Next year, console owners are going to get an opportunity to play the two installments of an iconic indie Metroidvania on their systems. La-Mulana 1 & 2 will be heading to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. To help get an idea of what Nigoro hoped to accomplish with these two games, as well as find out what might happen to earlier Flash games like Rose & Camellia after support ends, Siliconera had the opportunity to talk to Takumi Naramura, the Director and Designer of La-Mulana and La-Mulana 2.
Siliconera: The original La-Mulana is almost 15 years old now. When you first created it, did you imagine it would be this beloved and relevant for so long and what kind of effect has its success had on you when developing other projects?
Takumi Naramura: When I first made La-Mulana, I was hoping the 20 or so people who came to my site would play it. One day, a foreign fan contacted me saying “Let me translate this!” After giving him the data, the game became known in the West before we knew it.
It is precisely for the reason that the game became popular abroad that we decided to start Nigoro as an indie creator.
Which La-Mulana and La-Mulana 2 bosses did you have the most fun designing and what do you appreciate about them most of all?
Naramura: For bosses, it would have to definitely be Palenque. It turned out to be one of the best bosses that incorporated the design of the walls inside the ruins.
As for the games themselves, I really like the entire map design for La-Mulana 2. In terms of the game creation process, I enjoy coming up with the maps the most. Because of that, for La-Mulana 2 I was really able to put into practice what I had learned from making the original La-Mulana.
The La Mulana song "Wonder of the Wonder" is one of those tracks that perfectly suits the situation. How long did it take to create it and what was the inspiration for it and its opening seconds?
Naramura: We have a rule when composing songs for La-Mulana: the town songs must be arrangements of the dungeon songs. We also like to have at least one quiet song in the game, and “Wonder of the Wonder” wound up being that quiet track. I don’t really have any recollection of it taking a long time to make. The first go that we took, we ended up trashing, but after the initial idea, it took maybe two days?
When composing the originals, we used Konami songs as inspiration, so we had something like the Temple stage song from Gradius 2 as the goal in mind when we made this. The scream at the intro of the remake was put in there simply to startle people.
What lessons did you learn after making the original La-Mulana and how did you apply that experience and knowledge to La-Mulana 2?
Naramura: When making La-Mulana, we didn’t have our own particular philosophy. We just put in elements that we wanted into the game. Luckily, those elements ended up being well-balanced and I think that’s why the title was so well-received.
By listening to players’ feedback, we were made to realize that this was a Metroidvania with a special aspect of solving puzzles, thereby increasing your area of exploration.
Therefore, when making La-Mulana 2, we made sure to put the most of this special aspect at the forefront of our development.
Are you planning any kind of unique content for the console releases of La Mulana 2?
Naramura: It’s unfortunate, but we don’t have enough people to be able to add some special elements to the console versions. The content is about the same as the PC version. However, when the game released in Japan, we had several characters from other indie games appear as the shop clerks expressing their best wishes. It was fun working with these other creators and coming up with the characters’ in-game designs and their lines.
What tips do you have for people who might be playing La-Mulana and La-Mulana 2 for the first time, what with these being the sort of games where note-taking and constantly earning money are necessary to succeed?
Naramura: When watching playthroughs of people who give up in the middle, I noticed they tend to not read the long inscriptions or take notes. I understand that a lot of games nowadays have flavor text, but in this game, every piece of text is an important hint. Not only are there hints on stone monuments or in conversations, but also in the background walls and even inside the menus. It might be a pain, but players should take notes–as taking notes is actually one of the fun points of the game.
As far as money goes, both La-Mulana 1 and 2 are actually balanced appropriately. If you don’t have enough money for a given item, you can consider that item as not being necessary at that time. If you think it’s important to buy more weapons… then please do your best.
The MSX version of The Maze of Galious was the inspiration for La-Mulana. How do you feel about the later Famicom version?
Naramura: The NES version of Maze of Galious was well done and I don’t think the core of what makes it fun differs from the MSX version. However, I think the heavy atmosphere of the limited color palette of the MSX version is what gives Maze of Galious its ultimate appeal. Naturally, La-Mulana gets a lot of inspiration from the MSX version’s graphics.
Could we end up seeing a Rose & Camellia 3 and, if so, would you consider bringing it to multiple platforms worldwide?
Naramura: Actually, the five characters and story for Rose & Camellia 3 already exist. However, the production for it has halted and that’s the current state. To give you even more insight, we already have ideas for Rose & Camellia 4 and 5 as well. We can create any number of games like Rose and Camellia that have stories that are driven from our passion.
With Adobe ending support for Flash Player, what steps will you be taking to preserve games like Future Development Company and Rose & Camellia?
Naramura: The flash games that Nigoro has created were made to raise awareness about us and were released as free browser games. Although they are small works, all of them were made with care and we think of them as our children. I think it would be a shame if they were unable to be played.
Maybe an emulator or the technology to archive Flash games will be made. But, before Flash support ends, we want everyone to play these games to their fullest as well as upload videos of their playthroughs to YouTube and the like.
Of course, we are also thinking of how we can preserve these games, and one of those has been to work on developing Rose & Camellia for smartphones. If that goes well, the illusionary Rose & Camellia might come out as well.
La Mulana 1 & 2 will come to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in 2020.