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‘Cutting Edge’- Muramasa Review

Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Wii. Developer: Vanillaware, Publisher: Ignition ESRB: T

Having grown up on a steady diet of 2D masterpieces that ranged from Gunstar Heroes to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, I was reluctant to see the industry move into the third dimension. While the polygon-pushing technology of 32-bit hardware allowed for more realistic gaming environments, traversing those realms was often fraught with frustration. Having to manipulate a virtual camera to garner a functional perspective often reduced the sense of immersion for a title. More importantly, wonderfully evocative hand-drawn sprites had transformed into boorish clumps of geometry. It was hard to appreciate the cubist simplicity of Virtua Fighter after witnessing Guile’s face wrenched in pain.

As hardware technology advanced and 2D diversions dwindled, I grudgingly acclimated to the incorporation of the Z-axis, intermittently retreating to my retro library for a quick side-scrolling fix. In 2007, my preoccupation with two dimensional gaming was renewed by developer Vanilla Ware. GrimGrimoire and Odin Sphere dexterously reacquainted gamers with the efficiency and beauty of sprite-based entertainment.

Two years later, Vanilla Ware has returned with a title so graphically sumptuous, Nintendo owners may be wondering if the production team has found a way to upscale and enhance the output of their Wii consoles. Muramasa: The Demon Blade presents a continual visual feast for players- from the delicately drawn backdrops adorned with multiple levels of parallax scrolling, to the graceful animations that breathe life into the title’s protagonists and enemies. The game’s lush artwork is further complemented by soundtrack that serenades tranquil moments with a soft flute, while setting the tempo for enemy attacks with heated taiko drum cadence.

The game’s two protagonists- possessed princess Monohime and amnesic ninja Kisuke, offer players two distinct narratives which sporadically intertwine as each character moves through the game’s Metroid-inspired network of rooms. Gamers may initially select from the title’s Muso (easy) and Shura (hard) difficulties; once the campaign is completed, Shigurui mode is available, challenging players to traverse the title’s landscape with a single hit point.

Demon Blade allows for a range of control methods, from the requisite Wiimote and Nunchuck combination, to options for the Classic Controller and even the perennial GameCube pad. Each input scheme works flawlessly, allowing both Monohime and Kisuke to slice through swarms of foes effortlessly. By employing a single button for attacks, Muramasa doesn’t require players to master complicated button combos. Instead, conflict allows players to instinctively attack, block, and parry projectiles, all while maintaining enough nuance to offset battle fatigue. Players must constantly monitor the condition of their swords, as each defensive measure whittles away at the blade’s health, necessitating a switch with one of the two other weapons readied for combat.

While combat is satisfying, it’s the title’s light role-playing elements that truly endow Murasama with a distinctive personality. Skirmishes reward the player with both experience for leveling up, and currency. Money can be used not only to purchase health replenishing items, offensive accessories, but also to buy ingredient lists so players can make their own recuperative recipes. Restaurants also offer authentic cuisine, which is shown in magnificent detail, as the player takes each bite.

Muramasa’s single hindrance lay in its insistence on backtracking to artificially extend the title’s playtime. While many might be able to overlook the occasional color switching of enemies to expand the game’s bestiary or the reuse of an environmental backdrop, many will scoff at having to plod through successions of foe-less screens. In essence the trajectory of Muramasa boils down to a simplistic ‘find boss, kill boss, obtain sword to open a new door’ mentality that is stands in sharp contrast to many of the game’s other design decisions.

Although players may initially be attracted by Muramasa: The Demon Blade’s radiant visual charms, the title’s delectable gameplay will surely sustain their interests. With over a hundred swords to collect, memorable boss battles, and countless bonus rooms to explore, the title is an obligatory purchase for all action-loving Wii owners.  Muramasa not only represents the best third-party title in the Wii’s library, but may also have the power to cultivate a resurgence in 2D gameplay.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

40 comments

  1. All the critics are complaining about backtracking, but the score are ranging from 70’s to 100. I guess it depends on how annoyed you are.

  2. I’ve been sleeping on this one. It might be time for me to buy it.

  3. I’m liking the game but I found myself FF through the story. It got a bit boring after a while.

  4. Great review!.I’m loving this game and I’m glad to see it’s getting pretty good reviews :).

  5. Very nice looking Wii game. Too bad I don’t have one right now.

    Good review, man!

  6. This game must take the record for largest boss. Anyone whose played it know of one any bigger?

  7. Why is their a monkey in the hot tub? thats what I want to know!

  8. Yep, I also love 2D games. I hope this sells by the boatloads, so there a sequel at least.

  9. Two “A”s in one week? Its a good time to be a gamer.

  10. How big is it? I’m assuming multiple screens.

  11. Anyone have this for less than $50. times is tough, ya’ll.

  12. Great review. This game sounds totally amazing!

  13. I bet the BF would love this one.

  14. Man, I need a Wii. This one looks hot.

  15. Shit, check out the Buddha in the stone. Man, that is nice looking.

  16. Do you have to trade off between each characters to finish the game? How does that work.

  17. I’m worried about the combat being kinda boring with one button being used.

  18. Like Okami, this will never sell that well here. Wii owners would rather play Carnival Games and crap like that.

  19. Here’s to hoping this comes out on a more powerful console, so the game can really be given the power it deserves.

  20. Good review, DE! Keep em coming.

  21. Wow, didn’t even see that at first.

  22. I’m hope a HD version is coming, as well.

  23. On a side note, anyone know if they are making a 2D Castlevania? I heard it was rumored a while ago.

  24. Next on my list to get. I have it on my Gamefly, but I’ll probably end up buying it since it looks so damn nice.

  25. I haven’t heard about a 2D game, 3d yes.

  26. Nice review. I didn’t know this one was out yet.

  27. Seems like between this and Shadow Complex, we’re seeing a lot of the Metroidvania games. Hoorah!

  28. A good Wii game? haven’t seen one of those in months.

  29. Yeah, I cant get enough of these kinds of games.

  30. Would this be the first must have game from Ignition, then?

  31. Kanye West aka Joe Ker

    “Before I let you guys, I just want to say the Muramasa is one of the best games of all time.” 😉

  32. Any word of a sequel?

  33. that joke feels old already. Thats all people were saying all day.

  34. Muramasa seems to be getting some really good reviews.

  35. Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth is coming to Wiiware, too.

  36. I gotta get this game now. Great review.

  37. My friend has beaten the game three times already. (he’s unemployed at the moment)

    I watched about an hour of it, and have to get it. I thought he’d let me borrow it. Guess not.

  38. Looks like people in the UK have to wait until November 27th to play this. Thanks for the review. I’m pretty eager for it now.

  39. It looks great, and I should buy it, but I’m broke. I’ll probably have to wait a few months. Maybe I’ll get a price drop in the meantime.

  40. A sword named VENGEANCE? baddass.