Publisher: Aksys Games
Release Date: June 25th, 2013
Available on: Playstation Vita
In 2009 Vanillaware created Muramasa: The Demon Blade, a Wii exclusive that was mostly notable for its impressive art style. Now they’ve updated the game and re released it on the Playstation Vita. Thankfully, nothing seems to have been loss in the process and Muramasa Rebirth is one of the most fun action games I’ve played in a while.
Muramasa Rebirth contains two separate stories. One of them, Ninja Scroll of the Demon Blade, puts you in the role of a young amnesic ninja named Kisuke who’s trying to discover why he’s being hunted down by several other ninjas and his ties to a princess named Torahime. The other story, Pandemonium of the Oboro Blade, has you playing as a princess named Momohime who finds her body being possessed by the soul of Jinkuro, a cruel and evil warrior. For the most part both stories are completely stand alone with a few characters playing small roles in both. Neither story is bad, though I did find Momohime’s story to be stronger than Kisuke’s. The exposition was kind of weird though, with both stories only stopping to hit the next story points before and after boss fights. Nothing advances at any other point in the game.
Gameplay wise, Muramasa Rebirth is a 2D action game with some metroidvania elements. You’ll be put into an open area with a map to explore. Similar to metroidvania games chunks of the map are blocked off until you can get a way to access them. Unlike metroidvania games it’s not new skills, but rather new swords that can destroy specific demon barriers. You’re going to be happy with each new sword you get, as each of the game’s 108 swords has an ability unique to it. One may make you shoot a group of fireballs at an enemy, another can have you do a spin attack, while one may make you turn invisible. While you get some for defeating bosses, the majority have to be forged. To forge a sword you actually need two currencies: souls and spirit. Soul is simple, just beat enemies to get that. Spirit is a little weird, requiring you to eat food to get more. It was ultimately pointless though, a few extremely cheap meals at the numerous food places in game got me more spirit than I knew what to do with.
Combat itself seems simple enough to start with. All your attacks are handled with the square button. Pressing it uses your regular attacks, while holding it down and pushing the analogue stick allows you to use special abilities like a low attack, dashing, or an extremely strong super attack. Each sword’s special ability is mapped to the circle button. Using a special ability, or blocking attacks from enemies, lowers a sword’s health and if it goes empty it breaks. You can hold up to three swords at once and swords recover health when they’re sheathed. Breaking a sword isn’t all bad though, as doing so allows you to swap to the next sword while using a screen-hitting quick slash. It’s not an amazingly deep system, but each battle in Muramasa Rebirth looks stylish. It’s more than enough to keep you entertained for each story’s 6-8 hour running time. Each act also ends in a dramatic boss battle, sometimes against larger than life monsters. I found each boss fight to be entertainingly exciting and add more to the fighting experience.
Exploration is a bit more on the simple end. Each character can double jump and glide, and you’ll be using that to navigate the environments. The game has an ever present map that tells you if there’s anything worth looking at in each room you enter. This can be anything from random healing items, to shops, save points, or even secret hot springs that provide bonus scenes. Unfortunately Muramasa Rebirth has a major problem with back tracking. After fighting a boss you’ll have to spend a good five to ten minutes just walking back out of the dungeon you just went through with no kind of fights or anything to make it interesting. The game desperately needed some kind of quick warp out.
Overall I found Muramasa Rebirth to be a really fun game. Exciting fighting and a great combat system keeps it fun even when poor pacing brings it down. If you have a Vita and are looking for some action then look no further than Muramasa Rebirth