Few games reek of the grasping, guileless profiteering that goes on in the game industry as much as Alundra 2 does - it's a sad, uninspired attempt to turn a mildly popular game into a mildly popular franchise. Lifeless exercises like this game are cooked up when companies are concerned merely with name recognition and branding, and quality comes in a distant second to marketing. While it's definitely playable, it's mediocre in almost every way and begs the question - why would you even consider it, with the plethora of titles on the platform?
In this new adventure you'll be playing as Flint, the typical disproportionate, red-haired, cute-faced anime hero of whimsical RPGs. Pirates have killed his parents, you see, and there's a price on his head. You'll meet up with a dashing princess, the weasely pirates, and the oddly green and malevolent Mephisto, a sorcerer bent on world domination via the bizarre method of inserting clockwork keys into people and animals, turning them into android killing machines and slaves.
Alundra 2 dispenses with any and all ties to the original game. This time around, Contrail - creator of the Wild Arms series and Legend of Legaia - has the chief creative duties on this game. Of course, the term "creative" is used very loosely here - because Alundra 2 isn't particularly original. Basically, we have a by-the-book experience, the endless banality unsuccessfully obscured by inane minigames. Gone too is the title character, Alundra, and any graphical, artistic, or thematic references to the original game.
The gameplay, too, is absolutely nothing original or inventive. The game employs endless standard action-RPG methodology - you have a sword, and you must smack things with it. Of course, magic is on the horizon as well. The control implementation is not the best either, and Flint will overshoot his targets in a desperate leap and get smacked upside the head in the worst scenario. Of course, getting smacked upside the head is more common than ever in Alundra 2, because Activision's almost flawless localization is marred by the increased "normal" difficulty level. The enemies do otherworldly damage in this mode. Thankfully, they have left "easy" - the original difficulty level in the Japanese version.
Alundra 2 dispenses with its prequel's 2D graphics, which while basic, were functional. Instead we've got hapless pointy, jagged, and seamy polygons flickering and clipping their way through a universe of warped and pixelated textures. This game would've been graphically mediocre in 1997 - but for the occasional decent texture map. Soundwise, Alundra 2 is much more reasonable - while the music is fairly derivative of the work of such mainstay fantasy composers as Final Fantasy's Nobuo Uematsu, it's handled with complete competence and serves as a desperate, valiant background to the floundering mechanics and jagged graphics.
The character voices are lively, and the text is grammatical, occasionally amusing, and pretty natural - Activision's localization team has done a great job. It's a shame that this effort was wasted on such a mediocre title. Hopefully, the company's marketing department will see beyond branding next time and acquire a more interesting game. Alundra 2 suffers most from the fact that there is no real reason for it to exist. Fans of the original adventure will surely be disappointed with this one: Being suckered into buying a game that's a purported sequel and then receiving a product that bears no resemblance to the original is a frustrating experience. This game sold extremely poorly in Japan, so the prospects of a true Alundra sequel are dim at best, unless it's a smashing success in the USA. While it's true that almost all games are created as profit machines, some transcend - Alundra 2 is an unkind reminder that pulls us back into the base clay.