This week we got to take a look at Vanillaware's Muramasa: The Demon Blade. This 2D adventure looks as though it jumped out of an ancient Japanese painting. Four years in the making, this Wii exclusive embodies the culture of Japanese art, mythology, traditions and even food.
Muramasa prides itself on the celebration of the Japanese mythology. An abundant amount of research went into Japans history and customs, giving it its traditional look. For the US, it was decided to leave the kanji and calligraphy as well as the original Japanese voice overs with subtitles. Much of the art were actual drawings by hand and even painted by the President of Vanilla Ware. The small team has an old fashion way of making things.
There are two playable characters, the male Samurai Kisuke and female Samurai Momohime. Women were never allowed to be Samurai, so Momohime gets plenty of strange and startled reactions as we follow her. A player can only go through one story at a time, no switching out characters while in the middle of battle. We find that Kisuke has lost his memory, but know he has betrayed his clan and isn't a very nice guy. Momohime is a princess that becomes possessed by an evil Samurai spirit who is extremely mean to her. Both are traveling across Japan to meet an evil shogun while collecting swords, aka Demon Blades. While he begins in the east, she will start in the west. During some point in their journey, Kisuke and Momohime's paths do cross, but nothing else was mentioned after that. As you play, you will find that both characters will have completely different stories, enemies, boss battles, weapons and endings.
Moving into the demo, we first picked our difficulty level, Easy or Normal. It was advised to start on Easy Mode for now because Normal is "very hard." More blocking is involved with more damage taken off each time you are hit. In Easy you don't have to block at all and can hit projectiles back at the enemies. Players can also unlock the hardest difficulty where you can only get hit once. However, it -is- possible to make it through the game without getting hit.
We started with looking at Kisuke. While running through the stage, you can not draw your swords unless an enemy is spotted. Your swords are very fragile and take damage easily. They must be repaired frequently by catching the floating spirits or by simply changing it out for one of the other two that you can carry. There are 108 swords to gather overall by collecting, buying or forging. Once you switch out your sword, the game briefly pauses making it easier for you to not get hit. It's pretty dramatic everytime you do switch. Switching also helps you accumulate higher and preform different combos which can reach up to 999 hits! My highest was around 60-something.
The company has also decided NOT to use the motion controls of the Wii. Vanillaware built the game around the motion controls for a year, then decided to change it. They mentioned that they believed the sensors were not accurate enough and, since the game is so precision based, it was taken out. You can use the standard Wii-Remote and Nunchuck, but some people prefer the GameCube or classic controller.
The two individual characters stories alone will be around 15 hours each, although, you can beat it in seven. If you do just run through the seven hours, don't expect to collect near the amount of swords, run into the same amount of bosses or even get the real ending.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade is rated Teen for fantasy violence and suggestive themes. It is expected to release September 8th for Wii.