You can now read the second of our interviews with Alan Costa! This time around, we chatted to him about the newly-released collection of remastered metroidvania titles LA-MULANA 1 & 2!
What is the process like when getting titles like this physically released?
We talked to AGM (Active Gaming Media), the company that licenced the game. They were working with the developer to do the physical release of LA-MULANA 2, because the game originally was a digital only release. Personally, I’m a really big fan of LA-MULANA 1, as I really like metroidvania games and retro-style games. But then I thought, why don’t we give players an opportunity to enjoy these on a platform that they use regularly? That’s why we decided to do a compilation of the two games. The second has never been released in the West, so we figured it would be great to give consumers a physical release - not only a physical release, but a pretty cool one with a bunch of extra goodies as well!
How would you describe these titles to those who aren’t very familiar with them?
I would say akin to metroidvania, but with a huge asterisk that reads: puzzle! The developers have repeatedly said that they intend to have people play the game with a notepad next to them, just because there is so much detail that you need to pay attention to in order to proceed through it. It’s not a typical metroidvania, where you are like “Oh, I got the double jump!” and you go back to the third room and do the double jump. It’s much more than that. You might find a room with a statue staring at another, and you have to think about what you are going to do. The answers to these questions aren’t in the room; you have to pay attention to the surroundings in all of the other rooms, and take notes. Only then will you realise, “Oh, I think I saw a statue like this before and he was looking at a 45 degree angle. Maybe that has something to do with this!” Things like that. So I think players who are really into platforming games and metroidvania games will love it, but so will those who enjoy puzzle-solving.
The gameplay has been said to be notoriously difficult. Difficult games are very popular now, but has there been any confirmation of balance changes, like an accessibility option or modes that make it slightly more in line with different platforms?
No, and that is the developers’ intentional decision. They are adamant that the game is fair but challenging, and I think that's true! You have to get used to the controls, in particular the jump mechanics which are very different than a lot of modern ones. As the developers have noted, LA-MULANA is a love letter to old MSX games; in most modern games, you can jump and often choose where to land, but here it’s very quick. Once you start jumping, your character will begin to fall. I think it takes some time to get used to that, but once you do, you will learn quickly. So there definitely is a learning curve, but once you’ve mastered it, the game provides a really enjoyable experience.
What links can we expect between these titles, aside from the protagonists and the gameplay?
There is a big, overarching story between the two games that has to do with the origins of life itself. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s a really heady, cool story that I think people who are fans of Indiana Jones, for example, are really going to love.
The games have visuals and gameplay inspired by MSX titles, as you said. We have seen classic aesthetics and gameplay continuing to grow in popularity, as well as the release of various microconsoles, so it feels like retro is very much in the game. With that in mind, what audience do you expect to be most attracted to these titles? Do you feel like it’s an older generation going back to these things or a newer generation of players?
I think games like this are in a curious place. MSX never came out in the West, so there is no nostalgia for it.But I’m 36 and I feel like there’s a lot of people my age and probably a little bit older that are making games which are harking back to when we were kids. That’s exactly what this game is, but that doesn’t mean that a lot of younger players aren’t liking it too. So I think we might see an initial wave of players who are a bit older and who really liked games like this back in the day, and once it gets some good word of mouth, I think that will open it up to other demographics as well. I feel like in some ways a lot of gamers are kind of graphics-agnostic. When I was a kid graphics were huge, and that’s not to say they are not important now. But when you are dealing with a realistic 3D game now, I think people are more willing to look at a game from an art style and art direction viewpoint, rather than from a graphical point of view.
You can purchase LA-MULANA 1 & 2: Hidden Treasures Edition here.