Greetings, fellow gamers! Last week, I told you why you should care about dead warriors.
Today, we'll check out a Wii gem, something some of you probably played, and a lot more of you should.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade was released on Wii in September 2009. Developed by Vanillaware, players could choose to play as Kisuke, an amnesiac fugitive, or a possessed princess named Momohime. They each have different stories, though they intertwine as well. It's admittedly hard to go into the plot without spoiling anything, save that Kisuke is looking for a certain katana (there are 108 swords in the game-more later) while Momohime is forced to go along with the plots that her ghostly possessor, Jinkuro.
The story's told well enough, but this is a Vanillaware game (Odin Sphere, GrimGrimoire, and most recently Dragon's Crown). And as such, you're here for the gameplay. And Vanillaware doesn't disappoint.
Muramasa is a 2D side scroller. A difficult one. Fans of Vanillaware's previous games, or hardcore side scrollers like the classic Ninja Gaiden, will feel right at home, challenge-wise. Thankfully VW put in a couple of interesting difficulty modes. The first is named Muso Mode, in which you level up as you play. This adds some RPG-Lite gameplay to the mix, and allows you to become stronger as you play. In short, if you can't beat a boss, just level until you can.
Shura Mode, on the other hand, has you play as a stock character with no leveling involved. The game becomes more action-oriented as a result, and by extension, more challenging. Totally recommended for those who remember when games would actively try to stop you.
What's great about Muramasa, though, is this: it's challenging, not unfair. Because the game controls like a dream (disclaimer: use a Wii Classic Controller or GameCube Controller). Kisuke and Momohime always do what you want them to to, when you want them to do it. Running, jumping, and attacking is just buttery smooth.
There's a variety of combat options at your disposal, too. Despite only featuring two kinds of weapons, Katana and Long Blade, the trick lies in the way the swords break and regenerate. Use a sword too much and it's Soul Gauge depletes, breaking the sword. Sheathing the sword will heal it. Thus, you're forced to constantly switch between the three weapons they can carry. It also means you have to keep constant tabs on the weapons you have and what each one does.
It's a game that really keeps you on your toes. It even gets a little hairy when you sheathe your sword intentionally, letting the gauge recharge so you can unsheathe it again (at full power, unsheathing stuns all enemies around you).
Boss fights, too, are a huge spectacle, for example the giant snake-thing Kisuke is fighting in the first screenshot. It calls back memories of classic boss fights from days of yore, when the whole boss didn't even fit on the screen.
What's awesome is, you could sum up Muramasa simply by saying "plays great, looks great." Of course, it's pretty harsh to simply call the graphics great and call it a day.
Muramasa is one of the most visually striking games to come out in years. It's all in 2D, and is clearly based on ancient Japanese art. Characters and enemies animate beautifully, and there's a huge color palette on display here. There's also a "soft" filter over everything that gives the game a kind of soothing haze. Even when all hell is breaking loose on screen, the game still has a relaxing look.
The soundtrack is full of rather basic Japanese music. Nothing you wouldn't expect from the feudal era the game takes place in. It's all serviceable, sure, and even enjoyable. I guess I just wish it was a little more is all. But the music doesn't get in the way either, which is a plus.
All in all, if you have a Wii, totally track down a copy if you'd like an old-school challenge wrapped up in an unbelievably beautiful package. Or try Muramasa Rebirth for Vita, for the 25 of you who have a Vita (joking, joking!)
Thanks to Wikipedia and IGN for the images.
As always, hit the comments for, um, comments. Suggestions for future Games of The Week are also welcome!
Next Week, more Valkyries! (Sort of.)