The best Zelda clone ever, Alundra, turned 20 years old this week
I feel like I’ve been writing a lot of these recently, but that’s only because 1997 is my absolute favorite year for video games on record. The Super Nintendo was wrapping up its life while the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation were showing us new worlds and new dimensions, in the geometry sense to boot.
However, Alundra is a game that refused to play along with the trends of its age. Matrix Software, which still exists today, released this game on April 11, 1997, an era when 2D video games were scorned and chastised for being outdated. Alundra stood firm as a perfect example of how the new CD technology could be used to further push classic ideas, confidently declaring that it didn’t have to be reserved exclusively for exploring 3D worlds or pushing new boundaries.
Sometimes, there is nothing wrong with sticking to what works. In fact, in 1997, we got other 2D masterpieces like Final Fantasy Tactics and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night alongside a lot of the early 3D console games, and guess which ones are best remembered to this day. Hint: it’s not Castlevania 64 or Quest 64, that’s for sure.
In Alundra’s case, the game is best seen as the natural evolution of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. If Nintendo hadn’t created Ocarina of Time in the sense that it did, this is what The Legend of Zelda could have been. The PlayStation definitely didn’t have that hard of a time cranking out Alundra’s detailed sprites, and like many early PlayStation JRPGs, Matrix spared no expense with the soundtrack.
The PlayStation’s streaming music capabilities could crank out high-quality tunes with all that extra space to hold genuine music files, and by golly, you were going to get the best music out of them!
Alundra is also well known for its heartbreaking story and the intimate relationships you form with the village locals on your quest to save them from blood-curdling nightmares. Not quite as happy as Stardew Valley, is it? I’m not one to criticize Nintendo for using the same Legend of Zelda stories over and over again, but when put next Alundra’s themes of blind faith, false Gods, paranoia, the collapse of trust among neighbors, and insomnia, Nintendo’s series doesn’t exactly hold up.
Alundra tells one of the most impressive stories from a Golden Age when Japanese developers were just getting the hang of genuinely good writing.
I’ve already covered Alundra extensively, back before I knew how to keep myself brief. Be careful! You’ve been warned! If you want the TLDR version, Alundra is an underrated classic and loads of fun to this day, and the $5.99 you pay to put it on a PlayStation 3 or a PS Vita is chump change compared to the fun hours you’ll get out of it.
If you’ve got time, be sure to celebrate 20 years of Alundra today! I would, but I played through it within the last year or two. I need to let my memory sit for a while on it.