Street Fighter V: Elemental Attack Speculation

chun li water attackAll around the Internet, you’ll find people claiming that Street Fighter V will be bringing something entirely new to the franchise: Elemental attacks. Supposedly, each character will have command over one of the primal forces of nature. Examples currently given include Ryu being lightning, Chun-Li being water, and Ken being Fire. [Read more…]

The Mythology Behind La Mulana’s Bosses #8: Baphomet

The guardian of the twin labyrinths in La Mulana is a fitting one, mythologically speaking. The twin labyrinths area is one of the more challenging sections in the game. Direction has no meaning. Marble statues leer at you from above. And at Baphomet waits for you in the center.

Baphomet:

This was Baphomet. This diced and divided thing. Seeing its face, she screamed. No story or movie screen, no desolation, no bliss, had prepared her for the maker of Midian.
– from Cabal by Clive Barker

Fighting_baphomet1

Baphomet in La Mulana

Historically speaking, Baphomet’s various fan clubs have always had lousy reputations, but one club in particular was even more infamous. In the early 14th century, a group of temple guardians and former participants of the crusades known as the Knights Templar were in a tricky situation. King Philip IV of France thought that the Knights Templar didn’t like the church very much. This wouldn’t be a problem normally, except that it happened in 1307 when the punishment for disagreeing with the church was one hell of a slap on the wrist.

...and then they burned you alive.

…and then they burned you at the stake.

Image Source: Wikipedia

The main reason that the king was rounding up the knights had to do with a recently uncovered Templar correspondence. It mentioned praying to something called “Bathometh.” The knights were accused of worshiping the wrong diety and nearly every single other form of heresy he could think of.

Understandably, noone spoke at length about Baphomet for a while until an occultist in 1856, Eliphas Levi, drew an image of a sabbatic goat. The goat was meant to embody good and evil, male and female, human and monster, and a generalized kind of black and white duality.

This is the version of Baphomet that was used in La Mulana, The Devil in most tarot card decks, and the cover of your favorite death metal album.

Baphomet

And Mandi thought boobs on a dragon was weird…

Image Source: Wikipedia

I hope you’ve enjoyed our look into the mythology behind the bosses of La Mulana. Nobody has serviced mythology nerds as well as La Mulana. And there’s a sequel on the horizon. Let’s hope that it references more ancient and esoteric things so we can do this again sometime.

The Mythology Behind La Mulana’s Bosses #7: Tiamat

Tiamat,  more than any other guardian in La Mulana, is referential to the events of the story which bore the character. You need to see this boss fight in action to catch all of the bits of Tiamat’s body, powers, and story in action. I suggest you click play and read on.

Tiamat:

When the skies above were not yet named
Nor earth below pronounced by name,
Apsu, the first one, their begetter,
And maker Tiamat, who bore them all.

-translated excerpt from Enuma Elish

Tiamat, according to Mesopotamian creation myth, was a goddess of the salty primeval waters who birthed many lesser gods and monsters within her pantheon. We know she was mostly human, but she is often depicted as having a sea serpent’s tail. Her children were bested by another god named Marduk and were led around by “nose ropes” afterwards. The rings of these ropes hang in Tiamat’s hair in her La Mulana appearance. She was not evil, but her husband’s death at the hands of Marduk brought out her wrathful, chaotic side.

Marduk went on to slay Tiamat as well; In the words of the of the Mesopotamian creation myth, Enuma Elish: He “sliced her in half like a fish for drying.” Her various body parts were dismembered and repurposed as is common in creation myths. Some of the highlights are her spittle being used to make clouds and rain, her tail being bent upwards to make what we now call the Milky Way, and her crotch holding up the sky.

Fighting_tiamat

Tiamat in La Mulana.

Image Source: The La Mulana Remake Wiki

Tiamat’s changing expression throughout the fight, the galaxy behind her, and her death sequence all serve to drive home that you are playing the role of Marduk in this area of the game. By the time you realize you’ve split Tiamat in half, you’ve already fulfilled your fate.

One more thing — try to not stare at her crotch cobra. I can’t find a single mythological reason for it to be there…

The Mythology Behind La Mulana’s Bosses #6: Palenque

La Mulana‘s bosses draw from a variety of sources. None so much are the product of wild theories, corrupted tales, and a bit of fun as La Mulana’s sixth guardian. Today we’re looking at why this boss fight is a side-scrolling shooter level in a Metroidvania puzzle game.

Palenque:

“Space travelers in the gray mists of time? An inadmissible question to academic scientists. Anyone who asks questions like that ought to see a psychiatrist.”
― Erich von Däniken, Chariots of the Gods

Palenque

Palenque in La Mulana.

Image Source: The La Mulana Remake Wiki

The elephant in the room for Palenque’s boss fight is “Why is Palenque a Geiger-esque alien space ship pilot?” It’s quite a question, but one which is imminently explainable, so let’s start with why Palenque isn’t “Palenque.”

Palenque is not a person, it’s a Maya city-state renowned for its bas relief carvings.

Palenque in real life. It's notably larger.

Palenque in real life. Unlike Amphisbaena, it’s notably larger.

Image Source: Wikipedia

What the game calls Palenque is actually a king named Pacal. We know this because one of the most famous reliefs found inside Palenque is carved into king Pacal’s tomb. It looks like this.

Pacal on a tomb in Palenque

Pacal pictured on a tomb in Palenque.

 Image Source: Wikipedia

This design was enough to intrigue the more excitable brains in the Western hemisphere. What many saw in this carving was an ancient man in space ship and they could not be convinced otherwise. It’s known in most circles as the “Palenque Astronaut” and there are many books and documentaries about it if you are the kind who “wants to believe.”

So now where did the H.R. Giger influence come from? A spaceship shooter franchise with some of the best boss designs you’ll ever see in 16 bits: R-Type!
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Image Source: R-Type II, Android version pictured.

A futuristic shooter, an ancient carving, and a conspiracy theory have all combined to bring you a boss fight against the revered Palenque Astronaut in the depths of the La Mulana ruins. It’s not based off of a deity this time, but the legend of an ancient spaceman is still an interesting one. But is it really just a legend?

… Yeah, probably.

The Mythology Behind La Mulana’s Bosses #5: Viy

One of the most memorable challenges in La Mulana is the Contra-esque fight against the guardian of the Inferno Cavern. Eye lasers and shotgun projectiles turn this into a careful war of attrition against an encroaching tentacled floor. Today I’m exposing the background of the master of the pit: Viy.

Viy:

I see it—coming here—hell-wind—titan blur—black wings—Yog-Sothoth save me—the three-lobed burning eye…

– The Haunter of the Dark by H. P. Lovecraft.

Viy

Viy in La Mulana

Image Source: The La Mulana Remake Wiki

Viy is the most modern deity among all of the guardians. He’s La Mulana’s token member of a pantheon born from the cosmic horror fad in fiction from the early nineteenth and twentieth century. Viy is a pretty straightforward interpretation of a demon called Viy, from a story called Viy, from a book called Mirgorod which was published in 1835 A.D.

The quickest way I can sum up Viy, the story by Nikolai Gogol, is that it’s basically The Exorcist except that the there’s a magical piggyback ride at the beginning and the big exorcism in the story is held in a ruined church instead of a bedroom. When Viy gets summoned at the end, though, he makes Pazuzu look like a white chocolate creampuff.

Wedge_viy

Image Source: The La Mulana Remake Wiki

Viy, the god from the story of the same name, is described as having an iron face which comes out of the floor of the church, an eye which must be opened by a flock of lesser demons, and a gaze which destroys the protagonist by withering his resolve. Viy in La Mulana has all of this going on to the absolute letter.

Viy is without a doubt the eponymous entity from a Russian tale of cosmic horror. I offer an extra bravo to the design team: It is one of the most faithful representations of an esoteric, folkloric beast I’ve ever seen in a video game. The only discrepancy is that the Viy in La Mulana has tentacles. I guess all cosmic horror gods need tentacles to be taken seriously nowadays.

The Mythology Behind La Mulana’s Bosses #4: Bahamut

La Mulana contains a tricky fight on a tiny boat against a monstrous fish-like being. That fish is from one of the oldest stories still in publication. We’re digging into the history of a name most gamers have heard before: Bahamut.

Bahamut:

By Thy honour and glory, O Lord, I saw no fish; but there passed me by a great bull, whose length was three days’ journey…

-From The Aventures of Bulukiya in the Arabian Nights stories by Benares.

Bahamut

Bahamut in La Mulana.

Image Source: The La Mulana Remake Wiki

I know what you’re probably thinking: That can’t be Bahamut. It looks nothing like the fearsome blue dragon from the PlayStation game which taught millions of gamers to revere the name Bahamut: Chocobo Racing. What if I told you that this is one of the most faithful representations of Bahamut in a video game?

In Arabian mythology Bahamut is a fish of incomprehensible size that holds up the Earth. In the legend, even seeing some of the fish is enough to make powerful men and deities faint from beholding its indescribable, Lovecraftian existence. Stories vary, and many describe Bahamut as having a head like a hippo, bull, or elephant, which are all represented in La Mulana‘s interpretation in its maw, horns, and tusks.

Marine_Life_Hall,_American_Museum_of_Natural_History_(7356570628)

Bahamut in the American Museum of Natural History?

Image Source: Wikipedia

Outside of a blue whale, there’s nothing on Earth that resembles anything like Bahamut. If you’re a fan of the Discworld series of books, however, there is definitely a resemblance in A’Tuin, the turtle and his elephants. Terry Pratchett may have read another description of Bahamut from the ancient cosmologist, Ibn al-Wardi, who describes Bahamut as… I’m not even kidding here but feel free to sing along: “The Earth on an angel on a mountain on a bull on a fish at the bottom of the sea.”

The Mythology Behind La Mulana’s Bosses #3: Ellmac

The third guardian in La Mulana‘s lineup of bosses is Ellmac, a gigantic frilled lizard. He chases you and a mine cart down a shaft, which conveniently stretches as long as the boss fight requires. What is the mythological precedent for Ellmac? Let’s find out.

Ellmac:

I wanted to go to the Lost World in South America – I was heartbroken to discover there were no dinosaurs; I still don’t accept it.
Brian Blessed — from Quest for the Lost World

Ellmac

Ellmac in La Mulana.

Image Source: The La Mulana Remake Wiki

I have no offhand knowledge of any being called Ellmac, so let’s consult the Internet. Hey Internet, what d0 you have on anything called “Ellmac” that isn’t in La Mulana?

Nothing.

What? Nothing!?

Not a thing.

Ok, then what do you have about deities which are frilled lizards? I’m sure somebody worshiped them at some point.

Nope.

You’re joking.

I am not. There are no jokes on the internet.

Ok then…

My best guess is that Ellmac might be a transliteration from Japanese, which may have been a translation of another name. A name that people in my age group know as the gate master of The Hidden Temple: Olmec.

Olmec_Head_No._1

“Olmec” in a yard somewhere.

Image Source: Wikipedia

There is no mythological deity called “Olmec,” but La Mulana, from the very first room of the ruins, is teeming with giant stone heads resembling the one pictured above. These are the archaeological equivalent to a business card of the Olmecs: a Mesoamerican society that existed around 1500 B.C. who are historically and internationally famous for their distinct, detailed, and long-lasting art.

Their most commonly depicted god is the “Olmec dragon” with trough-shaped eyes, a bulbous nose, and giant fangs. Flame-like eyebrows were a common feature on Olmec gods, and Ellmac has designs which appear to be flaming eyes on his frills. This dragon might be the inspiration for the La Mulana guardian even though the Olmec dragon god does not appear to have a frilled neck.

Addressing those frills, Ellmac looks a lot like one of these:

Chlamydosaurus_kingii

Ellmac in real life. Like Amphisbaena, it’s notably smaller.

Image Source: Wikipedia

It’s the creature that inspired the spitting dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, which, just like Ellmac, were the product of numerous creative liberties. These lizards are known for their speed, which allows them to run across the surface of water, so perhaps that’s why this lizard was chosen to be the dragon that chases a runaway minecart in La Mulana.

The Mythology Behind La Mulana’s Bosses #2: Sakit

Every boss in La Mulana has a mythological precedent. Sakit is one of the giants who did not want Mother to return to the sky, and his embodiment is determined to keep you from reaching her. But what tales and legends does he draw from?

Sakit:

…Robots cannot live and remain sane, they become Golems, they will destroy their world and themselves because they cannot stand any longer the boredom of a meaningless life.
– Erich Fromm

SakitImage Source: The La Mulana Remake Wiki

The most interesting bit about Sakit is his namesake. The Indonesian word “sakit,” depending on the context, can mean ill, sick, or disease. The other giants’ names seem to be important. Consider that Futo’s name means “foot” in Esperanto, and think about where you interact with his statue. One of the game’s tablets says “A blanket of countless stars spread over Bado,” which is a Swahili word for windowsill.

So was Sakit a sickness? Was Sakit ill himself? All we know is he went to sleep “with his powers in hand,” so maybe his powers or devotion were a sickness.

As for the visual representations of the giants, they resemble golems of Jewish mythology. Golems, in the most ancient tales which contain them, spoke of them as living beings made of clay or other inanimate matter. They were beings of protection created by holy sorcerers who received a divine power to create life from mud.

The giants are long dead, and those who have beaten Sakit’s statue know how it’s still moving.Still, as clay-colored protectorate beings, the Giants fulfill a golem’s role for the font of all life hidden in La Mulana.

The Mythology Behind La Mulana’s Bosses #1: Amphisbaena

The first boss that most people encounter in the ruins is a deity whose popularity is a bit of a mystery. Descriptions of similar monsters exist in isolated cultures around the world. How does La Mulana interpret the infamous two-headed snake god? Let’s look at Amphisbaena.

Amphisbaena:

The amphisbaena has a twin head, that is one at the tail end as well, as though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth.

–Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia, ca. 77 AD
Amphisbaena

Amphisbaena in La Mulana

Image Source: The La Mulana Remake Wiki

So, where did Nigoro, the game’s design team, find the inspiration for this beast? Well, Amphisbaena is probably based off of a beast in Western mythology referred to as “amphisbaena.” It’s described in almost all of the sources as a poison-spewing, two-headed serpent. In Greek mythology, it devoured the dead of other battles and spawned from the blood dripping from Medusa’s severed head.

It does spew fire, which is like poison, and lives in a mausoleum. So, that’s oddly fitting. Sounds like this case is closed, but what did this beast supposedly look like?

Amphisbaena in Greek mythology

Amphisbaena in Greek mythology.

Image Source: Wikipedia

That is… a lot of things, but it is definitely not the visual inspiration for this boss. Most accounts explicitly mention wings and birdlike feet, which La Mulana’s snake does not have. It looks more like another god entirely: the Aztec’s Quetzalcoatl.

800px-Double_headed_turquoise_serpentAztecbritish_museum

A turquoise depiction of Quetzalcoatl in The British Museum.

Perhaps Amphisbaena is supposed to be ambiguous. Two-headed serpents are commonplace in mythology, so maybe it’s meant to be a father of Amphisbaena, Quetzalcoatl, Oroboros, and all of its other forms, which ancient civilizations almost never remember correctly.

Finally, consider a member of the family of “worm lizards”: Amphisbaena alda

800px-Amphisbaena_alba03

Amphisbaena in real life.

Image Source: Wikipedia

I think that one of these, the size of a room, would be a great deterrent against people who might want to enter my temple.

The Mythology Behind La Mulana’s Bosses

La Mulana is, in my opinion, either the best Metroidvania-style platformer you’ve ever played or the best Metroidvania you’ve never played. Why do I hold it in such a high regard? Its attention to detail and universe building is amazing. Backgrounds, enemies, puzzles, and most notably the bosses – everything is drawn from a real archaeological or mythological precedent. As a mythology nerd who loves difficult games, La Mulana is my perfect storm.

Spelunky players, for instance, probably already know who these guys are...

See that “Yang” in the background? That’s what I’m talking about, actual mythology…

Just like the countdown of Dead Rising 3 bosses, we will consider each one separately and assess how well they adapt their central idea or myth. You should expect humor, speculation, and graphic descriptions of death and dismemberment; this is ancient mythology after all.

Articles are below. Enter what is truly behind La Mulana:

La-MulanaList-amp

La-MulanaList-Sakit

La-MulanaList-Ellmac

La-MulanaList-Bahamut

La-MulanaViy

La-MulanaPalenque

La-MulanaTiamat

La-MulanaBaphomet

 

Image Source: The La Mulana Remake Wiki