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Muramasa: The Demon Blade - WII - Preview

E3 2009 PreviewE3 2008 GameZone Previews

Call me shallow, but I do not believe that beauty is only skin deep. Sure, we’re all supposed to embrace things like personality and substance. But how can we form such deep thoughts when our jaws are on the floor in absolute awe? Muramasa: The Demon Blade inspires that kind of a reaction. One glance at the screenshots and you can see it’s something different. One glimpse of it in motion and you will be amazed at what these artists have accomplished.

The overall look of the game is joyously jaw-dropping. Odin Sphere fans will be quick to note the similarities (Muramasa is, after all, from the same developer: Vanillaware), but this is more than a visual sequel or expansion. The backgrounds are literally multiple layers deep; in simple terms, it’s as if the developers combined several exquisite paintings and dropped them into this game. Unlike Odin Sphere, where almost every stage was locked in a circle (reach the end and it starts over; the goals involved something other than getting from point A to point B), Muramasa’s worlds appear to be much more open, cramming many environments (and in turn, many backdrops) into each individual stage.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade Screenshot

Muramasa’s character designs are just as eye-popping. If they’re not hand-drawn, Vanillaware has done an incredible job of making them appear to have been produced the old-fashioned way. Thus far, every monster is at the very least impressive – many are unbelievable, and all of them feature unique and highly fluid animations that ensure they’ll stand out.

What’s most striking about Muramasa is that, in addition to the spellbinding graphics, it is a game that plays beautifully. The side-scrolling mechanics are wonderfully quick and creative, merging the best parts of Odin Sphere with more aggressive weapons-based action games. As a result, the sword attacks are extremely fast and intense, unleashing explosions, smoky swirls and flashes of colors that are unlike anything else you’ve seen on Wii.

If you’ve played a fighting game before, the controls are instantly intuitive. If not, you might need a few minutes to master the jumping/floating techniques (you jump not by pressing the B button but by pushing up on the thumbstick). Attacks are tied to the A button and are easy to pull off regardless of your skill level. Combos flow naturally with each button tap, and you can link your attacks with aerial moves (ex: jump into the air and dive bomb your opponent) for an even greater assault.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade Screenshot

Thus far, the enemies aren’t as difficult as Odin Sphere, but Muramasa is definitely not a cakewalk. Controlling Momohime, a young woman, or Kisuke, a young man, players get two different stories spanning unique but interlocking quests. We don’t know much about the story except that Momohime’s soul has been possessed by a spirit known as Jinkuro. He’s now in control of her body and is essentially the reason she fights. Kisuke, on the other hand, has lost his memory and does not know why he is being chased. He fights for his life and to discover the truth behind his past.

Momohime’s level consisted of a boss battle: a giant man-creature with one enormous eye. He sluggishly threw his arms toward Momohime, hoping to inflict damage. With a large life meter, he wasn’t easy to take down, but after a few hundred strikes with Momohime’s swords (she had two in the demo, can have three overall and will be able to forge over 100 of them in the game – same goes for Kisuke), the boss was dead.

Kisuke’s E3 quest also commenced with a boss battle (a giant samurai with huge blades), though it was preceded by world exploration and minion battles that resembled Odin Sphere. During his stage, you could see the direction the developers are taking with the levels. They’re linear (so far) but multi-tiered – reaching the exit may not be as simple as going from point A to point B. You may have to jump across tree branches or climb a few mountains. Those actions are easy – and tons of fun to execute – thanks to seamless double jump mechanics. When coupled with the floating mechanic (which lets you glide down softly rather than slamming down at gravity’s will), the double jump is an impeccable move.

Due to ship this September, Muramasa: The Demon Blade isn’t one of those games that should be on your must-play list – it MUST be on it. Stay with GameZone for more in the coming months.

 

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Louis Bedigian
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