Fast action and beautiful scenery set the stage for this Japanese epic.

User Rating: 8.5 | Oboro Muramasa VITA
For some reason, everyone and their mother wants to call Muramasa Rebirth an RPG. I am not sure why this is exactly but, to me, this feels like pretty much a pure action game w/ some RPG elements laid on top of it. I am going to go ahead call this what it is, which is a hack-n-slash beat-em-up--and a great one at that.

For starters, Muramasa Rebirth cannot be beat on any system in terms of eye and ear candy. Some polygon-count and framerate junkies might be disappointed but anyone who can get behind graphics that are simply beautiful in such a way that is not constrained by technical limitations is going to love this. The artstyle is just perfect for setting the mood of the feudal Japanese tale. The music is similarly epic and fitting. The whole package just works so well that it is easy to get lost in the presentation and forget all about gameplay--or it would be were the gameplay not so good.

As far as gameplay, there are some RPG elements. You get to upgrade your equipment in an order dictated by a skill tree. You run into the occasional village where you can talk to people and buy items. And, notably, almost all encounters in the game are random. That all being said, it doesn't feel like an RPG. The bread and butter of this game is good old fashioned fighting that is a heck of a lot closer to Streets of Rage or Double Dragon than it is to Final Fantasy.

There is a simple, button-mashing kind of joy to combat in this game and it is so much fun that it doesn't really get boring even though encounters w/ normal enemies can get a bit repetitive. Part of this is because while the controls initially seem rather rudimentary, there is really more to this than equipping the strongest sword and mashing attack. Over time, you learn enemies weaknesses and how to exploit various combos for the best result. It is a combat system that is very straight-forward but also rather deep. On top of that, the boss battles in this are intense. Bosses tend to be big, screen-filling affairs, often w/ multiple forms, and battles are appropriately long and strenuous. Despite Muramasa's beauty, which is its most immediately apparent asset, it's really the strength of the combat that will keep you plowing through.

If you are looking for a good game for Vita or just a good beat-em-up kind of game, you really can't go wrong w/ Muramasa Rebirth. It is a remake of a Wii game but still feels like a natural fit for the Vita and at no time does it feel like "only" a handheld game. My only small complaints are it's a bit easy even on the higher difficulty level and I don't feel like the differences between the two playable characters are developed enough (if there is any difference in gameplay between them at all). That all being said, this is one of the more charming and remarkable games of this style that I've played in a while and I can comfortably recommend it to pretty much anyone.