Memories of the Alhambra deals with augmented reality games that alter what a person experiences around them. A CEO (Hyun Bin) travels to Spain seeking to develop an AR game and stays at the hostel of a woman (Park Shin Hye). But things take a surprising turn as unexpected things begin to happen because of the game.
It’s time to head to Spain for my next drama which was the very anticipated Memories of the Alhambra. I like sci-fi type stories, so the AR concept was right up my alley. I’ve previously enjoyed shows that deal with virtual reality like the anime Sword Are Online and the Chinese drama Love O20. This drama is in the same vein, mind you with some differences because of the AR focus.
We have Hyun Bin as Yoo Jin Woo. He’s the CEO hoping to get the new AR game developed, and he is willing to do whatever it takes make it happen. Initially, he’s thrilled with the immersive experience of the game, but soon, things get a little too real as the game starts to take over his life.
Park Shin Hye plays Jung Hee Joo. She runs a hostel in Spain. Her brother is the inventor of the AR game, but she has no idea about it. When Jin Woo stays at her hostel, she finds herself becoming more and more involved with him as strange things begin to happen.
There was a lot of hype leading up to Memories of the Alhambra. So did it live up? For me, it did. But there are definitely some things to consider before diving in. First, the pluses. It definitely has some unique qualities that set it apart from other dramas. A good chunk of the show is set on location in Spain. I loved this! It gives us tons of gorgeous scenic shots, and it really just has a unique atmosphere that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The concept of Augmented Reality games is also a very different topic. The drama uses a lot of special effects to really give us a window into the experience of users in the game. It makes use of swords, guns, and a variety of in-game characters. There are some pretty awesome sword battles as well as plenty of other action too.
Although I did like this drama from the first episode, it does take a bit of time to get going. It’s about four episodes in before things get really serious and the thrills kick in. Then it’s a roller coaster from there on out.
The AR game is interesting in and of itself, but then things just get crazy! You never know what to expect as things slowly get out of control with the game, and one surprise after another graces our screens. This drama is full of twists and crazy cliffhangers to make for a pretty wild ride.
And Jin Woo goes on the craziest ride of anyone. He starts out as an over-confident and inconsiderate character, but his experience with the game sends him on a unique journey of growth. He descends into a world of fear and paranoia that completely takes over his life because of the game.
And the drama perfectly chose this hauntingly beautiful Spanish guitar piece that would play to signal some bad game stuff was heading his way. When the sound of that lovely strumming began, it was so creepy! Talk about feeling bad for Jin Woo. The torture he goes through is heartbreaking as we see him terrified and clinging on to whatever hope he can find.
At first, his main hope comes in the form of Hee Joo. Jin Woo really turns her life upside down, but her caring nature combined with feeling drawn to him keep her right in the middle of the action.
Later, the connection to her brother Se Ju (Chanyeol) draws them together as the game continues to wreak havoc. That’s when we get a little romance as Jin Woo tries to find some happiness and a partner in the midst of all he is dealing with. But be aware, the romance very much takes a backseat to the other happenings in the drama. There is just too much going on with life and death stakes to really take time for a lot of romance.
I’m a fan of Park Shin Hye, so of course I thought she was wonderful in this drama. But I did think she was under-utilized. The drama is more Jin Woo’s story, so she sort of takes a backseat to him. But even then, she really drew me into her character.
I felt her pain as well as her fighting spirit as she had to deal with so many difficult things happening because of her brother and Jin Woo. This girl is a saint! Park Shin Hye was also absolutely gorgeous in this drama, particularly when she played her in-game character Emma.
As only my second time getting to see Hyun Bin, I was also quite happy with his performance. His character is the kind that is hard for me to warm up to since he always has this air of smugness about him, but Hyun Bin still made him likable enough as the character grew.
The show was populated with quite a few other interesting characters. I particularly enjoyed Jin Woo’s faithful secretary Jin Woong (Seo Jung Hoon) as well as Jin Woo’s old partner/game-character-that-just won’t-die Cha Hyun Suk (Park Hoon).
Now some things to be aware of about the drama. It comes from the writer of popular dramas like W – Two Worlds, Nine-Nine Time Travels, and Queen In Hyun’s Man. So I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going into the show in terms of tone, style, and execution.
As is usually the case with this particular writer, I just don’t experience that many warm fuzzies from her stories. But on the plus side, a good deal of that is made up with the thrilling nature of the show which is something she excels at. It’s just exciting and fun.
But also, there are definitely a few plot holes and logic flaws. It’s best to just turn off that analytical part of your brain and go on a wild ride with this one. And you’ll find that not all of the questions get answered as to how things worked and why things happened. The concept is fantastic, but the finer details and overall execution is sloppy.
So it really comes down to how much this bothers you. If you want answers and no plot holes, this drama will fall short, and you’ll probably be disappointed. If you just want to go on a thrilling ride and don’t care how you get there, this drama can work perfectly. I fall in the camp that just likes to be entertained. And I was fully prepared going in that everything wouldn’t make sense, so I was mostly content overall.
Memories of the Alhambra had a lot of unique qualities with its AR story, being set on location in Spain, and its ample use of special effects. Then add in a thrilling story with plenty of surprises as well as a dash of romance, and you have a pretty entertaining drama. It was definitely a fun one!
My Rating: 8/10
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