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Just when you think Odin Sphere will be the last truly great 2-D title to ever see the light of day, out comes Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Nintendo Wii. It's arguably one of, if not the, greatest third-party game that has ever come out in the history of the system.
The gameplay for Muramasa is extraordinary. You’re able to use the Wii-mote nunchuk combo, classic controller, or Gamecube pad, but for once, I actually prefer the Wii-mote combo to the other two, making this truly a Wii game that actually USES its hardware to its fullest potential. The game has you controlling one of two ninjas—a female and a guy, and the obvious differences (speed vs. strength) are apparent. But that doesn’t matter because both Momohime, the female, and Kisuke, the male, have enough in common to make either of them accessible once you get the hang of the other, and that’s because the controls are so bloody simple.
You only use one button to attack, while the other buttons just take out items or make you jump and dodge. But while that might seem overly simplistic to the point that you’d get bored very quickly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s because of the great number of new swords you can acquire, which enable you to decimate the monstrous and immense bosses easier (we’ll get to those in a second), and get to new areas as barriers block your path that you must equip a special sword to break. Some swords work better than others on specific bosses, giving the game a Mega Man vibe. This game kind of reminds me of Mega Man, in that some swords work better than others on specific
And what bosses! The end villains of each level are really something to be seen. Sometimes they’re screen spanning, and other times they’re much smaller, but either way the bosses are all quite different and fit into the storyline of each character. The male ninja is an amnesiac trying to acquire the perfect blade, and…well, the female’s story is a bit more confusing. It has something to do with souls being stolen and I’m pretty sure somewhere along the line it says that she was actually a guy in a woman’s body, and that she had to acquire her body back to be whole again, but I’m not quite sure. All the same, it keeps you interested all the way through.
And it’s good that it does, because the game is not all action. I didn’t mention it before, but Muramasa is every bit an RPG as it is an action game. You’re constantly leveling up and talking to people, who say strange and funny things along the way. The crowd-stealer for this game though is the graphics, which, like Odin Sphere really surpass your ideas of what the system is capable of. Because just like Odin Sphere proved that the PS2 still had some juice to it, Muramasa proves that the Wii is capable of lovely graphics, they just need to be put in 2-D. The water is hand-painted, the lush fields of grain are a delectable yellow, and just about everything about it is more enchanting than you could ever imagine the Wii being able to produce. It really is quite something.
But every game has its flaws, and Muramasa has at least one that I can think of, too. One major problem I had with this game was all the backtracking that you have to do. Yeah, sure, I love going back to locations to admire the scenery again once all of the ninjas and floating demon ghosts are gone (something I also didn’t mention is that this game is VERY Japanese), but it takes far too long sometimes to get to where you want to go. You're left sprinting across vacant maps just to get to a barrier you couldn’t get past earlier because you didn’t have the blade—and that’s just not good.
Also, well, that’s pretty much it. The music, graphics, and gameplay are all exceptional. Seriously, if you have a Wii, and you want something different, get this game. It may not be the most original title you’ll ever play but it’s still an overall masterpiece. Muramasa is certainly not to be missed.
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