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Alundra and Arc the Lad PSN Impressions
11.12.2010

SAM MARCHELLO
EDITORIALS MANAGER


Alundra

Unlike many RPGamers, I completely missed out on both Alundra and Arc the Lad. I owned nearly every other Working Designs release on the PlayStation at the time, and somehow was never able to get my hands on either of these classics. Truthfully, Arc the Lad was just too expensive, and there was no way I could get my folks to buy me the giant box for Christmas, and Alundra... I thought it was just a Zelda clone. As someone who isn't huge on Zelda, I assumed Alundra was more or less the same and may have only gotten that sentiment half-right.

Alundra and Arc the Lad came out in 1998 and 2002 in North America. Two very different styles of RPGs, one a Zelda-style game, the other a tactical RPG, are classics that many folks have fond memories of. As someone who hadn't played either of these growing up, MonkeyPaws' release on the PlayStation Network was my first foray into both titles. After downloading both of them onto my PlayStation 3, I have to say that both Alundra and Arc the Lad still look all right, and they hold up very well despite their age.

First, let's look at Alundra. This Zelda-style game, game was the first RPG developed by Matrix Software, who are best known for their recent remakes of Final Fantasy III, IV, and their original title, Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light. The story is about a young man named Alundra, who possess the ability to Dreamwalk. While taking a nap on a ship bound for the village of Inoa, Alundra dreams of a mysterious being named Lars, who tells Alundra of his powers and of a demon that rests below his destination has awoken to feed on people's dreams.

Fear my dagger of doooooooom! Fear my dagger of doooooooom!

The world of Alundra is sinister and cruel. The game's overall atmosphere is mysterious and terrifying, though that's really interesting to dreamwalk into the minds of the different townspeople of Inoa. Each nightmare world comes equipped with demanding puzzles that often require many different steps to follow through on. I was able to save an elderly gentleman from being eaten alive by slimes, I watched some miners die an unpredictable cave in, and even met with some dark spirits in a catacomb; the world of Alundra is a scary place, and as I continued forward, I realized just how menacing the story was about to become.

As I mentioned prior, Alundra is very much a Zelda-clone in its play-style, but has a sense of maturity that plays into its atmosphere. The game has strong controls for the most part, although the platforming sections can be a bit hit-or-miss, often requiring the player to get as close to the edge as possible before making their leap. Timing, while in a jump puzzle, can get frustrating, but is so rewarding once success is achieved. There's a lot to discover in Alundra, but one really has to enjoy puzzles to fully enjoy the experience the game has to offer.

The second Working Designs release to grace the PlayStation One Classics is Arc the Lad. Most RPGamers remember that when Arc the Lad was released in North America, it came in a large box set that included Arc the Lad II, Arc the Lad III, and Arc Arena. When the games released in 2002, I remember this box set being well over $100 CDN, and I knew this was something I could never afford. Granted, this box set came with three games, plus Arc Arena, a making of CD, and hardcover instruction manual, and all the other delicious goodies that Working Designs threw into their packaging.

Players take on the role of Arc, a young man from the village of Touvil, who has been estranged from his father for nearly ten years. At the same time, a young woman by the name of Kukuru from the Sacred Clan who protects of the ancient Flame Cion. While visiting the flame, she accidentally extinguishes it, releasing the Ark Ghoul from his slumber. Meanwhile, after Arc learns that his father may very well still be alive, he rushes to the mountain where the Flame Cion exists and meets Kukuru fleeing. He tells Kukuru that he will reignite the flame, which is still protected by the Ark Ghoul. Upon meeting his new found enemy, Arc is knocked unconscious briefly and hears a voice telling him to reignite the flame and protect the world that his father Yoshua swore to protect.

Meeting the spirit. Meeting the spirit.

For those who are unfamiliar, Arc the Lad was a tactical-role playing game, and characters are able to move within a set range, though are not limited to an isometric structure. When using melee attacks, characters can attack from any side, while special attacks can only be performed within a set radius. Battles are somewhat lengthy, as they progress slowly on very large maps. However, as characters level up, they gain new active and passive abilities, such as magic, or the ability to jump over objects within the battle map. Controls are fluid, though I had to remind myself frequently that to end my turn I had to tap triangle and instinctively wanted to tap circle. Outside of battles, there are no towns to visit, and every time Arc moves from place to place, players are prompted to save. Some dungeon are short with only one map, while others can be anywhere from three to ten floors, with no save in between.

Arc the Lad, doesn't seem spectacular at first glance, but has a great localization. The game is serious when it needs to be, and humorous in its downtime, with a cast of charming, lovable characters, who are quirky enough to keep players amused and entertained. A personal favourite is old man Gogen, who is actually "an ancient book" who can barely remember what day it is or why those darn whipper-snappers refuse to let him sleep.

Both Alundra and Arc the Lad are classics in their own right. They are simple and straightforward in their control schemes with interesting stories to tell. Both can be grabbed off the PlayStation One Classics for $6, and played on both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable. With these games being priced at $6 a piece, they are practically a steal, and are definitely worth exploring for those who either missed out or want the opportunity to give them another go around.



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