Early Impressions of Muramasa: The Demon Blade
During a time when the Wii was getting ragged on hard by the community for its inability to process graphics to the level of the XBOX 360 or PlayStation 3, Muramasa: The Demon Blade was one of those Wii-exclusive games the hardcore Wii gamers held up to the haters in response. While its in screen shots and in videos were enough to get me to pick it up on the cheap during a Blockbuster closing sale, I wasn’t ready for how gorgeous it actually looked and ran on my TV. Like Kirby’s Epic Yarn, it uses strong art direction and stylistic graphics to overcome the Wii’s technical limitations to great effect.
Although it may have the looks going for it, games can’t survive on pretty looks alone. Having played a few hours of Muramasa: The Demon Blade so far, I can tell you that there’s a lot more here than just a pretty face.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a 2D Japanese action RPG framed within the context of a Metroid-style world map. At the start of the game, you can choose between one of two characters, who have different stories. I’m not far enough into it to say if/when/how these two character’s paths relate, but if I make it far enough along, I’ll let you know. There’s a strong story behind the action, though it’s very Japanese in nature. This is fine for the Otaku-types, but if traditional Japanese RPG stories aren’t your cup of tea, this will not win you over.
The part I’m enjoying most about Muramasa: The Demon Blade so far is the combat. While this may appear to simply be a button-masher, there’s definitely more nuance to the actual act of fighting, equipment management and character development. The game gives you a number of different offensive and defensive options, which makes every fight feel like a 2D scene from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. It’s a lot of fun to knock an enemy in the air, juggle them with a number of aerial moves, then deflect a fireball with your sword and parry a sword swipe from behind and counter with a special attack.
Beyond the act of hitting buttons, your character’s arsenal of swords, equipment and moves will grow as you progress throughout the game. I haven’t gone very deep in to the game yet, but every sword I’ve obtained so far has looked unique and featured unique properties. You can also use your money to build and fine tune your own sword. The constant growth of your character adds further incentive to keep playing if you’re really into managing that stuff.
The one thing I did not know about this game going into it was how the world was structured. I got nervous when I realized it was a Metroid-style game, where the world is one big environment split into different zones that you travel through. You have some freedom to wander around as you wish, though you’ll need certain items to break through various barriers in the world that stop you from going where you shouldn’t yet. Of course, there is some back-tracking involved, though I’m not far enough to say how much it factors into the gameplay. Historically, I haven’t done very well with Metroid-style games as I tend to get lost and stuck, but from what I’ve seen so far, navigating the world appears to be relatively straightforward.
It’s too early for me to pass judgment on Muramasa: The Demon Blade, but I really like what I’ve seen so far. It looks gorgeous, plays great and appears to provide players with a lot of motivation to get through to the end. Heading into the holiday rush, I’m not sure I’m going to find time to power through it, but I do want to play more. It’s definitely a niche game that isn’t going to appeal to a broader audience, but if you’re a big fan of Japanese games, or are looking to mix things up, this may be worth your time.