By Steve Baltimore / July 16th, 2013
|Title: Muramasa Rebirth
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release Date: June 25th, 2013
Age Rating: T
Muramasa Rebirth is a remake of the Wii classic. It features upgraded graphics, as well as a brand new translation from Aksys Games. I had never played the Wii version of this game, so I went into this not knowing what to expect. Let’s see just what I found in the gorgeous-looking Vanillaware title.
The story is divided between two different characters you can choose at the start of game. The first character is Princess Momohime, who is forced to flee her castle after being possessed by the spirit of the evil fallen swordsman Jinkuro Izuna. Jinkuro plans to use her body until a more suitable one can be found. The second character is Kisuke, a ninja that is being pursued for things he no longer remembers. His only memory is that of a certain sword, which he must obtain no matter the price.
This version of the game features an all new translation of the story courtesy of Aksys Games. With no prior knowledge of this title, I cannot comment on the other translation, but I have heard from others that the translation on the Wii version was lacking. Even our own Review Manager, Scott MacDonald, said it was, “A muddled and confusing mess.” I am very happy to report the new translation is top notch. Everything is easy to understand, the dialogue flows well between the characters and has its own style and charm.
This game looks gorgeous, and this is likely the best looking game on the Vita console to date. George Kamitani’s artwork never looked more crisp and clear than on the Vita’s OLED screen. Every screen looks like a work of art. The colorful backdrops make every area seem living and vibrant. The characters and enemies are all designed just as well as the backdrops. All the animations in the game are smooth and seamless. It does not get any better than this folks.
The music is very eastern in the way it sounds. It sounds as if it could fit into any Japanese ninja movie or anime you have ever seen. It fits the mood of the game quite nicely. I found myself more than once humming along with the music as I was slicing down the hordes of baddies. The dialogue, although not dubbed, is quite nice. The voice acting is well done and you get a great sense of the mood and tone of the characters through it.
There are couple of different difficulty modes to choose from at the start – Legend and Chaos. The main difference between the two is you take more damage on Chaos and you need to accurately time your blocks a bit better. The controls are fairly simple and very responsive, and you move around with the analog stick. Pressing down on the analog stick makes your character duck. Pressing left or right while pressing down causes your character to roll in that direction. This is important when trying to evade enemy attacks. Pressing the square button makes your character attack with the equipped sword. By pressing square multiple times you can perform a combo attack. Pressing the X button allows your character to jump. While in mid air if you press up or down on the analog stick and the attack button, you can attack either up or down depending on which direction you have pressed. Holding down the square button allows you to block. Both characters in the game control the exact same way. Though these are the basic controls of the game, there are lots of other tricks and tactics to explore as you play. You will need every trick and tactic you can muster to defeat the many bosses found throughout the world. These battles are truly epic and will test your skill even on the easier difficulty.
As you explore the game world, there is an in-game map to help you find your way. This map can be displayed a couple of different ways, and by pressing the select button you can toggle through the map options. You will notice on the map that there are a few different icons displayed. These mark where the shops, save points, hot springs, and treasures are. If a treasure icon is present in an area, then there is a treasure hidden somewhere and you will want to keep your eye out for it. The map will only show you places you have visited until a map of the area has been purchased. You can find these maps at the shops. Each area will have at least one shop in it somewhere that will sell maps, accessories, and other consumable items. An arrow on the map screen also points you in the direction you are supposed to be going.
The items and accessories in the game have various effects, such as food restoring your health. When consuming a food item, a fullness bar appears above your character. You will not be able to eat more food until this bar goes away. Consuming food also grants you a certain amount of spirit that is used for forging new Demon Blades, but I’ll get to that later. There are also healing items that are not food, and you can consume these at will without worrying about the fullness bar, but consuming these items will give you no spirit. You can equip up to five consumable items in the shortcut menu. You can the access those items quickly by pressing left and right on the D-pad and then pressing down on the pad to use them. The accessories give various stat bonuses and immunities. You can only equip one accessory at a time, so you will have to choose carefully and decide what is more important to you in the area you’re exploring at the time.
The story progresses in a very linear fashion. so you pretty much have to stick to the path it gives you. Roads are blocked off with colored barriers, but once you defeat the boss of an area, you are rewarded with a sword to destroy these so that you can move on to the next area. You will also notice caves that are sealed as you move along the path. These are sealed with various colored seals just like the roads. These Dens of Evil have hordes of monsters in them. The game tells you the recommended level before you enter these areas. If you complete them, you are rewarded with a ton of XP, cash and a rare item for your troubles.
Enemy encounters are random, and as you step into a screen, an exclamation point appears and the battle begins. You gain XP and cash from completing battles. At the end of the battles, you are rewarded with bonus XP if you have performed well. Doing things such as ending battles quickly or not taking damage will grant you these bonuses. You will gain a level up when you have obtained the required XP to move to the next level. Gaining a level will increase your HP, strength, and vitality, and certain amounts of strength and vitality are necessary to wield more powerful swords as the game progresses.
By pressing the start button, you have access to the menu. From here you can change your equipment, forge new swords, set up your shortcut items, and cook. You will find recipes as you progress through the game, and some will be purchased at a store or found as treasure. These dishes will replenish your health, give you a good amount of spirit and other bonuses. Of course, you need the proper ingredients to cook them.
You can create new swords for your characters in the forge. Momohime and Kisuke each have their own set of swords that you can forge. There are two different types of swords available – short swords and long swords. Short swords will attack much faster, but usually have less attack power. Long swords attack slower, but have higher attack power. Swords not only grant you a variety of special moves, they also provide the player with stat bonuses and other perks just for having them equipped, such as faster digestion, which allows the player’s fullness gauge to decrease faster.
You will have access to just a few swords to start with. The forge kinda works like a skill tree in a standard RPG. As you create new swords it will unlock other swords you can create. You will also have to defeat bosses to obtain special blades. Each sword you create will require a certain amount of souls. Souls can be collected along the road or when when you slay enemies. You will be required to have a certain amount of spirit as well. You will also notice that a certain amount of strength and vitality is required to wield each sword. If you choose to forge a sword that is too powerful, the game will let you know you do not have the required stats to wield this blade, although it doesn’t take into account any stat bonuses you have from equipment or food when telling you this. This is something you will want to watch out for because you may be able to wield a better sword than you think, despite what the game tells you.
You can equip three swords to take into battle with you. Each sword will have its own attack power as well as a special move. Special moves will vary from sword to sword, with some attacks being ground-based attacks, while others will be air-based attacks and so on. Every time you block with your sword or use a special move, it will deplete some of the spirit power. If a sword’s spirit power is completely used up it will temporarily break, usually causing you to take damage. Not to worry though, since you can simply press the triangle button to switch to either of the other two swords you have equipped. Luckily, the unequipped sword’s spirit power will regenerate over time. You will be able to tell how much spirit a sword has by looking at the white outline around the sword icons at the top of the screen.
After you complete the story with both characters there are some extra challenges that await you, but be warned some of the post game challenges will test your skill even on the easier difficulty. You’ll be able to use any sword in the game you have obtained with either of the two characters and can challenge Momohime’s bosses with Kisuke and vise versa. There are tons of trophies that can be earned by taking on the Dens of Evil and other things. There are even a few different endings to unlock with each character as well.
I found this title very satisfying in terms of gameplay and story. The visuals are the best I have seen on the Vita so far. I could go on and on about how great the artwork and visual are in this game. You will have to pick it up and play it to get a full sense of just how pretty it really is. The action is fast paced with tight controls and it with all different sword combinations and special skills there is even a bit of strategy to be had here. Other than some of the post game challenges getting a bit crazy on the difficulty side, I really think anyone that is looking for a great action title should pick this one up.
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. DLC was unavailable at the time of writing.
Aksys GamesMuramasaMuramasa RebirthMuramasa: The Demon BladePSNVanillawareVita