, as Alundra never received a proper sequel (Alundra 2 has nothing to do with Alundra).
Getting a copy of the original game today would be a pricey investment if you wish to have its original case and instruction booklet. But the game is available as a PS One Classic download on PS Now. As the game only sold 230,000 copies, it seems that many have missed the opportunity to play this wonderful game.
I feel that the game is as worthy a purchase, as any game can be. Alundra is truly the greatest 2-D Action RPG that I have ever played (Yes, even better than the great ALttP).