It ain't pretty, but it's one of the better 3D action RPGs on the PlayStation
(www.plasticpals.com) Alundra 2 ditches the 2D visuals and dark subject matter of the original in favor of 3D graphics and a comical adventure story. However, the action RPG game play of the original is largely kept intact, including Alundra's heavy focus on platforming. In this game, a pirate hunter named Flint becomes embroiled in a conspiracy masterminded by Baron Diaz, who is attempting to usurp the throne a neighboring kingdom and steal its legendary treasures.
Gone are the various sub-weapons and most of the secondary items, but you'll upgrade your basic sword and shield and gain access to elemental rings which can be used on enemies and traps as well as summon powerful screen-filling attacks. For example, you may need to pick up and place bombs and then shoot one with the fire elemental to cause a series of chained explosions. You'll also find puzzle pieces scattered throughout the game world. These can be traded with a swordsman who teaches Flint how to add extra moves to his regular one-hit attack.
The transition to 3D works OK for the most part, since the designers kept things simple by using an overhead perspective, rather than going with the more ambitious style of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The biggest issue is that the collision boxes on enemies and bosses seem a bit too big, and as a result you'll often get hurt when you move in close to score a hit even if the enemy is simply standing still. This can feel a bit cheap at times, especially since enemies deal much more damage to you than you do to them. The game balances this out by allowing you to carry tons of healing items, but it's not ideal.
Unlike most PlayStation RPGs, this game doesn't have any flashy animated video sequences. Instead, all the cut-scenes are presented using the in-game graphics engine. This wouldn't be a problem (and can even be preferable, as it ensures visual consistency), except the character models look pretty bad when seen up close, and the animation is also very choppy. That said, the characters and enemies look OK from a distance and are more detailed than the ones in Brave Fencer Musashi.
The cut-scenes are mildly amusing, with a light-hearted Saturday morning cartoon vibe throughout the adventure, helped by voices that suit the characters. The music is about average, though it can get repetitive since there aren't that many tracks.
Alundra 2 fixes many of the issues I had with the first game. There are some tricky puzzles in this game, but they usually don't require expert jumping or timing, and they never throw randomness into the mix. And, unlike the first game, most switches automatically reset if you fail so you don't have to leave the room to reset them.
There are a couple of areas where the game does feel a bit unfair, though. The chase sequence in the Giant Bull, for example, has you racing down a winding path while avoiding pitfalls. Similar to levels in Crash Bandicoot, Flint runs towards the camera, preventing you from seeing what is ahead of him until the last second. The camera should have been positioned further away from him to give the player more time to react. Luckily the game gives you frequent checkpoints in this section, which mitigates the problem.
Many fans of the original Alundra really hated this game, mainly because it has nothing to do with the events or characters of the first game, but I came away enjoying it much more. Alundra 2 may be rough around the edges, but it's nowhere near as frustrating as the original. Sure, it doesn't make a very good first impression, but if you stick with it there are some surprisingly good dungeons and puzzles in the latter half of the game that are worth completing.
The polygonal graphics are serviceable at best and as I mentioned there are issues with the collision detection on enemies, but considering this was Matrix Software's first attempt at 3D, it certainly could have been a lot worse. If judged as its own entity, Alundra 2 can easily hold its own against other PS1 3D Action RPGs like Brave Fencer Musashi and Threads of Fate, but it's certainly no Zelda-killer.
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