Muramasa: The Demon Blade


Emanuel Merino

It's Like Watching a Moving Woodblock Print.

The crew at Ignition Entertainment invited us to their Glendale Office to check out the hotly anticipated game Muramasa: The Demon Blade. It should be said right up front that Muramasa is an incredible looking Wii game. This is thanks primarily to its hand drawn 2-D graphics, detailed backgrounds, and very Japanese aesthetics and atmosphere. I tried out the two main characters Momohime and Kisuke. The two characters played largely the same with the main difference primarily being story related and the fact that both characters start on opposite ends of the map. Speaking of the map, the game's world feels very much like a Metroid-Vania game, as you move from highly detailed screen to the next fighting a varied mix of enemies. The combat itself is very flashy and fast; on the normal difficulty setting I had no problem dispatching all sorts of ninjas and all manner of mythological Japanese creatures.

Second Caption Alt Goes Here
The Seven Samurai Would Be Proud.

Combat mainly involved me using the analog stick to run and jump to quickly maneuver across the stage smashing the A button to defeat enemies and to gain experience points and souls. That's not to say the combat doesn't have any depth. At any one time you carry three swords with you, each with different properties and special attacks. There are 108 swords in the game that you can earn or forge from your main menu. During combat switching swords becomes important as using a particular sword or special skill too often can break your blade. Not to worry though, while in its sheath your swords repair themselves, so you are never left without any usable weapons. During boss battles I found myself switching from blade to blade unleashing special attacks while trying to dodge or block incoming attacks. In all honesty, on the easy setting, you can probably button mash your way through the game. That extra finesse is there if you want it in easy and it's a definite necessity on the harder difficulties. Thankfully you are rewarded after every battle with a screen ranking your battle and showing how much experience you have earned. This is primarily where the game's RPG elements come in. You level up over time and can equip a variety of accessories. Forging new blades also plays a big role in your characters' development. The RPG elements are very light, comparable to post Symphony of the Night Castlevania games.

Really, I think the real draw for most RPGamers out there will be this game's highly detailed and atmospheric version of ancient Japan. The game only has Japanese audio options, which means the entire game is subtitled. Given the very Japanese setting and the infusion of Japanese mythology, the language track fits. The game is very big on style and each environment was lovingly hand drawn. From dark forests and graveyards to lantern-filled towns, this game oozes style. In fact, I don't really feel like I have to sell this game on its presentation. The visuals, music, and voice-over fit the setting and sell the game themselves. The one thing I pulled away from the demo is that the gameplay works and is competent, the kind of thing you play in little bursts as you watch and listen to all kinds of pretty. The game should last about 15-20 hours to get through both characters' campaign modes, so about six to eight hours for each character. So if you're looking for a very light action RPG that exudes Japan and style, this is a very good choice. I actually think that the people who would love this game most are not RPGamers, but fans of Japan and people looking for some light action and something nice too look at on their Wii. This is a game that definitely deserves to be seen.

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