La-Mulana 2 Interview – Spelunking in Eg-Lana

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La-Mulana 2 is the direct sequel to the metroidvania original that was remade for PC a few years back. The game’s development has been put to a kickstarter campaign, where the guys at Nigoro are hoping to make a fully realized game worthy of the original’s legacy.

The kickstarter campaign for La-Mulana 2 has been fully funded, and while the funding is still open for a few more days, I had the chance to badger game director Takumi Naramura with a bunch of questions I had burning in my heart the moment I saw their kickstarter.

Niche Gamer: For those who have not played the original La-Mulana game, can you briefly explain what the sequel is all about, and why Nigoro decided to go to Kickstarter?

Takumi Naramura: La-Mulana 2 is a complete continuation from the first game. I believe players will enjoy the game regardless of whether or not they have played the first game, but I think its even more enjoyable if they have. I’m sure La-Mulana will be on Steam sales, and recently people are posting playthrough videos online. If you have an interest in La-Mulana 2, I think it’d be best to learn a little bit about La-Mulana.

When releasing La-Mulana, I realized that selling towards overseas markets from Japan is quite difficult.

While remaking, selling, porting, and advertising La-Mulana, we ran out of money. In order to dedicate time to making games, we needed starting funds. I knew that starting a Kickstarter from Japan is difficult, but from the amount of money we needed to collect, I knew we needed to succeed using Kickstarter.

NG: Could you give us a little background on Nigoro, and how many individuals are involved with La-Mulana 2?

Naramura: NIGORO was originally 2 programmers and a director/person who handles things other than programming, who I brought together. Recently we’ve brought on more people to assist us, but the ones who actually make the game are still the same 3 people as it always has been.

NG: Is it difficult for each team member to essentially wear multiple hats, handling different aspects of the game?

Naramura: Of course there is a larger workload than producing with a full team. For example, if I focus on graphics too much, the music gets behind, and if I focus on music too much, map creation falls behind. Despite that, I do this because I enjoy it, so it may be difficult but it is not painful.

On the other hand, the month until the Kickstarter ends has been very boring because I have had nothing creative to work on.

NG: Just how much fan feedback have you been taking into consideration with the sequel? Did fans wishing for amnesia really inspire you to make the sequel?

Naramura: It would be more appropriate to say that we gathered what our fans said on the internet, and are using it as data. Especially recently, since playthrough videos are being uploaded, when people put comments on these videos it is very helpful. One big problem with a small team of developers is that we have no testers, and playthrough videos fans upload work like having game testers for us.

What characters players are struggling with, what parts are simply boring, what parts were memorable, playthrough videos have provided us with irreplaceable data for making the next game. Of course, just taking in a fan’s words and using them as is is not good for creative work. Thinking about how to make it, style it, thoughts provoked, in order to transfer our thoughts to fans, we use our fans opinions.

I would like to present our fans who followed the many ports of La-Mulana, with a brand new La-Mulana.

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NG: What made you decide for an archeology theme with the original (and now sequel) game?

Naramura: Originally, the idea for La-Mulana came from the idea of wanting to make an investigation action game. When thinking of the game’s setting, we felt that if searching for something, an Indiana Jones-like archaeology theme would be good, and decided on that rather quickly.

Despite that, it went from an action game that the items were intended to increase the range of activity, to a new style of game where old manuscripts and hints would increase the actions possible. We think it is worth digging up this style and making one more game.

NG: You play as the daughter of Lemeza Kosugi in La-Mulana 2, what made you decide to quite literally “pass the torch” to a new generation?

Naramura: Like I mentioned earlier, La-Mulana could almost be called a tribute to Indiana Jones. Because of that, the main character looks almost exactly the same as Indiana Jones, and I thought that would reflect poorly on our originality. Once we decided to step up to the world stage, I started becoming concerned that the character was visually insignificant. Other than that, I felt I would like to have a new look for the character. It is something we decided much later, but of course the story will use the fact that the main character is female well.

NG: How much exposition will we get for Lumisa? Without giving anything away, will we eventually learn her true origin?

Naramura: We have only decided that she is the daughter of the main character of the previous game. It is fine that we decided on that, but we don’t know what to do about the father being 36 and the daughter being 21. Well, families have their circumstances. I don’t really know either.

I believe that the main character of a game is the player. I think the best would be for each player to have their own Lumisa in their mind.

NG: Can potential fans jump into the sequel without any previous knowledge of the original?

Naramura: Of course we have thought about this as well.

Our stretch goals include this, but we would like to include a library or setting that allows the player to read the story of the last game. Seeing as there is still over a year till La-Mulana 2 is released, the best would be to check out the first game in the meantime. A sequel is the most fun for people who have played the prior game. On the other hand, it can take very long to beat the game, so watching playthrough videos is a good idea as well.

NG: Will any characters be returning in the sequel?

Naramura: Everyone will be in the game. Since time has passed since the last game, the area surrounding the ruins changed, and we are thinking of how the characters have changed in that timespan. If we are able to show what the characters had been doing in the time that had passed, I think that would deepen the game much more.

NG: Will Lumisa play or handle differently from Lemeza?

Naramura: She will be slightly weaker than her father due to a lack of training, but she makes up for it with her youth. I think I would like to change her abilities somewhat from the previous main character. Rather than say the changes are because she is a woman, it is more that certain unsatisfying parts of the previous game need to be fixed, so we are using the excuse of her being a different character to improve them.

For example, the new game will be in widescreen, so making the appropriate map increases side to side movement. Therefore, Lumisa will have high movement speed from the beginning, akin to when Lemeza gets an increased speed item in the first game.

It is still in development, but we would like to improve underwater movement and jumping.

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NG: What kind of new weapons or tools can we expect in La-Mulana 2? Can you give us a tease?

Naramura: We are thinking that we should mainly keep the weapons the same as the previous game. This is because it is a game where sending an attack out from a small character in certain directions is like a puzzle, as well as being a large part of the game.

There is one thing that will change, as the item “Key Sword” will be changed to something else. Items that increase action or are useful will mostly be left the same but items for solving puzzles and hints will be completely different. We want to put a lot more effort into solving things, so look forward to the new items.

NG: Just how large are the ruins in Eg-Lana? To 100% percent complete the game would take how many hours?

Naramura: Because only 3 people are working on this project, making it any bigger than the previous game would be difficult. On the other hand, having less content than La-Mulana would be a disappointment, therefore, it would be safe to assume it will be about the same amount of content. The amount of time it will take to clear the game may be shorter than the prior game, but if a player becomes fascinated, they should get hours and hours of game time while playing over and over again.

NG: Coming from this, just how huge are some of the bosses?

Naramura: La-Mulana is mainly an adventure game, but I know that people are looking forward to the variety of bosses. As far as the size of the bosses, I would like to keep in mind entertainment and surprise while creating them. We are only thinking of ideas for bosses as of now, so there is nothing we can share, but we would like to show our strength in the game’s bosses.

NG: Can players expect new environments or biomes in La-Mulana 2?

Naramura: The basic fun of La-Mulana will be the same at the foundation, but because the ruins will all be new, and the method of investigation will be different, I believe it will be a whole new experience.

NG: How do you plan on evolving gameplay in traditional 2D games even more with La-Mulana 2?

Naramura: Previously we remade the game we made in our hobbyist days, so we put a lot of work into recreating the original game design. This time, it is a whole new game so it’s a different situation. Because it is a sequel, it cannot be completely different, but we will carry La-Mulana’s concepts over, and improve upon it.

For example, in the previous game, enemy characters were all set to the same size, this time, we have no need to worry about such restrictions, so there should be more enemies that can move much more dynamically.

As far as changes, there will be lots of small ones, but as long as people play and realize that we have rebuilt the La-Mulana concept, I will be happy.

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NG: Could you give us an example (not necessarily one in game) of one of the more subtle or difficult puzzle mechanics players can expect in their journey?

Naramura: The details are nowhere near being completed. At our current stage, one thing we know is that the map structure has changed.

Previously it was 1 field of 20 screens, that were connected in various places, but now we will have no restriction on how many screens per field. There will be small maps and very large maps. Basically, the way you navigate the maps will change the investigation process significantly.

Other than that, there are many items that just needed to be inserted from the last game, but I would like to increase the range of uses with each item as much as possible. We are aiming to make it so that the game cannot be cleared unless the puzzle is solved.

NG: Having the console/handheld versions further into the stretch goals may deter some backers – is this a possibility you guys have considered?

Naramura: The price for porting to game consoles listed is for us 3 to do it personally. Recently, attention has been drawn to indie games, and companies have been offering porting plans.

Depending on how the Kickstarter goes, it may change the money needed for porting. If another company takes up the task of porting the game, then there is no need for us developers to have funds for it.

This is something we thought of after starting the Kickstarter, so we may change the goals to answer our backer’s wishes.

NG: Speaking of handhelds, is the original La-Mulana still coming to Playstation Vita?

Naramura: Just the other day I went and spoke to a company about porting to Vita. I think we can announce something soon, and if a playable version is made I would like to exhibit it somewhere.

NG: How did you guys begin working with PLAYISM?

Naramura: When we failed at releasing the WiiWare port of La-Mulana, we figured we were more suited for releasing PC versions. When we announced developing the PC version, we were contacted by PLAYISM who had just started a service to deliver indie games to overseas.

A difficult thing about working with overseas distributors were english agreements, and the differences in how progress is made, all of which were difficult for us as Japanese developers.

That is when we thought we needed a representative partner who would help us, and so we agreed to work together and deliver La-Mulana to the world.

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NG: Lastly, do you have anything to share with your backers, and any potential pledges?

Naramura: In Japan, the idea of investing in something which may or may not succeed is not a normal thing. Since we started the Kickstarter, even now, when someone invests a large amount of money, I always feel apologetic towards the person, but what we are trying to make is the best game possible, by our standards.

So if people will invest believing that, then I want to return even more than what they expected when they invest. I also want them to enjoy the time until the game is released. We at NIGORO plan to show our progress, and continue sharing new updates.

If you are looking forward to a game from the gaming homeland of Japan, created by creators who want to carry on the greatness of Japanese games, please support us.

That wraps up our interview with the guys at Nigoro! Due to the language barrier and time zone difference, this wouldn’t be possible without the help of the awesome people at PLAYISM, who helped coordinate everything between myself and Naramura-san. Thanks guys!

If you haven’t pledged to the La-Mulana 2 kickstarter yet, please head on over to their kickstarter page and check out some more of the information that was not talked about here. The game is being made at this point, but in my opinion the guys at Nigoro deserve that extra push to fully realize their game.

Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.