|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Vanilla Ware||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ignition Ent.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 8, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Muramasa: The Demon Blade is one of those games you can't resist playing just because of how cool it looks. A princess possessed by a demon; a ninja with a forgotten past. You've seen a stage; now you want to see more whether you're attracted to the floating petals of the blossoming cherry trees, the harmonious oriental landscapes, or the nasty, vicious-looking foes you have to fight, there's a whole lot to like in this game.
For starters, the character design is outstanding; the enemies are based on ancient Japanese mythological creatures, and the main characters, Momohime and Kisuke, are very charming but tough - the power and energy they radiate makes you feel comfortable under their skin and gets you ready to fight against anyone in your path. It's not like you're invincible, but their buffed-up look and fast-paced moves charges you up with a nice dose of adrenaline.
Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating a little as far as getting charged with adrenaline, but the truth is this game is action-packed. The gameplay style mimics old-school feats like the archaic Ninja Gaiden titles, Double Dragon, and many others. Though the story and visuals make Muramasa look a lot deeper than that, this game is a side-scrolling beat-'em-up in its bare essence. Arcade game enthusiasts will love this title, as you can power through it like a ninja - literally. The controls don't offer much combo variety, but they get the job done. You can perform different attacks depending on which direction you're heading, if you're jumping up towards an enemy or down with force, and if you're pushing or holding the attack button. However, the most important factor in these fights is the sword you wield.
There's an astonishing amount of blades to be had. Of course, you don't get them all right off the bat. Instead, the game incorporates an interesting RPG element: the possibility to upgrade the sword depending on which level you're at, your strength and vitality, the spirit you have, and the souls you've collected. When you're ready, you can go see Senji Muramasa (accessible from the game's menu) and have him forge a sword for you. The huge Blade Lineage Tree contains several different paths, different swords, and, of course, different requirements for each blade. It's no joke; there are dozens of swords you'll have access to throughout the game, depending upon your chosen blade path.
Each blade is different. Some are more powerful and others are less, some are faster, some are slower, etc. But, best of all, they carry special power attacks called Secret Arts - there's the Moon Ring, the Flash, the Giant Sun Orb, the Kamaitachi, the Misty Slash, etc. These powers are really fun to use against enemies and oftentimes make a huge difference during combat, especially boss battles.
Other RPG-style features include the collecting of souls and currency to attain items, ingredients to concoct special formulas, healing pellets and potions, items to restore your sword, charms, and a lot more. You can easily equip them on the main menu, and one can carry up to three swords as well as a special outfit/charm for extra power, defense, or whatever it may be. Your sword might break during an encounter, so being able to swap blades with just the push of a button certainly comes in handy. You can also use the different Secret Arts if the battle is too tough to handle with just standard hit combos. At the end of each battle, you get experience points that go towards leveling up, just like in a standard RPG.
I'm not a huge role-playing fan because those games tend to be too slow for me, but this one doesn't make me suffer. It has just the perfect combination of RPG elements to keep you motivated as well as fast-paced action that keeps you going. If you choose to play Muso style, the game doesn't require a lot of skill; you can pretty much cut through enemies with ease and keep going. On the other hand, if you're not intimidated by challenge, you should play it Shura style; you'll have to evade, defend yourself, and use the Secret Arts judiciously in order to advance.