An awe-inspiring and beautifully-looking pixel art Metroidvania inspired by Mexican folklore currently in development at Halberd Studios, the talented creators of 9 Years of Shadows.
We wanted to use a typical impactful and punchy Mexican phrase to start and introduce you to Mariachi Legends, but nothing particularly cute or wow-worthy came to mind, so we’ll welcome you with a simple and customary greeting… “Bienvenidos.”
Mariachi Legends is causing quite a stir in the gaming scene. We are talking about an intriguing pixel art, combat-oriented Metroidvania developed in the welcoming lands of Mexico by the same team that brought forth the captivating and well-received 9 Years of Shadows – the promising, brilliant, and creative Mexican-based team, Halberd Studios.
Launching its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter on November 7th, the project swiftly achieved tremendous success, hitting the founding goal in just 24 hours! A scream-worthy start that demonstrates the warm reception from players for the project and the efforts and dedication of Halberd Studios.
So, without further ado, join us as we explore this fascinating Metroidvania fueled by a fervent Mexican soul.
Halberd Studios: A Conscious, Creative, and High-Quality Development Team
Founded in 2016 in the heart of Guadalajara, a bustling city in Western Mexico and the capital of the state of Jalisco (the very state known for tequila and, not coincidentally, mariachi music), Halberd Studios is a small yet highly talented indie game company consisting of 35 fervent and passionate individuals.
Fresh from the warm reception by players and critics for 9 Years of Shadows, which won fans over, especially for its impressive art style, the developers are ready to take a slightly more ambitious step, with a project that honors their homeland from cultural, folkloric, and landscape perspective, with a primary focus on the combat system and Mexican tradition—the latter being the true beating heart of Mariachi Legends.
Moreover, the Halberd Studios team boasts extensive experience in the creation of original content for the film, advertisement, and video game industry; an experience that paved the way for their venture into video game development. Following this, there was 9 Years of Shadows, their debut video game, which launched on Kickstarter and was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm leading up to the game’s release on March 27, 2023, for Nintendo Switch and PC.
What has happened since then? What has changed?
If we were to spill the beans, there’s a lot to discuss. What we see in this new project is a heightened confidence, a greater self-assurance in their abilities from Halberd Studios. We understand that making a mark in the gaming world, trying to carve out one’s path, especially when we talk about an ambitious project like 9 Years of Shadows, is no small feat. However, the team had and still maintains a rather clear vision, strongly rooted in creativity, art, and quality orientation, something we particularly appreciate.
Undoubtedly, this time around, we expect a significant step forward, confirming the goodness we witnessed in 9 Years of Shadows, perhaps sprinkled with some special touches, with a flash of genius here and there!
What is Mariachi Legends?
As we’ve previously hinted, Mariachi Legends is the second title from Halberd Studios. It’s a combat-oriented pixel art Metroidvania set in the heart of Mexico. It captures the atmosphere, music, style, and traditions but with a touch, one might say, more apocalyptic, yet never abandoning its traditional essence, its Mexican soul.
A Metroidvania developed in Mexico, by a Mexican development team, set in Mexico, but not exclusively for Mexicans. It’s for anyone curious to explore the beauties of the Mexican hinterland, to discover traditions, the pulsating heart of this land, immersing themselves in a pure action title, loaded with emotions, spine-chilling narrative twists where comedy, tragedy, death, family, and fear blend in a scream-worthy Metroidvania.
As all great stories teach us, even in Mariachi Legends, our tale unfolds with a rather tumultuous beginning and a mission equally challenging to accomplish.
It’s the year 1986, just days before the Day of the Dead celebration, when Death comes knocking at the door of our protagonist and detective, Pablo Cruz. Well, to be precise, it’s the incarnation of Death, Lady Death, with a peculiar and rather singular request for our protagonist, approaching him with an offer he can’t refuse. Lady Death’s request is for Pablo to bring her the man who has defied her authority and become immortal.
In return, she will give Pablo the power he needs to drive out the cruel Mariachi Legends gang that threatens Santa Mascota. Desperate to save his hometown, Pablo has agreed to her terms, and is now bound by a bargain with Death herself.
An extreme request, accepting a blood pact with Death, but what alternatives are there? It’s the only way, the sole path to save Santa Mascota from its impending doom. A pact that will forever alter the life of Pablo, by day an elegant and respected detective, and by night a ruthless and cold-blooded master of sword, known as “La Sombra.”
Death is your friend. Be her right hand
With Mariachi Legends, Halberd Studios offers a fascinating interpretation and vision of the concept of duality—a theme that, one might argue, constitutes the narrative core, shapes the gameplay, and defines the very identity of Mariachi Legends.
The protagonist, Pablo Cruz himself, embodies a profound duality marked by the meeting-clash of his two personas, starkly contrasting yet seemingly having changed him. Pablo is no longer the person the people of Santa Mascota remember. And “La Sombra” appears to be more than a mere disguise; it seems to be a weapon with which Lady Death may have deceived him, controlling his thoughts, intentions, behavior, and distorting his soul.
Yet, there is one thing that could conflict with his duality: his affection for his sister, the only dear person left to him, the young Isabela Cruz. A strong, fearless woman ready to give her life to safeguard her homeland and thwart the criminal activities of the Mariachi Legends gang, and to uncover who lurks behind the mask of the vigilante La Sombra. This is the juncture where Pablo’s dual personas may clash, where his more human side could prevail over his killer instinct.
But let’s not give free rein to our imaginations; let’s return to the present. It’s intriguing to observe how Halberd Studios has employed a fascinating criterion and mode of representation to communicate and convey this complex duality. It’s indisputable that the portrayal becomes not just a feature but an indispensable component in Mariachi Legends.
Consider, for instance, the relationship forged between La Sombra and Lady Death, between Death and her right hand, and the complicity that appears to exist between them. Undoubtedly, it’s an exceptionally peculiar dynamic, much like the portrayal of the incarnation of Death, Lady Death, to our eyes, the charming and sensual woman who pours us a drink at El Infierno Cantina. But let’s not be deceived.
Lady Death is many things and nothing at all. She is the ruthless fortune-teller who decides your fate, a lover, the heartless mistress who weaves her threads and controls you like a puppet, the shadow that creeps behind you, the hand that beckons you towards oblivion, the eyes that pierce into your soul. She is nothing and… everything. Invisible to the eyes of everyone, except Pablo’s.
Day or Night? Detective or Vigilante? The Dual Soul of Mariachi Legends
Remember when we were just talking, a few moments ago, about the importance of the duality between day and night in Mariachi Legends?
In Santa Mascota, during the day, life unfolds one way, and at night… well, a completely different one. During the day, you can admire the local beauty, experience the city at its liveliest hours, immerse yourself in the pristine charm and warmth of Mexican folklore, with its stunning views, vibrant colors, and music. But as night falls, the music changes. At dusk, everything becomes more menacing, frightening, uneasy, as the Vigilante creeps through the streets and the Mariachi Legends gang is free to sow panic in the city’s alleys.
In Mariachi Legends, there’s an intriguing temporal logic, defined by the alternating cycles of day and night, seamlessly integrated into the experience, dramatically altering the atmosphere, rhythm, and gameplay dynamics.
Now, delving into the gameplay itself, it unfolds through a captivating blend of spectacular acrobatic platforming, a puzzle-solving system that strikes the perfect balance of challenge, and a deep, intricate exploratory component harboring many delightful surprises, including challenging alternate areas tied to the game’s day-night system.
Isn’t that enough? Well, you can always rely on a solid crafting component and gather cooking ingredients to empower yourself, discover and relish the Mexican culinary tradition, and the coveted delicacies of Santa Mascota.
And then, well, there’s the combat system, the primary focal point around which the experience revolves. In Mariachi Legends, combat is fast-paced, raw, violent, and visceral, allowing the player to unleash their imagination, disembowel the enemy, combine attacks previously unknown, and employ violent finishers to satiate La Sombra’s thirst for blood. The intricate arsenal at our disposal includes both primary and secondary weapons that can be combined to create devastating combos. Among them is a special guest, our loyal “La Espada de Animas,” a mighty sword that absorbs souls and can summon the power of a different weapon by exchanging its core.
And, to add the finishing touch and intensify the experience, who else but Lady Death can determine our fate? In her ominous game of destiny, Lady Death can read and predict our future through the power of her Tarot Cards, manipulating it, upheaving it, and materializing it at her whim in the form of extra blessings or cheeky misfortunes. So, what is the catch? Fate will choose for you. You need only entrust yourself to luck and hope that Lady Death has been merciful enough to you. Ah, if you happen upon a malevolent fate, you can always swap cards, paying the fair price…
Culture and Tradition
Mariachi Legends is not the first video game to explore Mexico and its folklore; take, for instance, the Guacamelee series, a genuine homage to Mexican folklore. However, it might be the one that most deeply grasps the country’s traditions, customs, and cultural heritage —a project that unmistakably embodies a strong attachment to the land, to its roots.
It’s not just about what or which aspects, but rather how the folks at Halberd Studios have chosen to export Mexican culture, making it accessible and captivating even for those unfamiliar with these traditions and for those seeking to explore the values, customs, and practices. Notably, we emphasize that in Mariachi Legends, tradition and culture aren’t mere themes; they are the foundations, the two leitmotifs steering players in the exploration of the game world. Whether you’ve set foot in Mexico or not, the game offers an opportunity to discover (or rediscover) its folklore and beauty.
Traces of Mexican culture can be discerned everywhere, starting with the setting. It’s truly intriguing to observe how the developers have intelligently captured its essence and conveyed to us in a fascinating manner that sense of familiarity with the terrain, primarily from a visual and sensory perspective. In Mariachi Legends, we witness a vibrant, flourishing Mexico, characterized by a rich palette of colors and splendid architecture. Even at twilight, when the Mariachi Legends gang emerges, it manages to convey that feeling of wonder and amazement.
Santa Mascota is beautiful both day and night. Regardless of whom you encounter, in every character, in every building, in every alley, you’ll find a piece of Mexican folk tradition, sometimes through conversations with local personalities, sometimes by admiring the scattered artworks in the game world, and sometimes simply by moving from one area to another.
The music, as you might easily imagine, has received exceptional treatment, a clear sign of the excellent work carried out by Halberd Studios. The Mariachi-inspired soundtrack of the game is composed of tracks and musical compositions closely tied to tradition, featuring sounds and tones typical of Mariachi music, while also aiming to blend with different musical genres. We can already catch glimpses of this in the Kickstarter trailer.
Improve translation: And then… there’s the cuisine. Let’s be clear, what is more traditional than authentic Mexican cuisine? A journey to discover the true flavors of Mexico, the delicacies of Santa Mascota: the spiciness of Pozole, the complexity of Mole, and the undeniable delight of Tacos al Pastor. Mexican cuisine will play a pivotal role in Mariachi Legends, both as a means of delving into the Mexican culinary tradition and as a weapon to enhance the powers of the protagonist, Pablo. Oh, and if Pablo’s mouth should inadvertently catch fire at times, don’t worry, he just needs to get used to it… After all, as they say, spice isn’t for everyone!
After all, what is Mariachi Legends? It’s a heartfelt love letter to Mexico, an invitation to rediscover its traditions. Yet, it’s also a significant opportunity to stage a different kind of Metroidvania, with a unique backdrop that could tell a story all on its own, thanks to its splendid artistic direction. Moreover, it is an increasingly evident sign and lesson of how video games are a vital and contemporary medium through which beautiful and meaningful messages can be conveyed, encouraging us to rediscover the allure of culture and traditions.
How is the Kickstarter campaign progressing?
Launched on Kickstarter on November 7, 2023, the crowdfunding campaign for Mariachi Legends is showcasing impressive numbers. As mentioned earlier, the funding goal was achieved within just 24 hours, and the project has successfully unlocked three stretch goals: the Piñata Mode (enhancing Pablo’s fights with festive animations), the expansion of the sub-weapon system, and the digital comic, available to all backers post the game’s release.
But let’s talk numbers—remarkable numbers for Halberd Studios. The campaign has currently raised $226,020, surpassing the $52,384 goal, with nearly 3,500 backers. And there are still 13 days left in the crowdfunding campaign!
Aesthetically, the campaign is truly appealing, and the reward tiers for backers are equally enticing. In this regard, if you’re interested, we suggest taking a closer look at specific tiers, such as “The Detective” edition, available in both digital and physical formats, priced at $25 and $46, respectively. These tiers ensure you receive a digital (on Nintendo Switch or PC) or physical copy (on Nintendo Switch) of the game. Alternatively, there’s “The Mariachi” edition at $56, granting you access to the Mariachi Legends demo on PC.
For collectors, it’s worth noting that Halberd Studios has also established a partnership with Tesura Games. In addition to helping them bring Mariachi Legends to physical format on Nintendo Switch, Tesura Games will collaborate with the team to create the physical Collector’s Edition Box, available in the “El Santo” tier at a price of $178. Here’s what the Collector’s edition includes:
- A Nintendo Switch physical copy of the game.
- A Mexican-inspired Tarot Deck by Lady Death herself.
- A high-quality double-sided poster of the game.
- The physical art book detailing the creative journey to craft Pablo’s adventure.
- A physical soundtrack copy to enjoy a mysterious and eclectic Mexican atmosphere.
- An original pin of La Sombra’s mask.
- The Collectors’ Premium Box
We conclude by reminding you that, as we’ve mentioned earlier, there are still a 13 days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign. So, if you haven’t already and would like to support the project, here’s the link. Hurry!
Mariachi Legends is scheduled for release around September 2024 (with the exact date yet to be announced) on Nintendo Switch and PC. To stay informed about the game’s latest updates, continue to follow us, and don’t forget to visit Halberd Studios’ official website and their X account to keep up with the game’s progress.