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RevolvingDork Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii) Review
Thu, Oct 15, 2009 2:33am EDT
By RevolvingDork

Muramasa: The Demon Blade feels like the product of an alternate timeline. If polygons had never ushered in an ice age for 2D gaming, hand-drawn sprites like the ones perfected in Muramasa might still rule the earth. Smaller versions of today's intelligent but homely 3D visuals would be forced to scavenge their eggs, festering with jagged pestilence.

Set in ancient Japan, the game follows the storyline of two typically troubled teens: Kisuke has lost his memory and is being hunted for a crime he does not remember committing, while Momohime has had her body possessed by an evil swordsman. Though they both take place in the same expansive world their stories effectively serve as two different games, each with its own narrative, objectives, and boss encounters.

Speaking in the parlance of genre, Muramasa might best be described as a side-scrolling action RPG. It's played optimally with the Wii classic controller on a d-pad, though other options are present. Celebrating some of the finest action gameplay traditions, double jumps, air dashes, and copious amounts hack-'n-slashing are in attendance. A fleshed-out item system featuring a staggering array of consumables is eclipsed only by the gargantuan tech tree used to forge new swords. Combine these with a fluid combat system and there's more than enough here to keep both anal-retentive statmongers and trigger-happy combo fetishists happy.

It would be an act of gross negligence to omit mention of the visuals in this game. Even on the Wii, a console written off as graphically incompetent by the majority of message board trolls, Muramasa manages to elicit gasps at every turn. The game has somehow achieved the targeted "painting come to life" aesthetic by combining the characterized nuance of handcrafted art with fluid animation, a feat which very likely gifted Vanillaware's staff with debilitating repetitive stress injuries. The art in this game is simply without peer.

In recent years I've begun to wonder if my once-ravenous interest in gaming has waned. Disturbingly, the majority of recent big name releases haven't been able to hold my attention for the duration of a teaser trailer. A terrible possibility loomed: What if, after over twenty solid years of gaming, I was growing out of my favorite hobby?

Playing Muramasa has set my mind at ease. It reignited a long-dormant personal affliction: despite my best efforts, I simply could not put the controller down. I'd dash through forests, artfully dispatch bands of evil monks, forge new supernatural blades empowered by the titular Muramasa himself, and still I had to push forward through just *one more* boss fight. I wanted to find every item, complete every side quest, then start a new game on the ridiculously difficult one-hit-and-you-die setting and do it again.

Muramasa is a game that will draw you in, beat you up, and somehow keep you coming back for more. It is an obvious labor of love, and I can't commend Vanillaware enough for bringing it to realization.

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2022 Chris Maguire