Memories of the Alhambra: Play the Game or Die

This is one amusing drama. I won’t tell you it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen, or the worst, because I’m pretty conflicted. How do I really feel about this? I’m not sure.

In Spain, a teenage boy made a call to someone, informing this person to meet him in Granada, to be precise, at Bonita Hostel. Then the boy ran towards the Barcelona train station, clearly running away from someone dangerous, and boarded on a train to Granada.

Then we met Jung Hee Joo (Park Shin Hye), who was napping at Hostel Bonita when someone rang the doorbell and woke her up. She opened the door to meet the charming Yoo Jin Woo (Hyun Bin), a famous CEO of J-One, who had arrived from Barcelona to meet the teenage boy from the opening of the drama.

She clearly didn’t know who he was, and reluctantly gave him a single room on the top floor, despite feeling uncomfortable with his condescending manner.

As it turned out, Jin Woo had received an email from Jung Se Joo, the teenage boy, regarding an AR game that he had created. It was a business opportunity that Jin Woo couldn’t turn down, a game that he predicted would be a huge success under his company.

And as Se Joo never showed up, Jin Woo had to get the rights to the game the only way he could, legally, through Hee Joo, who was Se Joo’s legal guardian. So he pulled his charms and won her over, buying the Bonita Hostel, which came with the rights to the game, for 10 million USD.

Meanwhile, Jin Woo got sucked into the game and couldn’t stop playing, especially after he found out that his best friend turned enemy, Cha Hyung Seok also wanted the game and was playing it.

Then things went horribly wrong when Jin Woo and Hyung Seok had a duel, in which Jin Woo won and killed Hyung Seok in the game. Or at least that was what he had thought, because the next day, Hyung Seok was found dead.

Jin Woo then figured something must have been awfully wrong with the game, when he could not log out of the game, and Hyung Seok kept haunting him and trying to kill him, becoming a part of the game.

As people thought he had gone mad and started hallucinating due to guilt, Jin Woo isolated himself while trying to figure out where Se Joo had gone and what had happened.

For a year, Jin Woo played the game and leveled up to be able to find Se Joo and fix the glitch. However, it was a lot harder than he had thought it would be, especially with people thinking he was crazy and nobody believed him.

Then when things got too hard and he had leveled up third place, his loyal secretary, Seo Jung Hoon decided to enter the game to help him up. However, when the duo traveled to Granada to find Se Joo, Jung Hoon ended up murdered by the game, and became a part of the game as well, as Jin Woo’s ally.

Jin Woo then focused on a quest to rescue Se Joo once he had received news from the kid, and went on a suicide mission to find him. He went to a dungeon in the Alhambra palace to find a key. Then, the game started attacking him. But he survived, because since day 1, either He Joo or Jung Hoon would come and rescue him before the game killed him.

Of course, a bigger question would be, which game would kill him first: the AR game or the game of life? Jin Woo happened to have the worst personal life, with one ex wife married to a best friend he accidentally killed in the game, and a pending divorce to a self absorbed actress who only wanted his money.

He could not run away from neither the AR game nor everyone who tried to ruin his career and publicly shame him.

In the end, Jin Woo learned that the key that he had found in the dungeon should be handed over to Emma, an NPC with the bracelet of Fatima. Supposedly, the key and the bracelet had to meet in order for them to reset the game. Emma, as the justice keeper in the game, had the power to fix the glitch.

However, when he handed Emma the key, she stabbed Jin Woo with it, attempting to delete the bug. He realized then, that the only way to reset the game would be to delete the bugs, including him. So Jin Woo took the matters into his hands and deleted the other bugs: Hyung Seok, Jung Hoon, and Hyung Seok’s father who later became his ally and died.

He then surrendered to Emma and let her delete him as well.

The game reset.

A year later, J One released the game and later on recruited Se Joo, who had been saved by Jin Woo’s quest when he handed the key to Emma. The game became a huge hit, with people getting addicted to it and being invested in it. And He Joo, who was still waiting for Jin Woo after his disappearance, heard from a couple of gamers at a coffee shop that they had encountered a very high leveled user during one of their battles.

She immediately asked them where to find this high level user and ran off to find Jin Woo.

Now, it’s up to the audience how they’re going to take this ending.

I personally don’t like a lot of things going on in this drama, mainly because it relied too much on flashbacks and revelations. It went back and forth so much, that it bugged me. Couldn’t they just stick to a present flow for once? Like, just one episode of no flashback and past surprises?

And the female characters, don’t even get me started on them. Jin Woo’s ex wife was a cheater who couldn’t own up to her mistakes. His other ex wife was a conceited devil who didn’t have any personality. Hee Joo cried so much, I felt like she was more a burden than help. I know she did a lot for Jin Woo, but she cried a lot more than she did anything else that I forgot that she was his best ally. Even when she was logged into the game, she couldn’t do much and had no weapon.

She fell in love with him almost instantly, and did a lot of stupid things just for him. The only time she showed teeth was easily forgotten, and every time she helped our main protagonist, she would cry later on and ruin the cool heroine moment.

Every scene with her would start with a mellow song, which was nice, and everything would go in slow motion. It was too much that I couldn’t wait to get back on the game every time she showed up.

Every character feels like an NPC. Jin Woo was surrounded by one dimensional people that it was hard to see them as people with real lives. It was as if, they were just doing their roles without any reasons why. We never really found out why everyone was the way he or she was, like nobody could ever explain to me why Hee Joo kept hanging out with a friend zoned guy friend who was obviously no good. There was no reason for anything. There was no clear explanation as to why Su Jin left Jin Woo for Hyung Seok. Or why Jin Woo married Yoo Ra. No explanation to how Professor Cha and Hyung Seok had the worst relationship. Nada.

They were just playing roles they were given, and Jin Woo had been playing game even before he came to Granada. Because everyone in his life was just like NPC.

Jin Woo’s life was supposed to be a different drama, I swear. And there was too much going on in this drama, that every second spent on Hee Joo crying felt like a waste of time. Every shot with any of the girls felt wasted, and I hated feeling that way.

The only girl in this drama who actually got the most interesting story was Emma, and she was the biggest plot twist. Sadly, she wasn’t even real.

I could complain about this all day, but I know better.

And the biggest heartbreak in the story was Jung Hoon’s death. And he wasn’t even the main character. I felt less sorry for Jin Woo than I did when Jung Hoon died for his boss.

Memories of the Alhambra got a good concept. I really liked it, truly. I found the whole thing quite refreshing. I was excited every time someone logged into the game, and that was what got me hooked. However, the other stuff and the flashbacks were unnecessary and I felt stuffed just watching them. Sometimes, simplicity worked best. And this show didn’t go for that.

I did like the surprises and revelations in the beginning, but as the drama adapted that into every episode format, it got repetitive and boring. The game though, was well done. It was definitely an upgrade from Pokémon Go. And Jin Woo was a lot cooler than Elon Musk, whom I thought of when this drama started.

Memories of the Alhambra is a 6.5/10 from me. I could watch it again, I believe, and fast forward or skip through the meaningless drama. Although now I definitely would avoid listening to that Memories of the Alhambra song because it sounds creepy now.

I’d recommend it to gamers, although I would warn them of the dramatic stuff and the weird romance going on there.

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