This year has been great for indie games, but it wasn’t without it’s disappointments. Nintendo’s handling of indie developers and their Wiiware store in general being two very low points. The remake of Nigoro‘s PC freeware classic puzzle/adventure/metroidvania La-Mulana was completed and promptly made it’s way onto the Japanese Wiiware store, but half a year later and the US and EU releases are still caught up in red tape. All hope is not lost, though. In this apologetic blog update, Nigoro tell us that the Wii version is due soon, but also something much more interesting: It’s coming back home.
The news of La-Mulana’s return to the PC is simultaneously great and tragic news. Great, because their publisher – Nicalis – have existing ties to Steam and the successful release of Cave Story+ under their belts, so a large-scale digital release seems inevitable and the game may well be a solid commercial success. Less great, because it suggests that Wiiware has degraded so far now that the Wii release may not be enough to keep the tiny Japanese studio afloat.
For those who aren’t familiar with the game, the original freeware version of La-Mulana was released quite a few years ago to enormous praise, and was quickly translated into English by those lovely folks at Aeon Genesis. It was a sprawlingly massive (easily 20-30 hours long for a first playthrough) platform action/adventure, but with a very strong puzzle/adventure element and an Indiana Jones inspired setting, with you unearthing relics and remnants of a pre-human civilization in an ancient underground city.
Some of the harder puzzles rivaled even the Myst series for their difficulty and convoluted nature, driving off a few players, but attracting no shortage of dedicated fans looking for some proper archaeology on top of the fedora/whip action. It was also notable for pretending to be a long-lost MSX game, mirroring the interface and hardware quirks of that unusual archaic system, and referencing a great many games on the platform across it’s enormous range of easter-eggs and secrets.
The remake ditches the faux-MSX stylings of the original in favor of making it look something akin to an PS1 game, similar to Castlevania: Symphony of The Night, with an updated user interface and accessibility to match. While the general level design remains unchanged, the graphics, music and combat have all been overhauled, with bosses in particular upgrading from slightly awkward and small sprite-sheets to very dynamic and menacing.
The puzzles as well have been redesigned somewhat to make them more logical and self-contained, although still pretty brain-teasing. Everything I’ve heard from those who played the Japanese version has been glowingly positive, so the PC version – when it finally surfaces – is an easy recommendation. It’s been an absurdly long wait for an English version of this remake, but it looks like a little more patience may yet bring us the definitive version of the game.
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