Recently, I have been checking out games that had unique art styles or character designs. Two games that I found interesting were Beyond Good and Evil and Psychonauts. Sadly, I can’t talk more about these two games because of technical issues that I had with the games themselves, and as a tester that makes me mad! However. some good has come from this. I have also been thinking about a wonderful PS2 game called Odin Sphere, which I reviewed last year and was one of the reviews that led up to my 100th review special. It has such an amazing art and animation style that it was definitely one of the high points. Of course, Vanillaware the company who made this game is famous for making beautifully detailed 2D games. Most recently, they came out with a game called Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Wii. I think it was stupidly overshadowed, since it was also released on the same month as another great game, Batman Arkham Asylum, was released. Well, I finally got time to play it and I’m happy that I have.
There are actually two stories in Muramasa: The Demon Blade. One of them revolves around Kisuke who is a fugitive ninja who died in battle, but was brought back to life by the spirit of a wandering swordsman. He lost his memory of what had happened in a past event and now must regain it through a vast journey. The second story revolves around a cute princess named Momohime, who gets possessed by a foul-mouthed wandering soul of a samurai named Jinkuro, and is forced to fulfill the plan of the foul soul. It’s interesting since both of the characters, Kisuke and Momohime, will from time to time see each other, and it’s kind of funny when it happens.
The game play is of a 2D side-scrolling action adventure game, kind of like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, because you do cross a good chunk of Japan, and you do have to do some intense backtracking to get to areas you couldn’t get to earlier. Your main form of attack is using either a normal sword or long sword. A long sword does more damage, but of course the attacks are slower, and the normal sword does multiple fast attacks, but the attacks won’t be as strong. A cool thing is that each sword comes with a special attack that will hurt the enemies more, but will drain the sword’s gauge. You basically go through Japan, killing demons, swordsmen, and other things as you collect souls and spirits, and then visit the great spirit himself, Muramasa. He will help you make stronger swords through an ability tree-like system, since you can only wield three swords at a time and in my opinion, it will take some time to find the right ones for certain fights. You do collect other items like smoke bombs and food through your journey. One thing I do have to advise is that the swords will break if their spirit gauges run out and it will take some time to refill unless you use sharpening stones or something.
One thing that Muramasa does better than a lot of developers is having a wonderful 2D presentation. I’m not talking about games like Splosion Man or New Super Mario Brothers Wii, since those are 2.5D games. This is a strictly 2D game with wonderfully detailed graphics that are hand drawn. All the monsters and enemies are wonderful to look at and have a very creative design. It shows that Vanillaware knows what they are doing, since they are famous for their amazingly detailed 2D animation. The music is also very well done with very Japanese-sounding music from games like Way of the Samurai and other kinds of Japanesesque games. This, of course, is done by Hitoshi Sakamoto, who you all know from past reviews of Odin Sphere and Gradius 5. There are other composers, but it was mostly Hitoshi who did the sound track. It’s well done. Even though there is no English voice acting, the Japanese voice acting holds up very very well in my opinion, and it feels like you’re watching a Japanese samurai film of some sorts, but even crazier. The game can be challenging, especially on the harder difficulty levels, but it’s a good challenge.
There are a few things I don’t like about this game, but they are very minor. The first thing I don’t like is how big the backtracking is. I mean, I am somewhat used to it because of games like Banjo Tooie and Tomba 2, but it just seems a little sluggish. I’m also very annoyed that you can’t hold onto more than three swords and one armor item. I mean, I don’t mind it since, in a way, it is like Odin Sphere, but still, I thought they would have given the player like 5 weapon slots and three armor slots. Then again, the game play is more on the line of attack and defending, so I guess it would be a little unfair of you got more slots.
Overall, this is a great game, and it’s sad that I don’t hear a lot of people talking about it. It’s really fun and it’s beautiful to watch. I say if the game is about 20 dollars or so, pick it up. It’s worth those 20 dollars. This is just another one of those under-advertised gems for the Wii. Go pick it up. I can’t wait to see what Vanillaware does next.
This game gets a 9.8 out of 10