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

A Long Absence

Hello all you beautiful people.  It’s been a while since my last post here.  A lot and not that much at all has happened since the last post.  I’ve tried out quite a few games and been reading through 10-year old Game Developer magazines.  I’ve also gotten up to speed on general iPad/iPhone development using Objective-C and the iPhone SDK.

I’ve been getting into the habit in the last few weeks of sitting down with a game I’ve never played and trying it out for an hour.  I have a few reasons for doing this: a) as a designer, I want to look at what other games are doing/have done, b) I want to analyze how well other games pull a gamer in within the first moments of a game and how much of the game the player can get a feel for in those moments and c) I like to play games.  My plan was/is to write up my impressions of the games I’ve been running through.  So pretty soon you should be able to look forward to some notes on Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Assassin’s Creed, NickToons Unite!, Open Season, Sonic Heroes, Sonic & Knuckles, Jimmy Neutron: Attack of the Twonkies, Kirby Air Ride, and World of Warcraft. As you may have noticed, I’ve been raiding my little brother’s library for titles I hadn’t played.

Reading through the old Game Developer magazines has been interesting.  Not only has there been a lot of great information I’ve left sitting on my shelves for all these years, but it’s pretty fun reliving the history of game development through articles written when I was in college.  I’ve been reading them chronologically and just got to 2002 last night, a time when the Front Line Awards were praising the nVidia GeForce 3 graphics card, Maya 4, and the “new” Titanium Powerbook G4.  It was also funny to notice an ad for the 2002 Game Developers Conference while wearing the freebie shirt I got from attending the 2002 Game Developers Conference.

lastly, I just want to mention that the Pragmatic Programmers’ iPhone SDK Development by Bill Dudney and Chris Adamson is a great book for getting up to speed on the basics of iPhone/iPad development using Apple’s iOS SDK.  I found it well written and the progression of topics well thought-out.  I also liked that the authors chose to be tutorial-level detailed with new topics, but as the reader progresses through the book, the authors leave the implementation of previously learned material to the reader.  It does the dual job of forcing the reader to actually learn what there doing and practice it, while also making the book itself more readable and hold more information (since they don’t have to reprint the same instructions over and over again, lots of space is saved).  so yeah, good book.  Great resource.  It’s been super helpful in getting me my first iPad gig.



Currently playing: World of Warcraft Trial Edition