PAX ’09 – Muramasa: The Demon Blade
From developer Vanillaware and released in America by Ignition Entertainment comes Muramasa: The Demon Blade, the spiritual successor to Odin Sphere. Like Odin Sphere, Muramasa is a two dimensional side scrolling adventure, but it’s far from a straight follow up. Though those who enjoyed Odin Sphere should definitely check out (and in my opinion pick up) Muramasa, many elements have changed, from the character development, to the underlying mythos.
Muramasa is set in Japan, in the Genroku era of the samurai and shogun, with a hefty dose of Japanese folklore and legends to inspire the game’s settings, enemies, and bosses. Every mythical element in the game has been painstakingly researched by Vanillaware, and the care taken in ensuring accurate details shows to those who are knowledgeable in the area of Japanese mythology. For those who aren’t, there’s still the beautiful artwork Vanillaware has come to be known for, as well as a fluid and fun combat system. The RPG elements that Vanillaware included in Odin Sphere have been toned down, however. Leveling is much simpler, but in place of the simplified elements new ones have been introduced. Many portions of the game contain unlockables and unreachable rewards and objects that stronger characters can come back to. The world in Muramasa is also quite large, and though it starts out fairly linear, by the time you’re past the first boss and into the game proper the vast array of branching paths and possibilities will give the you plenty to do and explore.
The story follows either Kisuke (an amnesiac ninja running from a crime he doesn’t remember) or Momohime (a possessed princess carrying the soul of a foul samurai), depending upon which you pick. Muramasa is more like two stories for the price of one actually, while the two protagonists do interact occasionally, for the most part their paths and concerns are independent of one another. Both, however, are on a quest to collect and forge one hundred and eight demon blades, which all possess unique qualities and attacks. These katanas are also necessary to progress through feudal Japan as well as the story, as certain ones will break spirit barriers blocking your journey. Kisuke and Momohime both carry three katanas into battle, made necessary by the fact that battles are hard on a katana, and as they wear down through the use of special attacks or blocking, they must be switched out for a fresh blade so they can recover. This also makes possible immense combo chains, linking together three sets of special attacks as well as lightning fast dashes and slashes.
Muramasa looks to be a must for anyone who enjoyed Odin Sphere, enjoys some good fast hack n’ slash, or takes interest in Japanese mythology. If your Wii’s been picking up a bit of dust waiting for something more substantial than casual minigames, give Muramasa a look and hopefully pick it up when it hits stores later this week.