Games like Muramasa show that old-school 2D gameplay and presentation will never die in the gaming industry.

User Rating: 8.5 | Oboro Muramasa WII
2D presentation is slowly becoming a dying art with the exception of certain games such as New Super Mario Bros Wii and Little Big Planet, still showing that it can work in the gaming industry which is completely dominated by 3D, high-definition gimmicks and generic first-person shooters. This is where Muramasa: The Demon Blade comes into play. It is a fine example of how great any game can be with only 2D presentation along with solid gameplay.

The game takes place during the feudal era of Japan and you take control of either Kitsune, a samurai with amnesia struggling to learn of his past, or Momohime, a priestess whose body is possessed by a powerful demon. The character selection is identical to the likes of MegaMan X4 (where none of the characters come into contact with one another with the exception of Kitsune at times) and each character have their personal traits and weaknesses once you get used to them both.

Pretty much, Muramasa is a hack-and-slash with a tip of RPG on the side. You run through many villages, fields, shrines and ancient temples until an "!" appears on the screen, prompting you to get your katana ready for a fight. At the beginning of the game you start with weaker enemies such as ninjas, small demons and frogs, but as you progress even further you'll come across even more menacing and stronger enemies such as monks, samurais, ghosts, poisonous moths and even bigger demons than before. Now this game is extremely fast-paced especially with the amount of enemies that come at you in all directions with various patterns in the way how they attack so you can't rely on recklessly tapping the attack button constantly to defeat them, thus strategy is needed in order to win your battles.

But no worries, as both Kitsune and Momohime are well-equipped with 2 katanas at the very beginning of the game and can easily expand their weaponry upon collecting spirits from defeated enemies. Now the weapon system is split into 2 categories: regular and long. Regular weapons enable your character to perform quick, insane combinations and are necessary for dealing with the quicker enemies that get in your way whereas long weapons are more powerful, deal more damage and are best suited for boss battles however they are extremely bulky which hinders the movement of your character.

Also your weapons are all equipped with a special technique activated with the simple press of a button as long as it has 'stability' in it. By stability, I mean how long your katanas will last before breaking…..and this is where the strategy comes into play. Whenever you use a katana whether to slay a demon or defend against a monk's magic, it begins to lose its stability until finally, it breaks in half rendering it useless until you equip another katana to fight while leaving the broken one to repair itself automatically. This system is rendered in a way where you can't use the same weapon over and over again adding more depth and experimentation with the vast amount of katanas to unravel in this game.

In regards to the RPG elements, you obviously gain experience points with each enemy and boss that you defeat adding up to your tally along with time taken to clear out enemies and highest combos in each fight.

CONTROLS (4.5/5)
If there's one thing that Vanilla Software nailed when it came to making Muramasa, it is the controls. You can choose from either the Wiimote alone, Wiimote and nunchuck, Classic controller or GameCube controller to play, though the GameCube controller is more recommended especially if you have experience with Super Smash Bros Brawl and/or Melee. These are the perfect set of controls for this game, seeing as how every move is executed well and as accurate as possible thanks to the responsive and tight control schemes. But if you're up for a different approach in playing the game, the other controls work just as well too.

Many say that Muramasa: The Demon Blade is repetitive, which I disagree with. Those who have played beat-em-ups or hack 'n' slashes back in the day would know that there is a lot of depth in the games, it's just that people tend to do the same attacks over and over again before calling it a day. With the amount of katanas to obtain in this game, each one is different from the other and controls differently from the other once you get used to them. So, if anything Muramasa is anything BUT repetitive.

From the get-go, you are given 2 difficulties: Muso and Shura. Muso is the equivalent to Normal difficulty where you can easily breeze through the game in a matter of at least 10 hours while leveling up and without worrying to obtain new swords, which ruins the fun of it all. Shura on the other hand is the equivalent to Hard difficulty and best chosen from those who like a challenge. Enemies are more aggressive, more damage is dealt to your character of choice and the stability of your katanas go down even further. Also you still retain the ability to level up but your HP stays the same so a LOT of strategy, proper usages of your weapons, health items and proper dodging techniques are key to beating Shura. Also, don't think you are done there either, cause beating the game on Shura will unlock a third difficulty where you will die INSTANTLY if an enemy hits you even once, which Is only for those who really want an insane challenge. Don't let the difficulties scare you, cause once you learn the patterns of the enemies as well as the bosses, the game is still a bit easy.

The graphical appearance of Muramasa is what really shines and gives the 2D era a lot of respect. As if it were an actual Japanese oil painting come to life, the environments and sprite designs are truly worthy of being called 'a work of art' in every sense of the words.

In terms of music quality, it suits the mood that the game is trying to imply: dark, oriental and they fit the areas that you will visit. From the sounds of a Japanese orchestra while running through the meadows of a nearby village to the heavy rift of an electric guitar when travelling through the depths of hell itself (yes you heard me right, you travel through hell), there will be a soundtrack that will make you go: "Wow, this song is actually very good." Also as an added bonus, the stories behind Muramasa are portrayed through Japanese voice acting which is an A+ for me. Listening to the events leading towards both Momohime and Kitsune's date with destiny makes it feel like you were playing a part of an anime, adding to the already dark tone of Japan's feudal era and telling a story like no other on the Wii.

There is a lot to do in the world of Muramasa after you have completed both Story modes. As stated there are a lot of katanas to wield and each one, while following the same regular and long formats, plays differently……and I am not talking about the special ability that they all have. Neither Kitsune or Momohime wield the same katanas and they all have different attributes from one another (Kitsune can take more damage though Momohime, Momohime is a lot faster than Kitsune, etc). So collecting all the katanas is usually left for the perfectionists though doing so can be very satisfying.

2D gaming will NEVER die, especially when you have Wii exclusives like Muramasa: The Demon Blade. Great visuals that are out of a Japanese painting, voice acting and stories that look like they came out of an anime, addictive gameplay, loads of collecting to do after beating the main stories, a well orchestrated soundtrack and a lot of depth to go with the whole package.

The only thing that does hinder it though is the difficulty and that's it. Other than that, Vanilla Ware has themselves a winner in Muramasa: The Demon Blade, which I would recommend buying or playing if you own a Wii.