Before I put together an actual list of the games I wanted to get out of the way during the baseball offseason I knocked out Vanillaware’s Muramasa: The Demon Blade. If you’re not aware, Vanillaware’s ambition is to make great 2D games and Muramasa is their third title to be released in North America following Odin Sphere and Grim Grimoire for the PS2.
Here’s a quick summary of each of these games:
- Odin Sphere – Sprawling action RPG where you play as several different characters in a story based off Norse mythology. Beautiful game with ridiculous difficulty at times, got a lot of attention for being well made and standing out as something different. I enjoyed it a lot but the game felt very long.
- Grim Grimoire – RTS where you take the role of a young student at a magic school where something isn’t quite right. Relatively easy, short RTS. It took a lot of flack for having a story “like Harry Potter” because people pretend that Harry is the first ever kid born to be the greatest wizard ever who needs to learn magic.
- Muramasa: The Demon Blade – Action game where you play through two intertwined stories about a sword forged by Muramasa Oboro. Easy or hard depending on which play mode you select, the action is really smooth and effortless but it never feels like you’re just button mashing for combos.
- I really enjoyed all three but even though it didn’t get the critical acclaim of Odin Sphere, I think that Muramasa is Vanillaware’s best game so far. Because the game isn’t punishingly hard unless you choose it to be, and the controls are great so running around Japan and fighting hoards of enemies never gets boring.
The game mechanics other than fighting are solid and easy to understand. At the start of the game you acquire the soul of Muramasa who hangs out in your bag and forges swords for you. To forge swords you need soul, which you get by killing enemies and spirit which you acquire by eating food.
There isn’t much to distinguish the swords from each other except the type (long blade or blade, slow but higher damage or fast with lower attack power) and personal preferences about their special attacks which only really matter if you’re playing in hard mode. I hate slow attacks so I used blades almost exclusively as soon as I was able to. The characters level up as they gather souls but the world levels up with you so it doesn’t impact much, just heals you for free in the middle of a fight and allows you to equip more powerful swords.
Muramasa has three endings for each character which are easy to unlock and don’t require you to play the game over and over. This is something I really appreciated because I wanted to see them but playing a full game through a second and third time is a chore even if you really do like a game (I make an exception for games that branch off a bunch like Valkyrie Profile DS where you don’t see much repeat action).
Before playing through Murasama the last (home console) game that I just completely ran through without a break was Super Mario Galaxy 2. I never got tired of playing it, or so aggravated that I needed to take a break. Seeing as I am a crazy picky person with no attention span, that’s pretty good company and I really think anyone who enjoys hitting video game enemies with swords will find something to like in Muramasa.