Muramasa Sengo was a famous swordsmith. He lived in Japan in the 16th century. It was said that he was violent and mad, and those traits were passed on to the blades he forged. The legend says that a Muramasa sword can only be sheathed in its scabbard once it has drawn blood. Eventually these blades became legendary and the Japanese culture honored the man and his blades in plays. Now Vanillaware has come out with Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Wii. Will gamers be acting the stories of Muramasa themselves, or will Vanillaware wish that they have left that blade sheathed?

 

In Muramasa you play as one of two characters. Momohime is a ninja princess who has been possessed by a warrior spirit. Kisuke is a warrior who has a bout of amnesia. Each character has minor differences. Momohime has the easier path of the two characters, and the enemies you encounter change slightly depending on who you choose. The path that you take through the game also differs from which character you take.

I will be the first to tell you that I am generally skeptical of those people who talk about video games as art. Muramasa is the first game that I feel that can truly be shown as art. While the screenshots are nice, you can’t get the impression of the style and fluidity of Muramasa unless you see it in action. The scrolling backgrounds mix well with the foreground art. The character design has a genuine feudal Japanese feel, especially when facing the boss characters. I’m not sure if any of these characters are from Japanese mythology or folklore, but they feel as if they came straight from there.

 

The music compliments the graphics completely and has the same feudal Japanese feel as the artwork. While exploring the levels, the music is calm and peaceful. When you hear the deep bass taiko drums, you know that enemies are going to jump into the screen and attack you. The tempo increases and feels more chaotic until the battle is finished.

 

If you are averse to reading, then you might not care for Muramasa. While it’s not critical to the game to read everything, you won’t get the story for either of the characters without reading the onscreen cues. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the Japanese voice acting is used throughout the entire game. While some people may have preferred hearing English throughout, the tone and style matches the Japanese voiceovers much better. The amount of emotion conveyed throughout is voiced well, even though some of the story is confusing.

For an action game, the controls feel tight even with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. Double jumps do take a little getting used to, but even using down on the control pad or the + sign doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch since they aren’t used too often. I would have liked a separate block button instead of holding down the A button, which is also used as the attack button. You might think that Muramasa might have you swishing the Wii Remote for attacks. Thankfully Vanillaware thought it through and decided not to include any motion controls. They also throw in support for the Classic Controller and Gamecube controller as well, so plenty of extra controller options are available to you.

 

Exploration is a key throughout each level of Muramasa. You search through each area and will be rewarded for searching for money, souls, and cooking items throughout. The souls are used to create new and more powerful blades. Defeating bosses can also result in obtaining new blades. Money lets you purchase items. Cooking items allow you to make foot that can regenerate your health or give you other benefits. Some of the foot is eaten right away, while other food can be saved and used later.  It

While the combat is hectic, there is a little strategy underneath all the slashing. When you fight enemies you have three blades available to you. As you use a blade in combat, their Soul Power is used up. Once the Soul power has been depleted, the blade is nearly useless and you need to switch to another blad. There are three that you can equip at one time, and two blades that aren’t beinused gain back their Soul Power over time.

 

The battles you encounter in Muramasa are relatively short. Some can last under a minute, especially if you are playing as Momohime. You can slash enemies quickly by just using the A button, but you can also deflect ranged projectiles back at the attackers. When your blade has enough Soul Power you can also use the blade’s Secret Art. Each Secret Art is unique for ever blade in the game. It is fun to hit an enemy into the air, see how many hits you can land on the opponent before it hits the ground, and then do it all again.  Defeating your enemies quickly will help you gain even more experience. The combat is truly exciting, even if the battles don’t last too long, and they never seem to get stale.

While Muramasa rewards you for exploring through areas the first time you go through them, there isn

It’s also important to forge new swords to enter new areas.  Across the land there are different barriers that need to be broken, but you need to have the correct sword to break these barries.  This helps you to only enter areas when you have reached the correct area.  Enemies also scale to match close to your level, so the battles have a good amount of challenge without being too difficult.

 

If you are looking for multiplayer action, you won’t find it here.  That’s OK though, since it will take you over 20 hours to complete both quests.  There are a lot of cities to explore, and each city has a vast amount of area to cover.  This is interesting when you are going through it for the first time, but it becomes tedious when you are backtracking.

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