by Tim Harris
This is a review of the Nintendo Wii game "Muramasa: The Demon Blade" .
|When I first bought a Wii in 2006 I was more than excited to have one. It was new, innovative gaming technology, and it was from Nintendo so all of my favorite franchises would surely continue. Now it’s 2009 and I barely own any games for the system. Moreover, after moving into a new apartment in February, I didn’t bother unpacking or connecting the Wii to the TV. My Wii collection is small, only one game at the moment, Tales of Symphonia 2. The system has some great games to offer, but lame online and lack any good single player content tend to make even some of the Wii’s best games only worth a rental or two.
What’s the point to all of this? Well I can honestly say that for the past week I have not been able to put down the Wiimote. Muramasa: The Demon Blade is the latest creation from Vanillaware, the same company that brought us the awesome action RPG Odin Sphere. Muramasa is everything a Wii-owning hardcore gamer could want, a long and engaging single player experience. But is the game everything we’ve been hoping for? Well let’s take a look at the HOTs and NOTs for Muramasa: The Demon Blade
Let’s start with the most important aspect, the gameplay. Muramasa is a hack n slash action RPG. The controls are simple and very easy to learn. Vanillaware was smart with the controls, and didn’t try to add in some half-baked motion controls, but instead stuck with the more traditional analog stick + button press controls. There’s also the option to use a classic controller or even a Gamecube controller. The controls are fluid and never feel stiff or unnatural. The problem though, is that the controls are almost too simplistic, but more on that later.
Soundtrack is Great
The music here is amazing. The soundtrack mostly consists of more traditional, ancient Japanese music. All the voice work is in Japanese with English subtitles. The Japanese Vas do an awesome job, so even if you’re someone who prefers your voices to be in English, chances are you’ll still enjoy the voice work here.
The storyline is pretty good. Not getting too much into it, a spirit has taken the body of a young girl names Monohime by mistake. He works with a Kitsune, (for those of you wondering what that is, it’s a creature from Japanese lore, basically a fox demon) to continue posses the body he was originally after and carry out his wicked scheme for domination. The other story follows a young ninja named Kisuke, a man who is accused of comitting a crime he cant remember. I enjoyed the story, it certainly kept me engaged until the end, which is really all you can ask for in a game.
Game is Challenging.
At the start of the game, and anytime you load the game, you are presented with two modes of play, Muso and Shura. These determine the difficulty, and trust me the difference is pretty dramatic. The easier mode, Muso, offers up a much more forgiving game, and focuses more on leveling up. The enemies don’t do quite as much damage, and your defense is a bit better.
Shura mode however can be downright suicide if you aren’t truly skilled. I’m not joking; this game is HARD. Even if you exceed the battle level significantly, you’ll often find yourself dying and trying again. If you’re easily frustrated, you may want to stick with the easier setting. There’s also a third mode that’s unlocked after completing the game. Basically, it limits you to 1 HP, and no matter how much you level up that will never change. And you thought Shura was bad.
The game clocks in around 40 hours average. You play as two characters with two different storylines, each one lasting around 20 hours. I don’t have to tell you how refreshing and welcoming this is, since most Wii games lose their charm after about a week or less. After everything is said and done, all extra challenges completed and all treasures discovered, expect to have clocked between 45-50 hours.
This game is absolutely gorgeous, something you rarely hear said about a Wii game. The character animations and backgrounds are stunning, and even thought it’s 2D, this game easily matches up with some of the best looking 3D games on the market. The art style is reminiscent of classic Japanese paintings, so much so that it literally looks like a moving painting. If there’s one thing Vanillaware does best, it’s graphics and sprite animation.
Gameplay is too simplistic.
Yes, it is fun, and no, it does NOT offer much variety. This is a hack n slash through and through. For most, that isn’t a problem, but for those looking for a bit more substance, you may find yourself a bit disappointed. Battles mostly consist of you spamming the attack button, rolling or jumping out of danger, and repeating the process until everything is dead. You get some extra stuff such as forging different demon blades and such, but this is only a small bit of the overall experience, and certainly not enough to keep the hardcore RPG junkies totally satisfied.
Difference in difficulty modes is too drastic.
This might sound like I’m nitpicking but this is a legitimate issue. Difficulty levels should be somewhat progressive, and as a player progresses and their skills grow, they should be able to slowly work into playing on a harder setting for a bit more of a challenge. The difficulty level between the too modes in this game is just insane. You’ll literally go from having almost too much defense, to having basically no defense. Enemies will go from hitting and doing 30 or 40 damage to doing between 80 and 100 damage, same battle level, same enemies. If you aren’t really skilled at action games, then you better avoid the hard setting until you are REALLY good at this game.
Overall Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a satisfying experience and a must buy for any action or RPG junky looking for a Wii fix. Most likely, if you’re into those types of games, you probably have more than a Wii already, but still Muramasa is a diamond in the rough. The Wii has been plagued with tons of shovelware and cheap knockoffs, so to get a great game that no only delivers on the action, but will also last a while is a welcome treat for any hardcore gamer. While it may not be the most in-depth RPG, it’s easily one of the best on the system.
4 out of 5