alundra 2 gameplay

The Story behind a bad sequel: Alundra v.s. Alundra 2

1998’s Alundra is perhaps the best 2-D Action RPG ever made!

Alundra is an all time great game, Alundra 2 is an all time bust (at least when compared to the original) which is the reason why I have chosen this series to be dissected for the first installment of the story behind the bad sequel. Yeah that sounds like one of those VH1 documentaries.

The first thing that should raise flags about Alundra 2 being nothing more than a rushed sequel to cash in the moderate success of the first game, is that Alundra 2 has nothing to do with Alundra (The Original game’s main character), or his world, or his items or anything related to the first game’s plot.

The big problem here might be that Contrail helped to develop the sequel, while  Matrix alone developed the original ( these are basically the same guys that developed the underrated classic ‘The Landstalker’ for the Sega Genesis).

Some times an external influence can ruin games, and perhaps this was the case with Alundra 2: A New – not so legendary – Legend Begins!

And so, let us start this battle of the Alundras!

Plot

Alundra: You start out as a young man named Alundra, who has the ability to enter dreams because he is from the tribe of Elna. Consequently a wiseman named Lars gives him a dream in which he is summoned to the village of Inoa. So he follows the man’s advice, and takes a ship that heads into Inoa.

Then, you are reminded that this is indeed a dark story as suddenly disaster strikes, and Alundra is the sole survivor of the shipwreck. He is taken in by a man named Jessie who decides to watch over him because Alundra reminds him of his late son.

So, this man takes him to Inoa Village, a place that is under fire by a plague of sorts in which people die in their dreams (and consequently die in their sleep). Soon Alundra uses his ability as Dream Walker (the ability to enter and play part in a dream) to try to save the villagers.

Notice, that I wrote ‘try’ because unfortunately he cant save all of them. Children die, Mothers die, Fathers die, some become devilish beasts and then die, in short many people die. This is not a lighthearted tale but a wonderful, and depressive story written by Ichiro Tezuka.

SPOILER WARNING: The source of the nightmares is the evil Melzas, who had been sealed in a sunken castle in the lake. He is trying to intimidate the villagers, in order to force them to pray to him. With their prayers he will become more powerful. This will help him to escape his prison and unleash chaos upon the land.

Yet, of course, you don’t know the full story until you play through it, because Ronan the priest tricks the villagers into thinking they are praying to the Gods when in reality they are praying to the demon evil alien Melzas. In short there is a deep religious theme going on. Melzas is only powerful because the people’s prayers turned him into a god.

In the end Alundra defeats him, and the ending is sort of happy until Meia, and Alundra go their different ways. This event left me a little teary eyed to be honest. Alundra goes into some scary looking lands, and the game ends.

The impression I got from the ending was that Alundra 2 was coming, and that it was going to follow Alundra’s new adventures, but it turns out I was wrong…

Alundra 2: The writer for this game’s plot was different from the first one, which partly accounts for its “suckitude”. I searched the credits looking for the writer, and I think I found his name but it has been such a long time since I finished the damn thing that I forgot it. But you dont need to know his name, because his story writing talent is comparable to that of an eight-year-old.

The crappy story starts out like this:

You a play as Flint, a pirate hunter, who predictably sneaks into a pirate ship to derail their (the pirates) plans (He detests pirates because his family was killed by them when he was but an infant).

From there you fall out of the ship, and into the ocean. Flint ends up being rescued by an old man, and taken to Paco village where you are introduced to the annoying Princcess Alexia.

After that, you are hired to help Alexia take down the evil Baron Diaz, and to restore the kingdom of Varuna to its right full ruler by doing so (Baron Diaz replaced Alexia’s father with a puppet).

During the long quest Alexia will (predictably) fall in love with Flint, the problem is, that she at first, thinks nothing of Flint as a man. Then she gets kidnapped, and it is not until the very end of the tale that Flint gets to see her again, at which time, Alexia is madly in love with him. How did they ever fall in love in the first place? Two thumbs down for character development!

Now for the plot, Baron Diaz is not the true evil here, all he wants to do is marry Alexia, and find the great treasure that Mephisto is supposed to help him find. Mephisto is the real bad guy in here as he is the maker of the ‘magical screws’. The screws when inserted into a living thing (human, animal, plant etc.)  turn the victim into a hideous, and monstrous looking killing machine.

If a lot of people died in Alundra 1, then a lot of people get screwed in Alundra 2.- Samuel Coelho

However, like every other cheap bad guy that has come before him. Mephisto has a Master Plan! Which is to build a GIANT screw to… well… screw the entire planet. If a lot of people died in Alundra 1, then a lot of people get screwed in Alundra 2.

In the end, Flint kills Mephisto, and rides into the sunset – on the back of a dragon – with Alexia.

The plot is simply dumb, and if it weren’t for the Excellent translation, and ‘The Pirate Trio’ there would not be much of a plot to speak of.

Zeppo, Ruby, and Albert are that infamous pirate trio. They are very clumsy, and their contrasting personalities make for some funny moments. Ruby has a crush on Flint which was very well developed. Why Flint didn’t fall in love with her instead of Alexia is anyone’s guess, after all, Alexia is a soul-less character with not much of a personality going on for her. Albert is Ruby’s genius dork brother, and the UGLY dumb Zeppo is her father, her mother is a GORGEOUS babe named Mileena. Mileena is a hottie, which can explain why she dumped Zeppo for Belgar.

Belgae -in a plot twist of epic proportions – is Flint’s father!!! Yet Flint doesnt know it at first, and unfortunately did not know it by the time the game ended because Belgar never told him.

Now, why in the hell does Belgar exist in the story then? Since he really does absolutely nothing, the story would have been better off with out him. His inclusion is unnecessary, because he does not even make an attempt to make contact with his long lost son.

He would have been better off left dead. Alundra 2 tries to make up a good story by throwing a lot of elements, and sub plots but the inept writer for the game never followed any one of them through. Alundra 2’s story is the shining example ‘craptacularness’.

PLOT WINNER: Alundra 1, easily. The humor, the tragedy, the love, the hate, the religious issues and the rest of the story were excellently written. Alundra 2’s plot is the solidification of two very important elements: horse manure and crap. There are some humorous cliched moments, but the rest is absolute crap!

Music

Alundra 1: Kohei Tanaka did a wonderful job in this game, Alundras tunes are on par with Zelda’s. Some tunes are weak (the dungeon one), but some are wonderful. Like the game’s main theme of the game that plays in the over world, and in the ending anime scene, in which it appears in full orchestrated glory.

The sad tunes shined too. However, even though the main theme was nothing short of genius, I left the game with the impression that Tanaka was an average composer who had his day in the sun with this game, and time would prove me right.

Alundra 2: In here Tanaka’s luck runs out, because the music is simply average at best. My theories: Tanaka isn’t that good, but he had a moment of brilliance in Alundra. That’s all really. After all, Alundra didn’t have the strongest most consistent musical score ever. In fact the only reason I praise Alundra’s soundtrack so much is because of the over-world theme. However, to be fair to Tanaka, and to give him some benefit of the doubt, crapyness spreads itself like a plague.

By that statement, I am suggesting that Tanaka was able to see the game, so that he could then be inspired to write a musical score. Of course, with the game’s plot being a heavy bag of crap, it’s safe to say that Tanaka’s musical tunes for this title were inspired by crap, thus the music is less (much less) than stellar.

The ruling Tanaka’s musical skill remains up in the air. His work in Alundra 2 is terrible at best, but on the other hand his work on the Sakura Wars Anime series keeps him afloat. In my honest opinion, he is just an average composer who had (like I stated before) his day in the sun with Alundra 1.

MUSIC WINNER: Easily Alundra, it might be Tanaka’s best work like… ever.

Sound

Alundra: Sound effects are great, you hear bird, and insects at night. Natural environmental sounds like creeks sound well here, plus you got to love the Monkey effects of the Murgg. The explosion, and sword slashing sounds are also well done.

Alundra 2: The sound effects take a dive in this game in what environmental sounds are concerned, which isn’t surprising considering the lack of the overall quality of the title.

However, that said, the game features some incredibly good voice work. Especially Zeppo, Albert, and Ruby’s voice acting which provided me with some funny moments which consequentially are the highlight of the other wise pedestrian game.

SOUND EFFECTS WINNER: Tied. Alundra 2’s voice acting keeps the game from being completely dull on the sound department, and Alundra’s excellent environmental effects are step ahead of Alundra 2’s.

Graphics

Alundra: Two dimensional greatness period. No 2-D Action RPG looks better, only the Lunar series comes close to matching Alundra’s visual splendor. To be fair, Alundra was developed for a more powerful hardware than the Lunars were. So Lunar is still ahead of it in terms of artistic design. However, Alundra sports large sprites for the characters and a huge over-world. Every locale, and setting is beautifully animated. Plus the game has  a similar magic touch reminiscent of the  Zelda series.

Even today you can immerse youself in Alundras 2-D world ,and that is a testament to its greatness.

Alundra 2: Why Matrix decided to develop this game in full 3-D for the limited PS1 befuddles me. Simply put you can’t develop a great Action RPG of the scale and size of Alundra in full 3-D on the PS1.  The game doesn’t look terribly bad (Legend of Legaia looks worst) but unfortunately it doesnt look as good as the first Alundra. Character, and setting design is also extremely weak. Ocarina of Time makes this game look like low class cow crap (if there is such thing as class clarification for cow crap). You view the game from an over the top perspective, and you can rotate the environments but the game simply looks bland, and blocky. Alundra 2 doesn’t even have an over world!

GRAPHICS WINNER: Another easy win for Alundra. Going 3-D in the PS1 wasn’t a very bright idea by Matrix Software; then again releasing Alundra 2 wasn’t a bright one either.

Gameplay

Alundra- The best two-dimensional Action RPG ever (Sorry A Link to the Past), period. The game’s puzzles are tough, but not cheap. The bosses are tough too, but after some thinking (and consequently some dying), you will find that they can be defeated. Plus the story moves smoothly right along with the gameplay, and that is something that not many games can get right.

The dungeons are absolutely brilliant. However, more minigames would have elevated this title closer to the level of the sacred Ocarina of Time. Difficulty wise, this game makes other titles on the genre look like child’s play (and yes that includes each and every one of the Zelda titles), this is a thinking man’s puzzler!

On the negative side the jumping platform sequences are annoying because its difficult to control Alundra with precision while he is on mid air and the 2-D view doesn’t help.

Alundra 2-If anything, Alundra 2 has some excellent puzzles (even if there are a few that do not make sense). However, Alundra 2 also manages to accomplish something I thought impossible. The game actually manages to further complicate matters on Alundra’s platform jumping sequences.

Yup the controls are terrible, the bosses are cheap even in easy mode, and the mini games while plenty offer absolutely no entertainment whatsoever. The story instead of helping the gameplay, manages to actually take it down a few notches. The game also lacks a real overworld world map.

GAMEPLAY WINNER: Another easy victory for Alundra thanks to its near perfect gameplay.

Packaging- No one beats (the defunct) Working Designs in what game packaging is concerned, and Alundra is a shining example of that statement.

The case’s face has an authentic metallic look, while the back of the case has the typical game’s description written on a golden font. The manual itself is full color with many pages, including the lyrics of the ending song in both the Japanese, and the Western version. Also provided, is a description of the changes that Working Designs made to the game. Little details like those made Working Designs the personal favorite publisher of many RPG fans.

Alundra 2 on the other hand has decent packaging, obviously Activision did the best they could with the game (which wasn’t enough to rival Working Designs), but the packaging is solid. The manual lacks the quality of the Alundra’s but it also contains Lyrics to its ending song, and details like that.

Make no mistake: no packaging in this world could have helped the game out (Alundra 2) and that’s probably one of the reasons why Working Designs stood as far as it could from it.

WINNER: Alundra easily. No one rivals Working Designs on what product presentation is concerned.

Why the sequel (Alundra 2) is utter garbage?

My only guess here is that Matrix was in need of a quick cash in, they probably were developing an Action RPG game at that time. They probably foresaw that the game was crap ( meaning not many publishers would be likely to publish the title), so they decided to take their best property (Alundra), and slap its name in. And tada! We have Alundra 2!

This probably helped drive initial sales somewhat as unsuspecting fans of the first game probably fell for the trap, and bought it. However, by doing this they have forever tainted their name only a true sequel to Alundra could have restored their dignity on my eyes. Their work with other games (such as Dual Hearts) reinstates my belief that they might have had their day in the sun with Alundra, and that they are truly subpar developers. Plus some of the key members in Alundra’s development team have since the first game left Matrix.

These days Matrix Software makes its living making ports of other people’s games. Yeah, Karma is a …bad lady.

It angers me though that they utilized the name of a game that is considered by true RPG fans as a timeless classic in order to make money of the license in a sloppy game (that had nothing to do with Alundra).

When its all said and done. Alundra 2 isn’t the worst game ever, but compared to its predecessor, it is a tremendously inferior piece of software.