|Developer(s)||GR3 Project (Microsoft Windows)
Nigoro (WiiWare, PC)
Pygmy Studio (PS Vita)
|Publisher(s)||Independent (Microsoft Windows)
Asterizm (WiiWare, Vita, JP)
EnjoyUp Games (WiiWare, NA/EU)
Rising Star Games (Vita, NA/EU)
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
La-Mulana is a platform-adventure video game, initially designed to imitate the look and feel of the MSX games. First released on May 27, 2005 in Japan for Microsoft Windows, the game was originally only available in Japanese, but an English translation patch has been produced by Ian Kelley of AGTP.
The protagonist of the game is Lemeza, a whip wielding adventurer similar to Indiana Jones exploring the tomb within La-Mulana. Although there is only one ending in the game there are many ways to get there, in that completing objectives in the game (gaining power ups and reaching new areas) is not linear, nor is there an obvious recommended path to take. Many powerups will allow you to reach new areas (similar to Super Metroid), but the game gives no indication of where to go.
Since the game was intended as a tribute to the MSX games of the 1980s (and especially to Maze of Galious), it uses the 16-color palette and low resolution typical of those games. Also, the opening sequence parodies the typical load screen of the MSX, displaying the amount of available video RAM and a copy of the MSX logo. The protagonist also has a laptop MSX in his possession throughout the game, and can collect or buy ROM cartridges for it; many of these can be combined to produce various special effects.
Initially, the protagonist is only equipped with a whip, and has a small amount of vitality. Items in the game help advance the plot, some of which do not grant any abilities, but open up a new area or allow another item to be taken. Other items, however, do grant the protagonist abilities, and some are also required to access new areas of the game.
Most non-boss enemies in the game will not cause a lot of damage to the protagonist, however there are very few ways to restore life, and in many cases getting hit will cause the protagonist to fall off a hard-to-reach ledge and lose significant progress. An item in the game is available early on that enables teleportation back to the start (the location of the game's only save point) in addition to various waypoints. As explained in the game's manual, the general strategy of the game is to explore and solve as many puzzles as possible before getting low on life and teleport back when the risk of death becomes too great. However, actions taken in certain rooms can make it very difficult to return after warping out, so warping out is not always the wise action.
One of the principles behind the game's design is difficulty: as described in the game's manual, the developers were disappointed in the lack of difficulty prevalent among many games of the current era (around 2005-2007), and sought to help create a sense of tension in the game—the example they gave was that, if one were a real-life archaeologist, one might think twice before jumping into a dark pit, but in many videogames, it is too easy to simply attempt the action, suffer the consequences, and reload. The tension is created by arming many features in the game with various traps that can easily befall reckless adventurers (as also noted by the wealth of skeletons in the dungeon), as well as several complete dead ends (notorious among well-versed players), from which, short of teleportation, there is no way out. These traps are explained in-game to exist in order to protect these sacred ruins.
Lemeza Kosugi: A 31-year-old archaeologist and third generation Japanese. He teaches at a university while using infiltration techniques taught to him by his grandfather to investigate ancient ruins. He is proud of and respects his grandfather, but feels ill will toward his father, who never came home from work one day when he was a young boy, and is always at odds with him. He says that he became an archaeologist to show up his father.
Lemeza is an MSX enthusiast who always carries his MSX laptop with him, and is actually a quite skillful computer engineer. He doesn't have any particular dislikes, but loves curry.
Lemeza Kosugi is one of the Eighth Children, the last race created by the Mother. Late in the game, it's revealed that the Sages have chosen him for their purpose of giving the Mother eternal rest.
Shorn Kosugi: A 62-year-old historian and second generation Japanese. A famous authority on anthropology and history, he is also skilled in biology and astronomy. He searches for the origins of humanity, claiming "Humans descended from monkeys, but not by evolution alone." Several years earlier, from his studies of ancient civilizations and astronomy, he came up with the bold theory that "there is a civilization from which all civilizations descended" and afterward disappeared. He is Lemeza's father, but the two are constantly at odds. Shorn is quite healthy, and sports a tough physique and incredible hardiness not expected of a man in his 60s.
He can be spotted at various points throughout the game (such as climbing up the ladder leading out of Shu's sacrificial pit in the Confusion Gate), always one step ahead of the player.
In Shrine of the Mother at screen C-2, the Mother's Tomb, one can read his MSX message to Lemeza. He reveals that he made it into the core of the ruins, but even though he was also one of the Eighth Children, he was not chosen by the Sages to fulfill their task and pleads for Lemeza to bring rest to the Mother.
Elder Xelpud: His age is unknown. He is the elder of the "Guardian tribe" that protects the ruins of La Mulana. He is an old friend of Shorn, and actually met Lemeza when he was a child, though Lemeza was too young to remember. Xelpud holds to the tradition of his clan in protecting the ruins, but is remarkably easy-going and does a lot more than "protect the ruins of La Mulana" and is actually quite a technophile. He even set up a hydroelectric power generator for his personal use by the waterfall on the outskirts of the village. Thanks to his efforts, his village has become quite prosperous for being in the middle of the jungle. Xelpud is famous on the Internet as an MSX expert.
Xelpud acts as the village elder and will give the player hints about where to go next if they are stuck, though most of the time he makes various jokes and references to MSX games. When the "Game Master" or "Game Master 2" ROMs are equipped with the MSX, he will save the game.
Elder Xelpud is a descendant of the Seventh Children (as are the Sages), the "race that sees the travelers off" that is mentioned in the manual and in the game. Because of this he knows quite a bit about the history of La-Mulana and will tell Lemeza what he knows when he is brought both the Talisman and the Diary.
Mulbruk: an immortal maiden who aids Lemeza.
Mother: The mother goddess of La-Mulana, she is largely a mystery at the beginning of the game. Through tablets and the words of Xelpud and the Sages, the player comes to understand who or what she is, how she came to Earth, and other information about her that becomes the crux of the plot of the game.
There are eight Guardians that live in the ruins, summoned by the Mother to protect her while she sleeps. Each of them can be discovered by both unlocking the Ankh and finding the Ankh Jewel to put in it.
Amphisbaena: Guardian of the Guidance Gate, a massive two-headed snake that can use a Flame Jet attack. Based on the amphisbaena, a "mythological, ant-eating serpent with a head at each end."
Sakit: Guardian of the Mausoleum of the Giants. An enormous statue, he attacks mostly with rocks that fall from the ceiling, energy balls fired from one of his hands, and shooting his other hand out to punch Lemeza. Sakit was one of the giant brothers who opposed sending the Mother back to the sky.
Ellmac: Guardian of the Temple of the Sun, Ellmac is an enormous frilled lizard whom the player fights on a mine cart dash through the Temple. In Japanese, Ellmac's name is a pun on the Japanese name for frilled lizard.
Bahamut: Guardian of the Spring in the Sky. Bahamut is a monstrous half-hippopotamus, half-fish creature that can use a Flame Jet attack. Its fight takes place with the player on a small boat, which can be controlled by moving from end to end on it. Based on the Bahamut creature from Arabian mythology.
Viy: Guardian of the Inferno Cavern. Viy is an enormous demon that slumbers within the earth, so massive that it needs helper demons to function. The two demons help lift up his eyelid, as he attacks using a variety of eye-based attacks such as a powerful laser beam and shooting small projectiles out of his pupil. Based on a demon from Nikolai Gogol's short story Viy.
Palenque: Guardian of the Chamber of Extinction. Palenque is an alien/robot-like creature riding a massive flying ship with lasers and guns on it, whom Lemeza must fight piloting a small plane of his own. Based on a wall carving in a Mayan ruin, theorised to be a depiction of an ancient astronaut in the book Chariots of the Gods?. The name Palenque refers to a Mayan city of the same name.
Baphomet: Guardian of the Twin Labyrinths. Baphomet is summoned by the witches who live in the ruins and can use a variety of attacks, such as Flame Jet and lightning bolts. The idol Baphomet dates back to the days of the Templars and has become associated with the image of the "Sabbatic Goat," roughly similar to the character design used in La-Mulana.
Tiamat: Guardian of the Dimensional Corridor. Tiamat, a half-snake creature who looks similar to a lamia, is so powerful that she has managed to warp the constraints of the ruins and switched the front (Endless Corridor) and rear (Dimensional Corridor) sides of her world; as a result, she is the only Guardian that must be accessed from the rear-side world. She attacks with her hair, eyes and tail and constantly births bats, but the first two attacks can be nullified if the player destroys all the infinity symbols around her arena.
The tablets scattered throughout the ruins say that Tiamat is one of the only beings aside from the Mother and Nu Wa who can create life; the eleven subbosses that guard the Dimensional Corridor are therefore likely her children, as the eight races were the children of the Mother.
After the release of the English translation patch for the game, the game was played by gaming websites 1UP.com and Joystiq. It was received as a fun game, with 1UP.com calling the game "a great exploratory platformer along the lines of Metroid or Castlevania that completely nails the graphical and musical style of an MSX game," however, both websites noted that the game is extremely difficult.
WiiWare and PC remake
The game was remade from ground-up, development starting in 2007, and released on Nintendo's WiiWare service by Nigoro on June 21, 2011 in Japan. The WiiWare version features a number of changes, partly to tone down the difficulty and improve design in order to appeal to a larger audience, partly to give players who've played the original a new experience, and partly due to copyright issues. In addition, the graphics are updated to a smoother style and the music comes in orchestrated form.
Some other major changes include:
- Bosses have been changed to the point where they are entirely different from the original's bosses.
- ROMS being replaced with "Programs" due to copyright issues.
- The ingame map has some minor changes, including some new rooms and removed rooms.
- Several puzzles have been taken out, while several new ones have been released.
- The engine was rebuilt from scratch, along with new code.
- Renaming the MSX computer system the "Mobile Super X".
- A revision to the melody of "Curse of Iron Pipe" in order to remove similarities with a certain track from the game Ashguine II.
Plans for releases in North America and Europe were canceled by Nicalis, its original western publisher.
In June 2012, EnjoyUp Games claimed to have interest to publish La-Mulana. It was finally released on September 20, 2012 in both North America and Europe without the DLC available in Japan, which implementation was supposedly the reason for its initial delay.
The Wiiware version currently has an 87 on Metacritic.
A Windows version, based on the WiiWare version, was released on July 13, 2012 on Playism and in October 2012 on Good Old Games and Desura. It has also been released on Steam. It features multiple language options (Japanese, English, Spanish and Russian), USB gamepad support (including Xbox 360 controller support), and also includes some tweaks and additions compared to the WiiWare version, including Hell Temple (which needed DLC on the WiiWare version), and a revamped Time Attack mode.
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