Initial Impressions: MURAMASA: THE DEMON BLADE

This marks the first installment of my new mini-column entitled “Initial Impressions.”  Here I’ll be doing mini reviews of games I’ve never played before based on a single hour of play.  The first on the list is Vanillaware’s Muramasa: The Demon Blade for the Wii (released in North America in September of 2009).  Muramasa is a beautiful 2D (yes, 2D) side-scrolling action/RPG/beat-em-up.  The main gameplay element involves battling characters in much the same way one would in a 2D fighter (e.g Street Fighter or Samurai Shodown) but with a somewhat simpler system that leads to a feeling of button-mashing in a lot of instances.  The game allows the player to improve the on-screen character through leveling up and forging new blades.  The game boasts hundreds of possible forging combinations, creating hundreds of different swords, each with unique properties and special attacks.  Sounds cool.  I personally found it a bit overwhelming, however, and realized fairly early on that, despite the promise of lots of options, each sword basically worked the same way.  Also, once realizing that this was a game designed for 60+ hours of play, I decided as fun and as pretty as the combat and environments were, I really couldn’t see myself playing a game like this for more than 10 hours at best.  Maybe a great story could pull me through the 60 hours (I mean, the game IS fun) but unfortunately I found it to be convoluted, esoteric Eastern-style story, heavy with Japanese cultural symbolism.  Fascinating, yes, but when I can’t connect with the character’s motivations, I find myself starting to wonder why I’m going through all this trouble.

Summary:  Beautiful game; generally fun, side-scrolling brawler that can sometimes degrade into mere button-mashing; convoluted Japanese plot line that many Westerners are probably either not going to care about or not be able to follow; lots and lots of game play hours (too many in my opinion).


Currently playing: World of Warcraft, Starcraft II

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