Interviews: Takumi Naramura - La Mulana
Posted by Corbie Dillard
La Mulana creator talks about new WiiWare remake
Nicalis have already released one hit indie PC title on the WiiWare service with the release of Cave Story and are now putting the finishing touches on their second WiiWare release La Mulana. Since it's been awhile since we've heard any new information on the game, we decided to go directly to the source in order to find out more details on the upcoming title.
Takumi Naramura, creator of La Mulana and director of the upcoming WiiWare version of the game, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions about the game. You can find out what he had to say in the exclusive Nintendo Life interview below.
Nintendo Life: How did you come up with the idea for La Mulana in the first place?
Takumi Naramura: We wanted to take the retro games that we were crazy about and create our own version.
NL: How long has La Mulana been in development?
Naramura: We received an email from NICALIS in the Fall of 2008 and we formally met with them at TGS that same year. First, we expected to have to supply development kits as well as do basic research. So, I spent a while finalizing design.
Starting around Spring of 2009, research of the Wii commenced and we began creating the game around June. We're now coming close to the end of development, so we have been working on this for about 15 months.
NL: Why the decision to bring La Mulana to the WiiWare service instead of the DSiWare service or other download services?
Naramura: Before NIGORO was established, we believed that the future of purchasing games would be through download services. We researched PC development, XNA, mobile phones, iPhone, etc. Then we were approached by NICALIS to release LA-MULANA on WiiWare and it was decided.
We are Japanese, so we wanted to do something that would have good results even in Japan. We felt that selecting the Wii, which is widespread in both Japan and North America, would fit well for the NIGORO players and fans.
NL: Why did you decide to give the game a more 16-bit look for the WiiWare release?
Naramura: The original version is an imitation of a classic Japanese computer called MSX. We decided there was no point in reproducing that look for the Wii. The retro game style that we created was something we developed during our amateur era, as a hobby; we believed that it was not necessary for us to recreate that now that many major companies regularly release retro style games.
If major companies do that, moving ahead of the curve, we wanted to create an evolved 2D game. Although the outer appearance changed, the feel of La-Mulana is significantly powered-up. Things that we wanted to adapt, but gave up, because we're creating a retro style game, have made it into the Wii version and we feel it's the real La-Mulana we wanted to make.
NL: Tell us a little bit about the actual gameplay in La Mulana.
Naramura: The outer appearance is new, but the functionality is similar to the original version. The functional restrictions within the jump--such as limited aerial movement, consistent to the original-- are still the same and not commonly seen in recent games.
Initially, in order to not take up too much time, we were thinking of keeping any changes from the original version to a minimum. But in order to make it more enjoyable, to make it more fun for those who play it for the first time, we fixed areas that were not as user-friendly. We started making several changes in minute areas - in particular, we largely improved problem solving of puzzles in the ruins.
NL: How is it different developing the game for the Wii as opposed to the PC version of the game?
Naramura: Although we were supposed to be creating the same thing, it felt like we were creating something completely different. The environment including graphics and maps, even programming for the Wii, felt differently than when I was creating the PC version. It was my first time creating a Wii game, so it felt even more so in that way.
NL: Is this WiiWare version a remake of the original or an all new game?
Naramura: It is a remake.
As months and years passed, we implemented things we reconsidered, as well as new ideas. We felt that people who played the original version would be able to play the Wii version of La-Mulana and it would still feel fresh.
The original version was created for players who love retro games - for those with lots of game knowledge. We even abridged things that would be understood without any explanation. For the WiiWare version, we fixed those less user-friendly areas. Now there are more guides to help players progress through the game, so the puzzle solving might have become a bit easier, but the difficulty of the action is higher.
NL: Are there any new features in the WiiWare version that weren't found in the original release? Are you happy with these elements and how did you decide what to include?
Naramura: We envisioned it as a newly created game to be released in the year 2010 for the Wii platform. We thought of new elements such as larger bosses, system changes, overall appearance such as graphics and ease in play.
The number of weapons were increased as well as item variety and effects were also changed. There are also several new elements so that players can feel with their own hands when solving puzzles.
Settings that were mostly not explained in the original version, the origin and history of each ruins, and races and civilizations were newly solidified. However, it's not necessarily told through writing for the most part. Within the game, players look at the background of the ruins and use their own imaginations.
NL: What controllers will be supported in the WiiWare version of the game?
Naramura: It supports the Wii Remote, Wii Remote and Nunchuk, Classic Controller and the GameCube controller.
NL: Will there be any online gameplay or leaderboards?
Naramura: This is our first time developing for console players. Unfortunately, we are passing on this for this time due to lack of experience and it taking too much development time.
But we would like to have players play movies and screenshots with amazing results to be freely posted on places such as YouTube and Facebook. We would be happy to see that as an online element of La-Mulana.
NL: Any chance we might see some downloadable content released for La Mulana?
Naramura: We are planning for the very difficult stage in the hidden area of the original version "Hell Temple" and a "Time Attack Mode" to fight all of the bosses.
NL: Any idea when we might see La Mulana released on the WiiWare service?
Naramura: The development has not yet ended, so we cannot make any conclusions due to testing and issues that may occur up until launch, but we would like to release before the end of Fall.
NL: Is there anything you'd like to tell our readers in closing?
Naramura: It would be to explore the game in every enjoyable way.
From there, look for what is fun to each of you. Think of establishing your own style. There are many game genres, there are large projects using vast amounts of money and failing. Game hardware always changes, there are always new devices appearing to consumers. Within all these new pieces of hardware some have lost sight of what players want and what works for video games. If you have a design style of your own, you should know what works and what feels good.
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank both Naramura-san and Tyrone Rodriguez for making this interview possible.