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Who has actually beaten this game without a guide? I am amazed at the depth and complexity of this game, and I really don't see myself ever completing the game (I refuse to use a guide).

Maybe if I had played this when I was about 12 years old and had nothing else to do. Maybe.
Some of the "puzzles" are just plain obtuse. You never know which rooms are solvable with your current items, and which ones require you to do something else first, so the entire labyrinth is littered with red herrings that you can't tell from relevant puzzle points that are ready to be cleared. Much of my time before succumbing completely to the walkthrough was spent rubbing new item X against every labyrinth feature Y to see if they interacted now.

The Crystal Skull sequence was the worst. I spent ages trying to get past the Chamber of Birth without a guide before finally opening it up and discovering I needed... the crystal skull, which requires me to get the mulana talisman, which requires me to first get the diary, which first requires me to get the talisman (no relation to the mulana talisman), which won't appear until I beat a specific boss in a completely unrelated area, and reaching that boss requires a bunch of other stuff I can't even remember now. Upon reading this, I just threw my hands up in the air and went full walkthrough mode, and I'm glad I did. It was just more "go to these unrelated locations and do these obscure actions in this specific order" stuff that felt like filler to pad the game length.

Never did beat the game; it kept crashing on Mother's 5th form so I couldn't clear it.
Post edited May 13, 2015 by Darvin
I played for a few hours and realized that the obtuse puzzles would be no fun and I would need a guide to make any real progress.
Obtuse puzzles, long replays in case of death and too hard bosses... but other than that the game is great!
And just for the record... I'm not griping. I actually really love this game. I'm also probably never going to beat it.
Really besides the optional bonus world none of the platforming demands are really that hard, some of the bosses can be pains with the supplies you will feasibly have at them (Bahamut, Elmac) but they are front-loaded anyway. If you really want to beat the game with a low guide use run, this. Physically write down on an index card each and every tablet, then under it write the puzzle that it solves. That way you always have all your clues at your hands and a way to organize stuff you think goes together.
EBToriginal: Really besides the optional bonus world none of the platforming demands are really that hard
That one place on the way from the Cavern grail point to Viy. Fuck that place. I ended up going through the Tower of Ruin, which was a pain in the ass in and of itself.
I spent like 300 hours on the original before I just gave up and used hints
Having played it double-digit hours now (picked it up on sale at one point), I tend to agree with the comments regarding the intentionally obtuse nature of parts of the game. It's good for what it's trying to do and is fun most of the time, but it has what I still think of as hint-book or hint-line puzzles (for those that remember the old Sierra hint-line and others like it) that are either presented with an incredibly vague hint, a hint in an unrelated area, you are unaware you can even execute the action required (thanks a lot Gate of Illusions teleport maze and 'bended knee'), or are just so off the wall that you have either played every game like it so it makes sense or you stumbled across the answer by luck.
I've found most of the game so far fair and solvable without outside assistance (still have a ways to go though), but there have been a few moments that have seemed unfair (such as the invisible bridge in Gate of Guidance for one), things that having read the manual, I was unaware they were even in the game, let alone that I should look for them.
Again, there is a niche audience that is the target of the style, but I think even among them, there are plenty that are afraid to criticize this game given the acclaim it gets. My issue is that the 'difficulty' is not really that the game is so tough, it's that the game is intentionally made with tough to absurd 'solutions' that nearly all players would have to luck into on their own. To me it's like the difference between hardcore and insane mode in Gears of War: one is tough but fair, the other is impossible without some luck in certain spots.
Sorry if this sounds like a rant, it's not, I do like the game, but I do not appreciate the design concept of, in my opinion, confusing difficulty with obtuseness. As I'm sure you've gathered, I had to use a guide to understand the mechanics of the game in the first major area (Gates of Guidance), but did pretty well on my own after that, only getting stuck when it was something I generally did not even know I could do or that there was some item somewhere else that I needed first. A small hint usually is enough to push a ways forward, but I empathize with those who normally eschew guides in an effort to discover things themselves.
gamingrn: you are unaware you can even execute the action required (thanks a lot Gate of Illusions teleport maze and 'bended knee')
Ugh, that one was atrocious. I mean seriously, there are exactly two places in the entire game you can do that, and nothing to indicate it's possible.
Sorry if this sounds like a rant
You're in good company. The game is practically designed to infuriate because it is a fundamentally good game that happens to also be trolling its audience with some really obtuse puzzles.
A small hint usually is enough to push a ways forward, but I empathize with those who normally eschew guides in an effort to discover things themselves.
Something as simple as an "is this room currently solvable?" hint would have done miracles.
I did. I have not played the remake yet, but the original 2006 version, I finished without a guide. Not in one go however. First ever time I fired up this game, I got stuck outside the ruins for an hour and deleted it out of "This game is meh, Cave Story is so much better". Then I kept seeing that game cropping up in top X list of best platformers out there and gave it another shot. This time I finally managed to get inside the ruins and got my mind blown by the first dungeon, at that moment, I was sold, I had to play it through.

So I played it for four weeks straight, firing it up every time I came back from work, and playing it non stop during the weekends, until I got stuck on that one puzzle in the Chamber of Birth. After a week without progress, I finally thought it was time to stop, and take a break, and do some of the things I delayed in that last month. Six months later, I restarted from scratch, because I wanted to refresh my mind and my original hand drawn maps and notes were a mess. After a week I was back to where I used to be in my last playthrough, then I finally solved that puzzle and progressed steadily until I got stuck once more a week later, on that wedge puzzle this time around.

I took another break, and only fired up the game again two months later, during the holidays vacations. That time I was telling myself "you know, you've gotten so far in that game, if you suspect you know the solution to the puzzle but you just don't know where to perform it, why don't you just try doing it in every single room in the game?" and the holidays vacations seemed like the perfect time to try this out. Lucky me, I started in the right dungeon because two hours later I had completed the wedge puzzle and that same evening, I was completing the game at last.

As for Hell Temple, it took me from early January to late March to find the entrance, firing up the game once every while, wasting an hour or two every time before moving onto something else. I even went as far as translating the hieroglyphs on the wall in the Temple of the Sun from La-Mulanese to kanji and katakana and had one of my friend show them to his Japanese teacher at university to see if there was something to do with them, but no result.

Then one day I accidentally noticed a little graphical detail as I was investigating the last clue to reach the door and after a bit of sleuthing I was inside Hell Temple, only to give up for good at that "120 000 here" puzzle some days later. I knew what the solution was, but there was no way for me to try it out nor perform it, I asked someone on a forum to confirm me whether this was the solution to the puzzle or whether I had it all wrong and had to keep looking, I got my confirmation and seeing as there was no way I'd be able to perform that one I decided it was time to stop playing, I had completed the game and gotten as far as I could to the best of my abilities. I used a guide to see where the last four ROMs I hadn't found were, three of which I would have never found even if I was actively looking for them, and that was it.

Everyone is free to do whatever they please, and I peek at walkthrough from time to time when I stumble upon a bullshit puzzle when I'm playing old school adventure games, but I'm a huge fan of Indiana Jones and adventure games and once I made it into the ruins for the very first time, it instantly felt like that game was specially made for me, and seeing as La-Mulana was constantly cropping up in those lists of hardest games of all time, it became a challenge I had to do on my own, that playing the game without a guide and nonetheless giving up was just as fine as completing it, that I could still at least say "welp, at least I got this far on my own" and that if I used a walkthrough on that game I'd regret it for the rest of my life.

But I recognize that special connection will not be there for everyone, and I cannot scold anyone for using a guide when myself there's dozens of games that I never bothered to play beyond the Normal difficulty, some RPGs where I read min-max guides before diving in, and some strategy games I'd never have gotten far were it not for the save and load game feature, or JRPGs I play with a handful FAQs on my lap (because I hate missing one of those Lost Forever treasure) which is unthinkable for many, but for me it wasn't an issue because that special connection wasn't there. There are games like that.

The original release was also very different from the remake. From what I read, the remake revamped the monsters, rooms, bosses and mini-bosses to make the platforming harder, heck, they also added that curse that makes the game extra harder, meaning that even if you used a guide and cheated your way through all the puzzles, you'd most likely still have a crazy hard time completing it and there would still be a redeeming value to the game thanks to all that extra platforming difficulty that has been added all over the place. You'd still have reasons be proud of yourself at the end.

But the original had easy platforming. At the start of the game, when you walk slowly, when you cannot jump very high and have to commit to every jumps you do, when you have to get used to the whip's speed and hit box, when you only have one tenth of a full health bar and when you keep getting knocked down by those damn birds or that stupid surprise fish, sure, it's hard, but soon enough, you acquire some health upgrades, better weapons, faster walking, higher jumping, you discover how to grind items... and the platforming and monsters difficulty gets thrown out the window very quickly. There are still some difficulty spikes here and there like the pit you you have to climb down with the claws or the fifth and eight guardians for example, but for the most part there is no more redeeming value to the platforming when you acquire a certain number of upgrades, because the game's main gameplay value was the hard as hell puzzles, and if you're going to remove that by playing with a guide, you may as well play something else entirely, because with a guide the game becomes busy work, you cannot even justify that with a "but I want to see the plot" like with an adventure games because there isn't any, the game is nothing but a test.
Post edited September 29, 2015 by blueskirt42
Darvin: Something as simple as an "is this room currently solvable?" hint would have done miracles.
No question! I would really have appreciated that.

That's pretty impressive blueskirt42, I don't think I have that kind of resolve anymore. Not with platformers anyway : )

Fun game, but certainly frustrating and beyond at times.
Post edited October 01, 2015 by gamingrn