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PLATFORM: Wii
ESRB RATING: T
DEVELOPER:
Vanillaware
PUBLISHER: Ignition Entertainment

In the barren desert that is the Wii release schedule, few non-Nintendo games manage to make it to water. For every Dead Space Extraction (review) there are a hundred Nintendogs and Warioware ripoffs, and the few games that do something interesting go sadly unnoticed by the casual owners of the system.

It’s time to stop that. Enter Muramasa: The Demon Blade.
    
THE PITCH
 
A girl named Momohime is possessed by the soul of evil samurai Jinkuro Izuna and forced to go off on a quest. Jinkuro is none too happy to be in the body of such a meek woman, but he’s turned her into a fierce warrior with his spirit. He controls Momohime as he seeks a stronger vessel for him to inhabit. Meanwhile, on the other side of Japan, Kisuke is in trouble. A male ninja with no memory of his past, he is being assaulted by people who want to arrest him for some unknown crime. He doesn’t know what’s going on and fights his way out, heading off to find the only thing he can remember- a mysterious katana.

Over the course of the game you’ll find dozens of swords with which to fight off all manner of earthly and supernatural beings from Japanese mythology. The game is deeply rooted in Japanese history and mythology but don’t worry if you’re not up either, because you’ll enjoy the sights and sounds just the same.
 


CHUDTIP- Although it isn’t eternal, the Japanese certainly have their own version of hell. Hail Satan!

  
THE PLAY
 
A spiritual successor to Vanillaware’s PS2 title Odin Sphere, this game is all about the hack and slash. Get ready to wear out your thumbs fighting off hundreds of ninjas, ghosts, and gigantic demonic bosses as you fight through both heaven and hell…. literally.

Both characters control exactly the same and you can use pretty much any Wii controller (Wii remote, classic controller or gamecube controller) since it doesn’t have motion controls. In the game you’re given a choice of three swords that you can swap with a press of a button, each of which has its own special attack and life bar. Yes, you can break the swords, but put it in your magic sheath for a bit and they’ll regenerate, and meanwhile you can be chopping enemies in half with your other swords. There are two styles of swords- two handed and one-handed- but all that really changes is your swing time. You can deflect projectiles from enemies by hitting the A button at the correct time, although you’ll usually do this by accident while smashing the button for attacks. There are also a couple of moves like a charge-up attack and a dash that you can perform at any time, as well as the sword’s specific attacks that use up some of its energy. You’ll get things like lightning bolts and spinning moves and such, all the better to take down the massive numbers of ninja that outnumber you in every battle.



CHUDTIP- This might be the one game where you’re forced to stop and just admire the visuals.

 

Through the game you’ll forge new swords with the souls you earn from slain foes, as well as cook food to heal yourself and give you spirit from ingredients around the world. There are minor RPG elements to the game but it’s as shallow as River City Ransom. You gain XP from winning battles and at various parts of the game you’ll be able to talk to people and purchase items, but that’s about it.

But as with Shadow Complex and Batman: Arkham Asylum over the last few months, it’s shocking to find here yet another Metroidvania-type game. It’s definitely done in the same style. Beating bosses will give you swords that enable you to smash through barriers of different colors and access new areas. Hidden items abound, and the handy map even works the same, thankfully telling you on which screens you can find hidden items.


CHUDTIP- The game tells you when you’re about to get into a boss battle, so make sure you’ve got all the food and items you need to survive.

 
This would be enough to give you that old-school feel but there are also fantastic bosses that you’ll face, huge lumbering beasts that take up half the screen, and boy does it feel good to take those suckers down. They’re tough and beating them feels like an accomplishment, never mind how wonderfully animated they are.

But despite how beautiful the game is (more on that later) and how much fun it is to fight, the combat can get incredibly repetitive. It’s a button masher on the regular difficulty and you’ll spend most of your time just riding that A button. Barely a screen goes by without enemies attacking and once you figure out their attacks it’s simple to defeat them in a manner of seconds. This makes enemy encounters more annoying than they should be, but thankfully the locations and enemies change up enough to keep you interested throughout the long campaign.

A couple of more moves certainly couldn’t have hurt. The simplicity of the game is one of its strengths but you can’t help like you’re going through the motions when the fun of the random battles wears off.
    
THE PRESENTATION

Man, does this game look great. It might be the best hand-drawn art you’ve seen in a game yet, just stunningly beautiful. It’s great to see that the old tricks like parallax still work. The characters designs are no less inventive and ridiculously fun- when’s the last time you saw a gigantic fat angel in a thong smashing her butt at you?


CHUDTIP- That Octopus sure likes Momohime (very possibly NSFW!) .

 
The game doesn’t use any of the Wii’s capabilities but sometimes it’s nice to play a title that doesn’t have you wagging your remote at the screen like an idiot. It would also be nice to see this ported to other consoles as well, however, if only so it gets more of an audience.

The dialogue is all in its original Japanese, with English subtitles. They tried to make the story a bit more interactive by presenting you with sections where you walk around and talk to your friends and foes before starting up a battle or climatic scene, but all it really does is slow down the game.
   

THE REPLAY
 
The first campaign with Momohime will take you around 10 hours to beat, and that’s not even trying to 100% the game, since it’s a bit slow and irritating to backtrack. But after beating it there’s the second campaign of equal length where you play as Kisuke! It’s very similar to the first one but you will fight different enemies and see a different side of the story.



CHUDTIP- Use the charge attack on large groups of enemies, or to break a samurai’s sword and render him useless.

 

So yes, provided you don’t get bored of the gameplay you will be playing this one for a long, long time.
 

THE VERDICT

Wii owners who complain about the lack of hardcore titles can’t really complain if they don’t pick up games like this, can they? This was made for real gamers, and is a whole lot of fun while it lasts. Not the most incredible or memorable title ever made but any game that can make you plug your Wii back in for a couple of weeks is worth a shot, and if we want more bizarre little treasures like this game we’ve got to show our support.
 

7.9 out of 10