Thanks to NIS America for the review code
Title: La-Mulana 2
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 03//2020
Taking place several years after the original La-Mulana, in this sequel you take control of Lezma’s Daughter, Lumisa, who sets out on a new adventure in the ruins of La-Mulana, to discover the secrets behind the alternate realm known as Eg-Lana, and why it has awakened in the aftermath of La Mulana’s destruction.
Like before, La-Mulana 2 sports a gorgeous pixel art style, one that feels pretty accurate to 32-bit games from the time, with smoother animation over its predecessor and brand new sprites all around, leading to a way cleaner presentation.
The MSX tributes found in the first game may not be here in the same manner, but other elements still pay tribute to that aspect of the series’ history, such as the amazing soundtrack, which serves as a great followup to the original OST with equally energetic vibes and several songs that bring back that retro MSX RPG feel. There’s no chiptunes this time around, since everything was made from the ground up in the new soundfont, but the new score is pretty fantastic.
The border returns, but unlike the first game, you can’t toggle between multiple options nor can you turn it off, which is a pretty big bummer considering how turning off the first game’s borders made it look much sharper. Here, you’re stuck with the default screen size, and have to deal with it.
Similar to the first game, La-Mulana 2 tasks the player with exploring ruins, discovering treasures, avoiding traps and beating bosses in this metroidvania adventure. The controls are the exact same as the first game, but several quality of life things have been added, such as a more controllable jump, easier swimming, and smoother movement, so you’ll easily feel right at home if you play this immediately after beating the first entry.
Starting out, you’ll go through the remains of the old La-Mulana ruins from the original game, before entering Eg-Lana proper. Just like the first, you’ll be solving puzzles and trying to figure out a way to get an Ankh Jewel to awaken a boss, but you’ll notice that unlike the original, this first area is way, way more streamlined, only offering paths to other areas after you clear the boss, meaning that you can’t just immediately rush out to discover other areas in your own order.
This can be a drag if you were used to the sequence breaking nature of the original game, but this is thankfully only a temporary setback, since after destroying the first boss, you’ll be able to go to the next area of the game, which does contain multiple exits and eventually leads to one with a doorway that can take you all around the backside of the ruins, akin to the backside doors from the first game, so exploration does open up and becomes incredibly satisfying.
Combat is much the same as before, with Lumisa getting a bunch of alternate weapons and subweapons over the course of the journey, with some returning from the first game, while others are brand new. Overall, the combat benefits from the swifter movement and controls, so boss battles feel a lot more fun now and way more strategic than some fights from the original! Likewise, you can retry near the ankh upon death, which was a feature that was later added to the original, as I mentioned in that review, so some of those QOL improvements actually came from this game!
Another change this game did from the first, seemed to be a slight reduction in the amount of utterly cryptic puzzles. Don’t be fooled, there’s still plenty of them to go around, but it felt as if the early part of the game did a better job of helping newcomers get used to how the rules worked before throwing them in the deep end, while in the case of the first La-Mulana, it was strictly only that way in the Gate of Guidance. This may irk some who prefered the cryptic and crazy nature of the original, but honestly, I didn’t mind it, and it actually made the game less guide heavy, which is a plus for those who just want to figure things out themselves, and I felt it was the right approach to make a challenging game more approachable without dumbing it down.
On the other hand, the Mantra system from the first game is back, and shows up way earlier than it did in the original, once again requiring you to learn words in order to find secrets or open passageways, and just like in the first, this can be a cumbersome pacebreaker, so I honestly wish that they focus on this aspect. Still, besides those gripes, La-Mulana 2 is an excellent metroidvania adventure, containing all the fun exploration and secret finding that made the original so spectacular.
In conclusion, La-Mulana 2 is an excellent sequel to the original masterpiece. The combat is still just as satisfying as before, the puzzles aren’t nearly as cryptic but are still fun to solve, and the adventure is a fun one overall! My only real gripe is that it does have a slow start, unlike the first game, since it tries to ease the player in before opening up to the same sort of glorious open-ended exploration that made the first game magnificent, yet it’s still a great adventure with lots of different ways to replay it.
There’s still plenty of optional stuff to find and reasons to revisit older areas many times over the course of the game, but the fact this game got a bit more linear in the earlier portions is a bummer, and I also found some aspects such as a few of the new areas to be not nearly as memorable as the ones from the original. Still, this is an excellent metroidvania, linearity aside, and while it may not be on the same godlike quality as the first game, it’s still a worthy part of the La Mulana 1 & 2 bundle, and worth a standalone purchase as well.
I give La-Mulana 2 a 9 out of 10.