Crash landing on AR games

Pablo A. Tariman - The Philippine Star
Crash landing on AR games
Hyun Bin and Park Shin-hye in Memories of the Alhambra. Absorbing from beginning to end.

Review: Memories of the Alhambra

Before Crash Landing On You (CLOY) courtesy of Netflix, the sensation of the hour, Hyun Bin, was in another hit Korean TV drama called Memories of the Alhambra. The series is still streaming on Netflix.

If the title is familiar, especially to music lovers, it is because the K-drama was probably inspired by the classical guitar piece, Recuerdos de la Alhambra, penned by Francisco Tarrega.

True enough, the iconic classical guitar favorite figures in many quiet, if, engrossing sequences of the drama.

But if you expect unabashed romance, Memories doesn’t offer it fast in the first few episodes.

Park Shin-hye as the virtual classical guitarist in the Korean TV drama. A wellfleshed out character.

Instead, you are treated to an unusual journey of a corporate CEO trying to get the rights of an Augmented Reality (AR) game and flying straight to Granada, where the AR wizard of a programmer resides.

Why all the fuss on this new AR game?

Well, acquiring it means enormous corporate fortune for the CEO’s company.

But another corporate rival is eyeing the same AR game, and this gives birth to several episodes highlighting corporate rivalry.

(For those new in AR games, actually close kin of the video games with elaborate soundtrack, a bit of an introduction is offered especially for senior citizens.)

In plain and simple words, Augmented Reality game is the integration of visual-and-audio content with the user’s environment in real time. It is said that the game itself can be as simple as a game of virtual checkers played on a table surface.

Well as Memories unfolded, the landmarks of Granada like the statues of century-old warriors and the Palace of Alhambra become useful materials for the unique setting of these augmented games.

Talk of old-world charm captured by these millennial games!

In fairness to the Korean drama, Memories dazzles easily.

Tarrega’s music is used with full cinematic intent and its appeal dramatized in many sequences.

Like the classical guitarist playing Recuerdos in the middle of the street and getting more than his share of fascinated audiences. The secretary of the CEO swoons over the piece like a love-struck music lover.

Easily, characters in Korean drama have local counterparts almost akin to memorable personas in another hit teleserye, Kadenang Ginto.

Even the male secretary (Min Jin-woong as Seo Jung-hoon) of the CEO is given meaty parts as well as the colorful ex-wife (Han Bo-reum as Ko Yoo-ra) looking terribly beautiful but unabashedly cunning.

Let’s face it, Korean dramas are well-made and the surprise of it is that it can make something memorable out of a favorite piece for the guitar.

(By coincidence, the classical guitar maestro, Pepe Romero, lives in Granada and has played Recuerdos de la Alhambra in live streaming concerts straight from his living room.)

Memories is perfect for recreating the tourism attractions of Granada but it has also something exciting for the IT aficionados with its endless augmented battles scenes.

To one’s relief, Hyun Bin as CEO Yoo Jin-woo delivers and it is one acting piece that becomes him with several layers of a corporate mogul coming out of his persona in equal, if, brilliant doses.

His love interest, the hostel owner Jung Hee-joo played by Park Shin-hye, is beautifully fleshed out, not the stuff of enchanted maiden always on the look-out for her prince. For another, she was a classical guitarist snatched by small business and reduced to a good daughter trying to augment the family income.

As a whole, Memories of the Alhambra remains absorbing all throughout its 16 episodes.

For those expecting happy endings, Memories could end up a letdown. It refused to be mushy at the end.

But I like the story, the execution, the direction, the narrative color and yes, the music.

It is one hell of a Korean teleserye like no other.

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