Originally available for Nintendo Wii, Muramasa redefined the 2D action role-playing genre with its demon blade weapon system and mind-blowing visuals. Muramasa Rebirth for PS Vita is essentially the same game that retains all the knuckle-whitening gameplay of the original, while also maintaining the core mechanics that made its predecessor a success. As either the demon possessed princess Momohime or the amnesia stricken fugitive ninja Kisuke, your mission is to acquire all one hundred and eight Demon Blades while battling against tremendously difficult odds.
The game occurs during the shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa period in 17th century Japan. The Japanese countryside is festering with greed and malice as demonic creatures terrorize the land and its people. Legendary weapons called Demon Blades are being guarded by inconceivable abominations of nature, waiting for anyone foolish enough to wield their extraordinary power. With your skills as a swordsman, you set out to rid Japan of its evil and acquire the legendary blades.
Muramasa Rebirth is not your typical 2D action game. Its gameplay relies on combos and quick reflexes, making it difficult to play if you’re unfamiliar with the original Wii game. Developer Villaniaware took this into consideration, though, and has included two difficulty modes – Legend and Chaos.
Newcomers will find ‘Legend’ mode more forgiving. Enemies are easier to kill and the boss encounters are less difficult to manage. Experienced players will appreciate the difficulty of ‘Chaos’ mode as you must attack, evade and use Secret Arts skillfully to survive. Your enemies are less forgiving and more difficult to kill.
Like the original game, the game world is massive and contains branching paths that lead to dark caves, bamboo forests, and even towns that are thriving with townsfolk and item vendors. Since there is so much to explore, the game includes a comprehensive mapping system that keeps track of your location. When starting a new chapter, it’s important to purchase a map of the area from the town’s Traveling Peddler.
The Traveling Peddler also sells items that are pivotal to your survival. His wares include Recovery Pellets which restore health and spirit; Snake Bombs that create clouds of smoke to escape enemy confrontations; and maps for other locations , among other things. Once you’re finished stocking up on items for your journey, you can visit the local TeaHouse girl to rest and purchase a meal to restore health and spirit. Additionally, you can speak with villagers for information regarding your adventure.
Gameplay is a combination of tried-and-true platform mechanics and rock-solid hack ‘n slash combat that utilizes multi-tier combo attacks. As you make your way through rushing streams, open fields and unwelcoming forests, you must use your ninja’s double-jump ability to reach high platforms to collect spirit energy and hidden items that ‘sparkle’ when you approach them.
These items range from amulets that possess element resistance to food ingredients like rice, among others. A comprehensive menu system manages your items, ingredients and weapons. While some menu functions like ‘Forge’ cannot be accessed until you’re in town (more on this later), you can access other items like food to heal yourself during battle.
Combat is based on random encounters much like a traditional role-playing game. Demonic abominations and ninja assassins attack from every direction as you engage them with your Demon Blades. A Spirit Gauge, which monitors your blade’s power, depletes quickly as you block incoming attacks. When the gauge empties, the Demon Blade you wield will shatter. You are placed at a great disadvantage when this happens as your attack power is greatly reduced. Placing the sword in its sheath or killing enemies with a different sword will repair the damaged blade. After defeating your advisories, the results of the battle are displayed. Based on your performance, you can earn bonus experience points and money.
The first three chapters feel repetitive since you are constantly attacked by the same enemies. You will find yourself battling the likes of ninjas and ethereal spirits as you complete your mission objectives. It’s not until chapter four that you are introduced to new enemies such as giant boars, Phoenixes and frog-like beasts. Like all action games, each chapter has its own assortment of enemies.
The controls respond quite well as you hack away on your foes. Combos are strung together by rapidly pressing the Square button. These normal attacks can be complimented by a Secret Art that is concealed within the Demon Blade, which varies greatly depending on the blade you wield. Some blades, like the Blade of Reverly, transforms your ninja into a deadly spinning projectile that rushes across the screen. Repeating these attacks will not only maximize your combos, but they will also guarantee a better bonus after surviving an encounter.
Certain Demon Blades must be forged while in town. To accomplish this, you must use certain items that have been collected during your travels, along with any spirit energy that has been absorbed from fallen foes. Certain food items that have been consumed to restore health and spirit are also used during this process. The ‘Forge’ system resembles a talent system that branches from the Demon Blades that have already been collected from previous boss battles. Demon Blades that can be forged are highlighted in grey. When a blade is forged, it is added to your inventory. Since you can only wield three Demon Blades at any given time, you must swap out a current blade for the new one.
The game truly shines during the boss battles. Incredibly large, intimidating bosses pose some of the most difficult challenges in the game. The first chapter boss, Kurozaru, is a hulking mass of muscles who wields a giant shuriken. Torahime, from chapter four, rides a menacing-looking skeleton horse that can leap great distances. Your skills as a gamer are put to the test when battling any one of these bosses. Torahime, for example, has multiple health bars, and it takes the right Demon Blade and a good amount of skill to defeat her. If you’re not careful, you will find yourself repeating the battle more than once.
Muramasa Rebirth is a digital masterpiece; its high caliber 2D graphics and well-balanced gameplay is as close to perfection as a game can be. It’s disappointing that Vanillaware didn’t include Touchscreen support for this release, but even without it the experience is nothing short of incredible. If you own a PS Vita and you’re looking for that must-have title to add to your collection, then Muramasa Rebirth is that game. It’s simply the best experience 2D gaming has to offer.
Platform: PS Vita (Available on PSN)
Publisher: Aksys Games
ESRB: T (Teen)
|Incredible 2D graphics and animation.|
|Atmospheric music and bone-crunching sound effects.|
|Challenging gameplay that includes some of the most epic boss battles in recent memory.|
|Muramasa Rebirth is one of the best games available for PS Vita.|