Surely a game cannot be this beautiful, can it?
Muramasa: The Demon Blade was developed by Vanillaware, creators of Odin Sphere and is available on the Wii console. The game is a 2-D side scrolling affair that will take the player on a journey through ancient Japanese lore.
Taking on the role of either Momohime or Kisuke, the player will travel through a gloriously stylish 2-D landscape, fighting all manner of enemies. The game takes place across a massive map, with progression through the game unlocking new areas to play in. Encounters with enemies will halt your progress through a level, and the player will not be able to continue until all adversaries are dealt with. Arriving in a town will give the player the chance to purchase food, medicine or accessories. They will also be able to talk with the people found there, gathering information.
Combat is a fairly simple affair, with a number of different moves available using a combination of the A button and the directional stick. Although playable by even the most avid button basher, Muramasa is best played by using carefully thought out attacks.Each different sword has a special attack that can be unleashed with a simple press of the B button. Be cautious though, as using this attack will reduce the swords soul power, and once it is all diminished, the blade will break, making it less effective in regular combat.
There are more than 100 swords to collect throughout the game, and each one has a special unique power. Some swords can only be obtained when the player reaches a certain level, some are given after boss battles. The majority of the swords are available by forging. Use souls and spirits to create some seriously powerful weapons. The player can only carry three blades into battle, so it is important to carefully plan which blades powers are most needed for an upcoming situation.
The adversaries are fairly simple for the most part. Monks, Ninjas and demonic creatures will hamper your progress. But the true stars of the show are the massive bosses. Boss battles usually occur during story development, and they are truly impressive to behold. Some of these beautifully drawn bosses are large enough to fill the majority of the screen.
The game can be played with either Wiimote and nunchuk, classic controller or a gamecube controller. They all work as well as each other, as there are no special uses of the Wii’s motion sensing capabilities. The game plays really well and the moves are performed as you intend. The audio in the game fits in really well with the overall feel and enhances the game. The graphics are where the game really excels. From the beautifully drawn backdrops, to the gorgeous animation, Muramasa has really raised the bar for artistic video games. I can safely say that this is one of the most visually appealing games that I have ever had the chance to play.
Playing the game to unlock all of the available blades will involve playing through to the end, with both characters. Sadly this may be asking too much. Whilst the game looks incredible and the story is solid enough, unfortunately the gameplay itself lets the game down. It is not a bad by any means, it just lacks variety. Moving from one area to another, fighting minions followed by the occasional boss, just became a bit bland after a while. Another annoyance was having to travel through areas that had already been cleared to reach newly available routes. This was fine the first few times, but soon becomes a bit tiresome.
What the player will find is a game that is filled to the brim with Japanese folklore and an interesting story. The beautiful graphics and artistic style of the game will leap out and impress you. The gameplay, whilst simple to pick up, is just lacking the necessary depth to make this game a masterpiece.