Reviews: Muramasa The Demon Blade

Muramasa Rebirth: A perfectly adequate remake that makes you shell out extra for the best parts.

I played and enjoyed the original Muramasa for the Wii, and I've enjoyed both versions. To begin and end the comparison, I'd say that the Wii version had the better translation for Kisuke and his story, and the remake did better with Monohime's.

The gameplay is fun, skill-intensive yet newb-friendly. Some enemies are cheaper than others, but I rarely felt the game wasn't playing fair or giving me a shot at victory. However, having to beat the same bosses multiple times for all the best endings can get old after a while.

The visuals and music are gorgeous, but ultimately repetitive, and the repetitive postgame necessary to see all the endings makes it worse. Heavy recycling doesn't help. Worse, the few unique areas, like the mountains of Hida, hint at what could have been.

Story-wise, Kisuke's is an epic plot of love, betrayal, and warfare that always manages to end on a tragic-yet-poignant note of hope and uplift. Momohime's, by contrast, is more of a picaresque than anything else. Kisuke is a flawed but relatably human character, Jinkuro (the spirit possessing Momohime) is a jerk with few redeeming qualities. This is even mirrored in their final bosses, with Kisuke fighting the evil mastermind and a demonic god in a dramatic two-stage showdown while Momohime cracks a statue and dodges projectiles. Momohime's story, taken on its own merits, isn't bad, exactly, but Kisuke's blows hers out of the water.

As of this writing, I have only played two of the DLC chapters: the last isn't out yet and the first didn't catch my interest. Both, in many ways, succeed as both stories and as alternative gameplay, and both have two different, individually-satisfying endings. The biggest problem with them is, again, a repetitive post-game: beating the same bosses over and over to unlock the item necessary to see their second endings.

Finally, I found the game's deeply Buddhist themes interesting to think about. It's not Shakespeare, but it's an interesting digression from the usual patterns of storytelling I didn't realize I'd become accustomed to.

If you'd like to try a unique action game with half a brain and a bit of heart, either version of Muramasa is well worth your time, despite its flaws. If you have both a Wii and a Vita, the DLC makes the latter version a superior choice, absent other considerations.