PNG Review: Muramasa: The Demon Blade

Brood Witch?

Publisher: Ignition Entertainment

Developer: Vanillaware

MSRP: 49.99

Grade: A

So I’ve been so down on the Wii over the last few months, I figured there was nothing left that could get me to come back to it.  The Wii has had hardly anything as of late and its been such a depressing year for the system, I was convinced there was nothing left.

Fast forward now to the release of Muramasa – The Demon Blade.  I had seen movies and screen shots of it, but it just seemed like a new side-scrolling beat-em-up with pretty graphics.  I was very mistaken, as I was overcome with addiction from the very beginning of the game.  I have finally picked up that Wii Remote again… It still feels good.

Story

It’s there, if you care.  You have two characters… Kisuke, a fugitive who has lost his memory, and Momohime, a female ronin possessed by a dark spirit.  I didn’t honestly get much of it.  I played the Momohime’s campaign and from what I understood, it seemed interesting but dare I say, I didn’t care for the story line, I just enjoyed fighting hordes of enemies over and over.  It gets pretty deep as the possessed spirit threatens to kill your normal spirit if you choose to go against it.  The game has no branching story line so you just go with the flow and allow it to move you as you go.  Plus it’s in Japanese, with English subtitles.  I like this touch but it somewhat makes the story hard to grasp.  I have a feeling you won’t care much either.

Graphics

Bold and unparalleled.  the visuals in the game are just absolutely stunning.  Not since Tatsunoko vs. Capcom have I been that Muramasa - Bearded Demonimpressed with the visuals in a game.  especially on the Wii, it’s becoming more apparent that with a little bit of love and style, you can really make a Wii game shine and stand out from the Next-Gen crowd.  This game does it wonderfully.  From the swaying field of wheat in the foreground, to the rushing river rapids in the background, the levels change just enough to keep you in awe.  Also the character detail is really good.  You can see all the details on everything you fight from a Boss to a grunt ninja.  It’s quite breathtaking.

Sound

The music is traditional Japanese styled music. It’s good, not nothing incredible.  The appeal is there if you enjoy that type of music.  I loved it but its nothing that will make this game stand apart from anything else.  In short, it’s no Okami.

Control

This is where things get interesting.  The Control mechanics in the game are crazy.  There is no motion control, no IR pointer its a traditional analog stick with A and B button combination.  I’ll give you an idea of what I mean.

Control Stick UP = Jump, hit up twice for a double jump
Control Stick Down = Either crouch, or while in the air makes you fall double the speed
Control Stick Left to Right = Movement
Control Stick Up + A = Equal Upward Slash
Hold A + Left or right and a horizontal air slash can be performed.  Up to three times consecutively
Hold A + Down, the Let go of A = A Sword breaking attack useful for stopping enemies who block a lot
A Button multiple times = Initiates a combo
B Button = Your Swords special Attack
C Button = Switch swords

Pretty crazy huh?  Considering you looking at the above list I bet your thinking “this sounds terrible!”  Its not,  I promise.  It’s actually quite intuitive.  Once you get used to it, it works very well and you’ll find yourself flying and slashing all over the screen.  Plus this is just some of the controls in the game, there is even more than that.  It’s pretty awesome, though I must admit I am still a fan of the button jump.

Muramasa - city at nightGameplay

This is what makes the game addicting and fun.  You can cook food with different ingredients, hot key items to a six slotted inventory system, Forge new weapons based on the Soul (Green orbs collected in the levels, or from downed enemies) and Spirit (Gained by consuming foods and items) which allow you to make new and more powerful swords.

Also you character has 3 swords to start out with.  Each has a different attack power, attack speed, and special ability.  You need three swords because as you block attacks, and deflect projectiles, your sword looses its durability and can break, leaving you useless.  When this happens, you need to switch out your sword with another while the other is sheathed, and recharges.  Also when you switch to a new sword, a slash goes across the screen damaging all enemies who are on it.  Nice if you need a breather for a second.  There are 150 swords in the game and there are two types of swords.  You have Blades, and Long Blades.  Blades are fast but do not have really high attack power.  Long Blades are powerful, but also very slow.  You need to choose carefully because in battle, or in boss fights, you are not able to make changes on the fly.  Only when you are not in combat can you switch swords, items, and cook.  It makes it hard but your usually warned in advance of a boss fight so you can prepare.  Very challenging.

The boss fights are epic.  They have a very short life bar, and a very long life bar.  When you take out the long bar, the short one looses 1/4 of its size.  This basically means you’ll be fighting forever.  They can take upwards of 20 minutes a boss.  But they are fun, and extremely challenging.  Blocking is key, as it saves a lot of frustration.

You gain levels from experience earned in fights.  What makes it a little more strategic is that you get bonuses for completing a battle in certain ways.  Unscathed, is a bonus from not taking damage, andMuramasa - Octoclops there is also a bonus for finishing a fight very quickly.  There are a lot of them, and they can really boost your XP bonus from a fight if utilized.  Each level awards you Life, Power, and Defense bonuses.  This is also important for equipping certain swords you couldn’t before.

One thing I did hate is that the levels are broken into a location.  Each location has a certain number of screens you can travel through some having different paths.  If you need to go back to a previous area due to a new power up then you are forced to WALK back all the way to that area from wherever you might be.  There is no swift travel.  It gets frustrating especially if your a completionist.  As you progress and can break down more and more barriers that keep you from progressing, there are also challenge rooms that award you equipment, or more swords.  They are hard as you need to defeat 100 enemies of a single type, around 10 at a time for 10 rounds.  It’s a fun challenge, and usually worth it, but getting there needed some work.

Conclusion

Overall Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a great game.  I went in not expecting much, or feeling that I would get bored quickly, but I was wrong.  I become completely addicted from the start and hope to finish both stories soon.  Everything I played was gorgeous, and entertaining.  I never felt like I had already done this before, even though I had.  You want to make new swords, see new areas, fight new enemies all the time.  Except for the lack of a swift travel feature, and some of the control schemes, I really did like everything about this game.  I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an addicting 2-D brawler for the Wii.  You won’t find much out there that rivals the quality in this game, especially since Nintendo’s name isn’t on the box.  Do yourself a favor and check out Muramasa.  You’ll be surprised at what you find.

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