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Let me open by saying, I think the Wii is a vastly under-rated console, with the market swamped with 'casual'/party games, rather than games of real substance.
Which is why, when I came across this game, I jumped at the chance to get it. I didn't pay too much attention to what it was about other than I saw RPG elements and cute graphics, so I took a chance.
Usually, I'm solely an RPG player, not really a fan of hack and slash, or games with a small RPG element. I like to build on my character.
The RPG elements are definitely there, hidden behind a larger hack and slash play style. The exp you gain from eliminating enemies goes towards level your character, increasing life gauge, and souls you collect goes to improving your blades throughout the game, making them stronger.
At first, I wasn't sure. Hack and slash isn't my style, but after a while I found myself beginning to get into it, enjoying the cute hand drawn traditional Japanese-esque feel graphics and soundtrack, and intriguing storyline.
One thing I really liked about the game, which was a surprise to me, is that throughout the game, you encounter locked areas. If you possess a sword strong enough, you can break down the barriers and go inside them. The first thing I encountered was a challenge to defeat 100 ninja warriors, in a number of waves. I found this vastly enjoyable and I'm looking forward to opening more to see what lie behind those.
The bosses are big and follow true RPG style by having a life bar with various markers to represent how many times you must clear the life bar. Some of these bosses are HUGE, and require some kind of reasonably easy strategy to defeat.
There is massive replay potential, as you can choose different paths throughout the game to take you different ways. Though the game is single player, there are two characters to choose from, both having different stories.
'Muramasa: The Demon Blade' is a 2009 action/role-playing game released on the Nintendo Wii. I got this game back a couple of months ago to enjoy over my uni summer holidays, but had been intrigued to check it out before then. After all the game combines a typical hack n slash style of gameplay with RPG, which for me is a dream come true! After glancing at some professional reviews and gameplay videos online, I decided to purchase the game off eBay for about £7 (including delivery) and delve into the world of feudal Japan.
Opening the game you get to choose between two character paths which do cross during the story. Kisuke is a rogue ninja with memory loss and his former army on his trail, while Momohime is a noblewoman who starts the game being possessed by a sprit swordsman Izuna Jinkuro. The main story is that in this world there is a legendary sword called 'Oboro Muramasa', or 'The Demon Blade', which gains its strength from the souls it kills. Both characters are trying to obtain the sword for their own reasons but must fight their way through rival fighters and demonic beings. The plot is nothing special but satisfactory and fits in with the gameplay and setting. One thing that my sister and I noticed was the translation- all the voice acting is Japanese with English subtitles, but both of us (sister is a Japanese student) noticed there were a few words missing or mistranslated from the original Japanese. It's ok in the story when it's for cultural reasons and probably to keep the game within the PEGI 12+ rating, but less so when it continues into gameplay. An example is, when you collect treasures the game tells you 'You cannot carry anymore items' when they in fact mean 'You can't carry anymore of THAT item'.
You also choose between two difficulties- Muso (Easy) or Shura (hard) - but a third one is added after bearing Shura difficulty called Shigurui, where you must go through without taking a single hit, and I'm definitely not ready for that! To be honest, I've played most of the game through on Muso because I prefer to have an easy ride through these types of games. Well this ended up spoiling me since when I tried the game on Shura difficulty I died on the first stage due to the lack of auto-block...so try out Shura as soon as you're used to game controls! In any case the game is pretty forgiving when it comes to dying, as you'll be put back to the beginning of your area rather than having to reload from where you last save.
The gameplay is a sidescrolling platformer: you control either Kisuke or Momohime as they run across each area on a map to the next destination (as indicated). Every so often you will be attacked by enemies in random encounters and you must slash your way through them with the blades you equip. Attacking is done with the 'A' button but through combinations with directional buttons you can vary your attacks from going airborne to doing a heavy strike. Killing enemies grants you their souls, also collected as you travel through areas, which is needed to forge better blades. The controls for the game are excellent and simple to pick up and your character moves seamlessly fast on-screen. Whenever I'm fighting, I feel exhilarated as I slash enemies big or small and rack up an enormous combo.
You have 3 blades on your person at a time and attack with one, but each blade has 'Soul Power' which is like a blade's HP in that it gets worn down whenever you deflect attacks or use your special move (done by pressing B); when the blade's Soul Power is gone that sword will break and you'll need to switch to the next blade (C button) otherwise you'll be unable to attack or defend. What I like about the blade system is how best to utilize them because they will differ in size (blade or long blade, the latter being larger and more powerful but slower to attack with) and ability since the swords will usually belong to a family and share the same special move except with varying power.
Yet this game is more than just hacking through enemies and upgrading swords as there are many more RPG elements. For example the game has a cooking system where you can make foods for HP recovery among other things. Some of the foods have to be eaten immediately but give temporary stat boosts which I find very useful before boss fights. Everything you consume (including general items) builds up Sprit, which is also needed to forge swords. However, for what I believe to be the sake of balance, eating food fills up your 'Fullness' bar and you can't consume anything else until it is empty. This has lead to some moments of panic during boss fights when I can't eat anything and the enemy is pounding me, so watch your item stocks as well as your HP!
I have to commend the game's developers for the graphics which are brilliant! They may be in 2D but the backgrounds are amazingly colourful and detailed as each land has environments which easily capture the essence of wherever you travel, ranging from steep cliffs and trees so high your character travels across branches to bamboo forests which might attack you as they sprout from the ground. This is very impressive to see and is a breath of fresh air from 3D market everyone expects nowadays. It also goes perfectly well with Muramasa's soundtrack, traditionally Japanese songs to match the mythological setting. Some of the tunes do get stuck in my head while I'm playing because everything fits so well. Plus when you encounter enemies a guitar riff is added onto the song playing so as to give a sense of action and danger in contrast to running through areas admiring the scenery.
'Muramasa: The Demon Blade' has a good lifespan of roughly 30 hours of gameplay, which includes completing both characters' stories on all difficulties, finishing all the extra dungeons and getting all the endings available. I enjoy the combination RPG and hack 'n' slash features and love the beautiful graphics and music here. This is definitely a Wii game a lot different from the more popular games in its library and is great for anyone- from the casual player for its simple controls and premise to the more serious gamers who like both genres present here.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Muramasa is classed as an action RPG but it's more accurate to say that Muramasa is an old school hack 'n slash with about 5% role playing elements. Developed by the excellent Vanillaware and published by Rising Star Games (the champion of everything Japanese) in Europe Muramasa was released back in November 2009 and actually presented the prospect of a quality third party title for the Wii that wasn't a port or No More Heroes.
Muramasa allows you to follow the story of one of two character, the first is the unfortunate princess Momohime who finds herself disembodied as her spirit has been forced from her body and been possessed by the the evil swordsman Jinkuro which leads the two on an adventure to fulfil Jinkuro's evil plan. The second character is an amnesia suffering young ninja named Kisuke who seems to be being chased by just about every other ninja in the whole of Japan, so Kisuke sets about discovering what the problem is. The story for Muramasa isn't anything too special, it's good enough to keep you interested until the end and the characters are likeable, each with their own quirks and personalities.
You have a fair bit of variety with Muramasa as far as controls go with Vanillaware programming in control schemes for the wiimote, classic controller and the gamecube pad, I can say with first hand experience that the wiimote and gamecube pad (didn't try the classic controller) both work well and it really depends on preference (but why use up charge on a wiimote?). If you've played Vanillaware's Odin Sphere then you'll already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Muramasa. When you start you'll be given a choice of what difficulty you want to play on either muso (easy) or shura (normal) and then you choose which character's story you wish to play, every time you load up your file you'll have the option to change the difficulty and choose which story to play as progress from both are saved onto the same file. I would recommend playing on shura if you're an experienced hack 'n slash player as muso was too easy. The gameplay is simple with you having a basic combo supplemented with a block, charge attack, low attack, uppercut and dash attack. There is also a quick draw (whole screen flash) attack and a secret art for each sword (though some are just more powerful versions of old ones) you have equipped, you carry three swords at a time and there are over one hundred to collect. The flow of Muramasa is simple, you start in one area and make you're way through it while fighting off random encounter battles until you get to a boss battle. For beating bosses you get a new sword that will allow you to break barriers of a certain colour of which there are many throughout the world impeding you're progress. The rest of the swords can be forged in the menu at the cost of soul which you collect from defeated enemies and find scattered throughout the areas you traverse, and spirit which you accumulate as you eat food that you either buy at restaurants or cook yourself. Most of the time in Muramasa you'll be running or jumping from one screen to another to reach your destination and the rest of the time you'll be cutting through one enemy after another which might sound repetitive but the challenge presented by the tougher enemies and bosses coupled with the simple yet fun gameplay means you won't mind. As for the minimal RPG elements there is experience and when you level up you're hit points and attack goes up though you won't notice as the most important aspect of Muramasa is skill rather then stats.
There's also some replay value to be had with extra endings and a harder difficulty.
The graphics for this game are 2D sprites and hand drawn backgrounds both of which are of the highest quality. I can't really do it justice but just as with Odin Sphere Vanillaware have managed to produce one of the best looking games on the console they've chosen to support, choosing the obvious talent required for 2D animation (as usual) over the pixel pushing power houses we're used to seeing from developers these days. The music does it's job of reminding you you're supposed to be be in Japan but not much else.
All in all if you're a fan of Vanillaware you should get this game, if you're a fan of action games you should buy this game, if you're a Wii owner who doesn't have a fear of games which rely on dexterity then again you should buy this game. If however you don't like action games or don't like 2D because you feel it's a step back for the games industry then don't buy Muramasa (who doesn't like 2D though?).
At A Glance.
Gameplay ~ 7/10
Story ~ 6/10
Graphics ~ 10/10
Sound ~ 5/10
Replay Value ~ 7/10
Final Score: 35/50