Based on ancient Japanese lore, Muramasa: The Demon Blade dives into the mystical Genroku era to fight through a cursed land.
Inside the code of the Muramasa: The Demon Blade you can almost sense a living breathing soul behind its beautiful hand painted vistas. From developer Vanillaware, famous for their PS2 hit Oden Sphere, comes another outstanding game with the same amount of love and attention that their former games have received. Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a delightful barrage of eye candy with its own unique and distinctive style. Underneath the beautiful images awaits a more rudimentary set of gaming standards that can be broken as a simple hack n’ slash adventure.
Choose Your Path
Starting off into the adventure in Muramasa: The Demon Blade you have to choose which story you will follow. The choices are balanced between a male and female character, Kisuke and the Princess Momophime. In the gameplay department it doesn’t matter which character you pick because they both play the same, the only real difference is the name and the sex of the avatar. The best part of having a two way adventure is if you decide to replay the game, then you can have a different character to keep you interest. Thankfully, the story isn’t a mirror image of itself as it involves two separate plots for the two characters. Princess Momohime whose spirit has been taken over by a master swordsman and Kisuke take on the more typical route of the amnesia baited storyline. You will probably find both storylines to be entertaining, however some knowledge in Japanese lore will tie-in a few of the NPC characters.
Michelangelo is That You?
Jump into the 2D
The action in Muramasa is fast, fun and filled with lots and lots of killing. Like I mentioned earlier Muramasa is basically a hack n' slash side-scrolling game with a few other elements added to the mix. The screen follows the 2D traditional navigation of moving back and forth between panels. The only real change Muramasa made to this classic formula is that you can up and down a fair amount in the 2D space. Enemies often appear out of nowhere and the boss battles come in big time. There are a few surprises in Muramasa, however for the most part a lot of gamers have already played a dozen games like this. What makes Muramasa special is its unique art style, theme and sword based action.
Wii Exclusive with No Motion Controls
Even though Muramasa is Wii exclusive title, the motion controls are not utilized in The Demon Blade. It's a shame the developer couldn't find a good use for them, however on the other end of spectrum, I'm glad they didn't ruin the game by adding useless motion controls that aren't needed. The controls in the game simply keep you grounded wit the Nunchuck as basic navigation while the face buttons on the Wii-mote control your attacks. The control scheme is easy to learn and to assist you; Vanillaware has put together a small tutorial in the begging of the game.
Katana Chain Attack!
Your player in Muramasa is an agile warrior that knows how to throw around their katana with ease. Chaining attacks together on the ground or in mid-air is as simple as pressing the direction and hitting the “A” button. Any level of gamer should be able to grasp all of Muramasa's controls and feel like a super-ninja as the hit counter jumps into the hundreds. Besides attacking you can do the normal block, parry, counter routine to keep your enemies evaporating into a blue flame. The combat evolves a little deeper when you start to use different blades, but its nothing groundbreaking. Multiple Katana's are always a button click away and their special attacks can help down the larger enemies. Interesting enough the swords in Muramasa can break after being used too much. They have a special meter dedicated to their life that can be replenished when you exit combat. This brings in a little element of strategy when battling through the waves of enemies.
No more "A"
Even after all that the swordplay isn’t as in depth as something like Ninja Gaiden. We are talking about a pure hack n’ slasher, and like anyone who has finished a hacker knows, it can get a little dull at times. In the case of Muramasa this is unfortunately true as well. After a few hours into the action you can pretty much close your eyes and fly through the game. The combat never really evolves; the enemies only get stronger and bigger. This doesn’t even change how you play the game and even the biggest enemies’ falls like the small ones with a little bit of jumping and “A” finesse. It’s a shame that more wasn’t put into the combat system because I feel like that could have added a little more life to Muramasa’s core gameplay.
Adding a little extra flair to Muramasa are a few RPG-lite elements that involve levelling up your characters abilities and equipping different accessories which includes new katana swords and eating. Yes... no joke, eating. There are over a hundred swords, so when you have a few dozen, don’t think you’ve almost maxed out the weapon pool because the customization and new items flow like water. Points in the form of soul energy are given out to level up your character which pushes Muramasa more towards the RPG world then a lot of action games.
Now let’s take a look at the most outstanding quality of Muramasa, the visuals. The art design is uncanny filled with rich colours, strong expressive backgrounds and an unqiue artistic take on ancient Japan. At times Muramasa can actually feel like your playing a live-action painting instead of a game. The characters are uniquely exotic with a style all their own. Boss battles are even more impressive as they can be massive works of art thrown into a creatures form. The size and scope of Muramasa is impressive and you can tell a lot of soul went into creating this world. The only other Wii title that can share Muramasa passion for delivering a high-artistic masterpiece is Okami (2008-2009).
Muramasa: The Demon Blade will be remembered as one of the most unique and visually stunning Wii titles of 2009. Beyond the dazzling presentation, Vanillaware's approach doesn't pull you in deep into the action like the breathtaking art style, which might make the action too shallow for some gamers. However, when you consider the vast library of casual Wii titles, Muramasa looks even more delightful. For everyone else who doesn't mind a simple slice em' up approach there is a unique and original tale here that can hold your attention until the last stroke of your katana has been swung. If you have an open mind and love for the hack n’ slash mechanic of a 2D side-scroller then then I'm sure you will fall in love with Muramasa's ghostly action.
Gameplay:7.0, Graphics:10, Sound:8.0, Innovation:7.0, Mojo:8.0 Final: 8.0 / 10
Reviewed by Jimmy | 09.19.09
- amazing hand-drawn art to give Muramasa a unique look
- hack n’ slash swordplay is done well
- ability to level up and change your inventory
- over 100 swords to collect
- amusing characters and storyline(s)
- boss battles are outrageously epic
- no use of the Wii motion controls
- side-scrolling action can be predictable
- combat is too simplified
- lots of backtracking