I've been a fan of this game for a while now. Now that a more polished (English!) remake with updated graphics and gameplay was finally released a few weeks ago, I was hoping a thread would show up for it here. It's very much like Dark Souls, in that the player is largely left to their own devices to figure out how the game works, and what needs to be done to progress. I like to think that such a game would be well received here, so without further ado:
La-Mulana is a 2D side-scrolling platform game, first released on May 27, 2005 in Japan for Microsoft Windows that features graphics and an interface inspired by MSX games. The game is a traditional action-adventure game, reminiscent of the Castlevania and Metroid games. This game was originally only available in Japanese, but an English translation patch has been produced by Ian Kelley of AGTP.
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.
This original freeware version is still available. This archive includes the game and the installer for the English translation. You will need to apply the translation patch before running the game. Leave the windows Screen Resolution dialog open in the background before running the game to fix the sprites and palettes being messed up in Windows 7. For comparison, here's some gameplay from the original version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEn5huyUcsg
The game was ported to Nintendo's WiiWare service by Nicalis 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 were updated to a smoother style and the music is reproduced in a more richly orchestrated form.
This WiiWare version was bound for US and European markets as well, but died during the cert process. Anxious for lack of info, the faithful (myself and probably 4-5 others somewhere in the world) patiently waited for news of the ill-fated translation. And then, several months ago, Nigoro finally announced on their blog that not only would the new La-Mulana be coming out in English very soon, it would not be on the Wii and would instead debut on the PC! Fast forward to July 13th and the game is available at playism-games.com, Steam and GOG for $15. They have produced a beginners video, and a fantastic instruction manual [PDF] to help you get started.
So far, everything I loved about the original is here in full force. In following with its look-alike, Spelunkey, the controls and rules of the world are precise enough that my deaths are entirely my fault. The boss fights (and even sub-bosses) demand that I identify their patterns and carefully execute my plan of attack. The music will be stuck in my head for months to come. The puzzles (many changed from the original) require me to scour both the ruins and various forums for clues.
I implore you goodjers, if any of this piques your interest, grab a copy (new or old) and try it out. This is a game worth playing, and worth talking about.
(When you get super stuck, the wiki is there to guide you.)