TGS 2008: Muramasa: The Demon Blade Hands-On

We take a hands-on look at Muramasa, a contender for best-looking game on the TGS floor.

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TOKYO--Muramasa, known in Japan as Oboro Muramasa Yotoden, is a 2D side-scrolling action role-playing game that comes from the same team that brought the gaming world Odin Sphere. But unlike Odin Sphere with its Norse fantasy setting, Muramasa plonks you into feudal Japan playing as one of several ninjas battling against creatures from Japanese mythology. We got some hands-on time on the TGS floor with this Wii exclusive, and it's looking like a heap of fun for those keen on some classic beat-'em-up action.

The first thing that leapt out at us was Muramasa's presentation--it's an absolutely gorgeous game, and its vibrant backgrounds look like a mix of classic Japanese watercolour paintings and the impressionist style of recent Xbox Live favourite Braid. We saw a variety of different scenes in the short hands-on demo, including a secluded waterfall, a rustic village set amongst fields of wheat, and the rooftops of an ancient Japanese village at night, and all of them looked extremely lush.

While story details were a little light (and tough to pry out of our non-English-speaking demo tester), we do know that the final game will have at least two playable characters to choose from: a male ninja dressed in blue and a female one adorned in pink. There will be two control schemes to choose from, one using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk and the other using the Classic Controller. We managed to get some time with the Classic Controller and found that Muramasa's control scheme was familiar and easy to get into. Attacks are mapped to the A and B buttons, while X is for using items (such as healing potions). The control stick is used not only for left and right movement, but also for jumping and double-jumping. The left shoulder button is used to switch swords. Both characters travel with two swords, which can be broken in combat if used too much. If a sword breaks, you'll have to switch to your other weapon until the broken sword repairs itself. The two swords exhibit different properties--the default sword was quick but did only minor damage, while the larger blade was much slower but took greater chunks out of opponents.

Enemies we came across included ghosts wielding wooden umbrellas, some pesky water demons, and one miniboss that looked like a gigantic ball of hair. The major boss at the end of the demo was a large red horned demon wielding a thick club. The action in Muramasa was hectic, with several enemies attacking our hero at once.

Our hands-on time with Muramasa was all too brief, and we're keen to find out more about the role-playing side of the game, as well as find out how many characters will be playable in the final version. Look out for more information about this attractive game on GameSpot in the coming months.

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