Is it worth dying, dying, and dying again for a grand action/adventure of epic proportions? That’s what developer Nigoro set out to found out. A remake of the 2005 cult classic, La-Mulana is everything an oldschool action/adventure title should be down to its very core. It also helps that the music is pretty badass, too.
Available For: PC, WiiWare (reviewed)
Developer(s): GR3 Project, Nigoro
Publisher(s): Asterizm, EnjoyUp Games
Release Date: 2012
Archetype(s): Action, Adventure, Platformer, Puzzle
In 2005, independent developer Takumi Nakamura created the original La-Mulana, a brutal, but incredible oldschool action/adventure that was more or less a love story homage to other oldschool action/adventures, specifically for the MSX. In fact, in the original version, you actually have an MSX, not a laptop, and you can collect several MSX roms to play at a later time.
The original game featured 8-bit graphics, sounds, and soundtrack, all of which were equally incredible. The challenge was very high, however, often to the point of being near unplayable without the help of an FAQ of some sort. In fact, even with the remake, I find myself often scouting a walkthrough when I get utterly stuck (which happens more often that I’d like to admit).
With that said, you might think I favor the original more than the remake. You wouldn’t be far off, but here’s why you’d be wrong. While the original definitely taps into my nostalgic veins and doesn’t let go, I don’t feel like any of the essential core gameplay is lost in the remake and the design is improved ten fold.
For example, in the original you only had one save point and that was back at the village. You had to find the holy grail to allow for warping between locations and corresponding grail points in order to warp back and forth to and from. While the grail stuff still applies, you automatically quick save when you touch one and you can perform a full save at any one of them as you see fit.
Secondly, while the hints in La-Mulana are often obscure and the traps many (this has not changed), Elder Xelpud can e-mail you this time around to provide additional hints about the surrounding area, situation, and so on. It’s not as helpful as you might think, but it does help a bit…at times…sure. It’s mostly for added comedic value, but it can help every so often.
Furthermore, and this is a testament to how great the soundtrack is if nothing else, while the music has been fully updated and orchestrated…I can help but feel it actually sounds BETTER like this. Yes, for once I have to admit that I actually like a remastered soundtrack better than the original version. You wouldn’t hear me spouting this even for Oath in Felghana where I still like to go back and hear the original Ys 3 soundtrack.
So as far as a game, how is it? Well, if you’ve played any oldschool action/adventures like Goonies 2 or Metroid, you already kind of know what you’re in for. The game is fairly open, but does have a sense of inherent linearity to it. You’re not FORCED to do things in a specific order and are often given just enough rope to hang yourself with.
Obviously it would be BETTER if you did things in a certain order, but you don’t necessarily HAVE to unless it’s just not accessible any other way. For example, maybe you just can’t reach a specific area because you can’t double jump or perhaps you can’t traverse water properly or whatever.
You come across different weapons, sub-weapons, abilities, computer programs, and all kinds of stuff that help you unlock further mysteries of La-Mulana. Now, as far as the difficulty, well…they CLAIM it’s been toned down…and it’s TECHNICALLY easier in some respects…but not really.
Look, here’s what I mean. In the original, there was an experience meter. If you filled it up, not only would you max out your HP, but it would slightly increase. Now you just get the max out and that’s it. But you have the additional saving stuffs, get good items from the get-go, lots of help from a variety of areas, and because the graphics have been improved enemies don’t really blend into the walls or anything.
And yet, there are some areas and even bosses that are slightly easier in the original because they were operating on older, more classic design principles. Since they were all updated in this one, they allow for multiple boss forms, overlays that do more to add to difficulty than take away from it, and so on.
But by no means is this a game you should skip outright because you feel the difficulty would turn you off. This is a fantastic title and easily the best game on WiiWare right now. Actually, I’d argue it’s my favorite Wii game, period. It really is an incredible oldschool romp that cannot be missed and you owe it to yourself to pick it up either for WiiWare or the PC immediately.