Originally released on the Nintendo Wii in 2009, Vanillaware’s Muramasa: The Demon Blade was a much needed hardcore action RPG for the system with far too many casual gamer titles. Considering the Vita’s lack of titles, and those few titles mostly being rereleases of preexisting titles on Sony consoles, Sony diehards who have not had a chance to play Muramasa the first time will definitely appreciate Aksys Games’ localization of Muramasa: Rebirth.
A defining aspect of all Vanillaware titles, the art style is unique and beautiful. Despite the years since its release, the vibrant visuals have hardly aged, preserving the 2D hand-drawn style that’s will awe players no matter what console generation the game is released on. In still screenshots, the game is already a marvel to look at, resembling older Japanese Rinpa art from the Meiji period, and it’s all the more amazing in motion. The game’s locales are a wonder to look at as well, ranging from lush forests to the depths of hell itself, Vanillaware has put a great deal of both the Japanese’s love for nature and mythology into the game’s environments. Thankfully, the original Japanese audio is preserved for fans, though no English dub is in place, but that is hardly an issue.
The story is proficient and anyone who missed out on it during Muramasa‘s original Wii release should appreciate finally getting a chance to become acquainted with it. The title follows one of two protagonists: Momohime, a princess who has become possessed by a demon and ends up helping this demon, or Kisuke, a ninja who has lost his memory. Throughout the title, though, there were few chances for the two characters to interact, with those few opportunities being unimportant, so the decision for the game to split into two stories was a questionable one. If anything, the long, drawn-out, and often unskippable dialogues only served to get in the way of the game’s main course: the action. Not only that, but the story never seemed to go anywhere, with an abrupt ending that had no preceding climax. However, players will be happy to know that the game has multiple endings based on the swords used in the final battle, which will invite multiple playthroughs if only to flesh out the narrative.
Muramasa‘s fights are, depending on the difficulty, either a breeze or ridiculously hard. In Legend, the game’s equivalent of the normal difficulty, enemies dropped like flies and bosses only took slightly longer, though Chaos will give players a far harder time with groups of enemies ganging up while doing increased damage and bosses that had more attack patterns to them. The Chaos difficulty was obviously more rewarded, forcing me to dodge and combo enemies more to secure every little victory; however, I couldn’t help but feel a bit cheated when I would get killed after a couple of strikes from some goons or the boss. Regardless, Muramasa‘s combocentric gameplay puts an emphasis on the action in action RPG and will give players an exciting time. It feels like a simple hack and slash at first, but soon players will find combos and new attacks to use, allowing them to thrust enemies into the air and combo them before slamming them back into the ground. For those who take the Chaos challenge and find it too difficult, the game can switch difficulties on the fly, which both masochists and the light of heart will appreciate.
“Muramasa‘s combocentric gameplay puts an emphasis on the action in action RPG and will give players an exciting time”
As fun as the game’s battles are, the game’s penchant for backtracking and long-winded dialogues will continually stop its momentum. Right after a heated boss battle, players will almost undoubtedly have to backtrack through the town from which they just came and traverse towards another part of the map. Fast travel does become possible after completing the game once, but it feels that it comes a bit too late; the game’s whole atmosphere has already been ruined by forcing players to travel through the same segments multiple times – even the game’s beautiful backdrops become a blur and nuisance in the face of this.
Years after its original release, Muramasa: Rebirth still proves to be a wildly fun time. Those who have missed out on it originally should pick it up, and those who have already played through it are likely awaiting the DLC scenarios that Aksys Games has promised. However, the game’s original problems still persist and may hold back those who took issue with them before.
Available on: Vita; Publisher: Aksys Games; Developer: Vanillaware; Players: 1; Released: June 25, 2013; ESRB: Teen; MSRP: $39.99: Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.