Stunning visuals, slick combat and unique gameplay combine for an excellent result!
Genre: Role-Playing / Action
Released: December, 2009 (AUS)
Platforms: Nintendo Wii
Stunning, artistic graphics | A great sound track with excellent voice acting | Good length at around twenty hours | Fun combat and customisation
Overly simplistic combat and platforming | Awkwardly told story | Repetitive background scenery
Muramasa: The Demon Blade is the latest product from the extremely talented developers Vanillaware. They have given us previous great games such as Odin Sphere and GrimGrimoire. Muramasa continues in the great tradition of providing beautifully artistic graphics with a fairly unique gameplay style.
The question is though, is Muramasa just as good as previous titles? One look at some screenshots will instantly tell you it delivers in graphics. They're stunning to look at. But what about everything else? And as many Wii users are aware, does having it on this system limit its technical performance? Read on and find out!
Let's tackle the story first. Although it is unusual, it drives the game more than anything else. The game is split into two halves. In each half you play a different character. The first is as a young, aristocratic girl named Momohime--that's what it is translated as. I'm inclined to believe the Japanese is meant to be Princess Momo. Anyway, she is possessed by the soul of an ancient and powerful warrior named Jinkuro. He is on a search to find a legendary blade that will let him restore his body. His soul reached Momohime purely coincidentally. The second half you will play as Kisuke, a mysterious ninja who has lost his memory and is being hunted down. Unfortunately, the story is quite interesting but a lot of interest and intrigue is lost in the awkward way it is presented. It'll keep you motivated through the game, but it's hardly the stuff of GrimGrimoire.
Onto more positive things, the graphics are simply stunning! Each environment is bright, colourful and beautifully detailed. Every time you come across a new area you'll want to stop for a moment and take it all in. It really is a treat. The animation is equally good. Both Momohime and Kisuke move realistically and enemies attack fluidly. Even something as simple as the grass or leaves blowing in the wind is a delight. My only complaint is repetition. Throughout the game you'll see many backdrops duplicated in different areas. A little more variety would have been nice.
Let's address the most important thing: the gameplay. The vast majority of the game you will be in combat. There are over 100 blades to forge and fight with throughout the game, each with their own special ability. Although some of these are quite similiar they keep the fighting interesting each battle. The downside is you'll literally be using a new blade every ten minutes or so of play. The combat is much more simple than anything you'll see in Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, but it still works. You're limited to blocking, attack, jumping, using a special attack and a few combinations of those things. The controls are a little clunky to adjust to, but they work well enough. Luckily, the motion sensing is not used at all. You can usually apply similar strategies to regular battles to win. Luckily, boss fights are awesome. You'll fight no shortage of huge, artistically awesome bosses throughout the game.
Outside of the combat, the game is basically a platformer. You'll go from area to area, all in 2D Side scrolling, and find your way to the next location. There's a large amount of regions to visit in the game, but a helpful flag always points you in the right direction. There are some hidden items and souls to find while you're jumping around, but there's not much else to do. Luckily, combat comes at just the right time to break the simplistic platforming. The only other activity available is cooking. You can buy and learn recopies to make meals to restore your health and provide spirit; which aids in blade forging.
The music is generally excellent. Voice acting is only in Japanese as no English dub was done. As long as you don't have any problems with that, you'll enjoy the high quality acting this game provides. It is only dragged down by a rather uninteresting script. Sound effects are also excellent, but tend to be recycled a little too often through the game. Background music is very historical-Japanese sounding and this works well with the games style. Again, this can be reused a little too often.
This brings us to the value of the Muramasa. The game will take just less than twenty hours if you play through both paths and take some time to explore and find items. On top of that there are a number of optional challenges to you can complete that usually involve killing hordes of enemies. These can be quite challenging but usually give you a useful reward. You could also spend time trying to obtain all the blades available. This would take quite some time. Other than that, there's no real reason to play the game through a second time.
All-in-all, Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a really strong title. There's very little for me to discuss that's negative as I thoroughly enjoyed it. If anything, the game primarily falters on the repetition of game play, scenery and music throughout the game. If you have been interested in buying the game, it's definitely worth a go. Beat-'em-up buffs may find the combat on the easy side, but you'll still enjoy the ride.
[Break It Down!]
Gameplay - 8.7:
A little simplistic, but original and fun. Lots of blades to use.
Graphics - 9.3:
Artistic, Stunning and Beautifully Animated.
Sound - 8.4:
Excellent, but repetative, music that suits the game. Good voice acting and effects.
Story - 7.7:
Interesting, but told in an awkward and unusual way. Makes more sense at the end.
Value - 8.2:
A good length for this type of game with a small amount of extras.
Tilt - 8.7:
Lots of fun to look at and play.
Overall - 8.5 [Great]