The Wii isn’t quite known for it’s great games, just mostly for it’s games with nothing but motion controls. The few games that have succeeded in being one of the few good Wii games usually use the motion control sparingly or not at all. Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a game that falls into the latter category.
Muramasa is developed by Vanillaware, a company now known for making gorgeous 2D titles in an era where 3D rules all. It’s for the Wii, but the controls and options make me wonder if the console selection was necessary. There is absolutely no motion control or pointer usage. In fact, you can actually plug in the Classic controller or a Gamecube controller and play the game perfectly fine, sometimes better than with the Wii remote/nunchuk combo.
The controls for the game are simple and fairly intuitive. There’s no sloppy motion control usage here, just simple hack and slash action. A majority of the game will be spent using the A button in it’s various ways to kill enemies, be it through massing the ever-living life out of it or holding it down and using your movement to slide your sword through the enemies. The Nunchuk usage is a little annoying for some of the more complex platforming areas, but in all the basic controls work well for the game. The simplicity in the controls can sometimes lead to a few boring battles, but the larger ones make up for them.
One of the most apparent things with the game is it’s visuals. Everything is in 2D, and it’s all beautiful. Each wonderfully designed character, and level is done with great detail and beautiful depth. The scenery has the tendency to repeat, but with the game being as big as it is and the feudal era Japan setting it’s understandable. The animations are likewise just as good. Dozens of characters attacking, defending or being attacked with a great style suiting of the anime art style. Numerous levels flowing and gliding with an elegance similar to that of Japanese calligraphy paintings.
The audio game in the game is great. The music is a mixture of upbeat modern rock and classical Japanese music. The fusion of the two unlikely music styles makes up for a surprisingly entertaining soundtrack. The game also seems to feature some pretty extensive voice acting, but it’s all in japanese so it’s difficult for this particular gaijin to understand or even tell if it’s all actual voice acting or just gibberish.
The gameplay is superb. The combat is simple, but hard to master. The flurry of sword clashing and aerobatic dramatic battles make up a majority of the game’s combat. Two weapons types are available in the game. A Tachi, which deals quick and weak attacks more suited for aerial combat, and the Odachi, a slower and more devastating weapon much more suited for clearing out weaker enemies.
Of these two types of swords there dozens upon dozens to collect and craft, each with their own unique special ability and varying attack power. This astounding number and collection allows for some great variety as you progress. Choosing one that might be stronger than another, but not have as great of a special ability, or a weaker sword with a great special creates a nice balance for strategy when setting up your equipment.
The game is another title in the “metroidvania” genre. The entire game has a huge map in which you can progress forward through, or retreat backwards in order to explore and find new items and weapons. There are dozens of rooms in the game, and the load times from one to another is super quick. A half a second load screen from area to another, with room to room movement lacking any loading. There isn’t much in the way of hidden things in the game, but the expansive world in the game allows for a lot of exploring for the curious gamer.
The game’s weakest point has to be it’s story. The story isn’t particularly original, but is rife with Japanese influences. Spirits of samurais and warrior princesses, ninjas, fox girls in very skimpy outfits. The story primarily focuses on cursed swords created by the famous swordsmith Muramasa, and a fighting style both characters use.
Kisuke, the ninja, lost his memory and is trying to find out why ninjas and just about everyone else, is trying to kill him. Monohime, a princess, has been possessed by the spirit of a samurai and is soul-napped while the samurai is possessing her body. The story has it’s moments and are tied together through both characters, but in large doesn’t feel particularly original.
Muramasa is a great Wii game. It’s breathtaking visuals, great audio, and amazing gameplay make it one of the few truly worthwhile Wii games. The controls aren’t don’t make it particularly feel like a Wii game, but the great combat makes this a moot point. The story isn’t particularly strong, but the game’s overall polish makes up for it. Muramasa: The Demon Blade is an absolute must have, especially for those of you who’ll have to dust off your Wii.