The Max-Planck institutes for astronomy and for extraterrestrial physics run a high order adaptive optics system with a laser guide star facility at the Calar Alto 3.5- m telescope in southern Spain. This system, called ALFA, saw first light in September 1996. Today, ALFA can compensate for atmospheric turbulences with natural guide stars as faint as 13.5th magnitude in R-band. ALFA recently succeeded in overcoming this limiting magnitude with the deployment of its laser guide star. This paper briefly reviews the ALFA project and its progress over the last 3 years. We further discuss the impact of sodium-layer laser guide stars on wavefront sensing and present results obtained with both kinds of guide stars.