Muramasa: The Demon Blade was originally released by Ignition for the Wii back in 2009. Developed by Vanillaware (the company behind Odin Sphere and the upcoming Dragon’s Crown), the game follows a ninja, Kisuke, and a princess, Momohime, and their involvement with the eponymous blade. Vanillaware is well known for their art design and graphical prowess, and Muramasa is certainly no exception. The 2D art is incredibly detailed, and the smooth animation made the game a joy to play initially.
I had a chance to play and complete Muramasa: The Demon Blade when it first came out, and while I enjoyed the experience, there were several factors that held it back from greatness in my eyes. I found the gameplay to get rather stale after a few hours, and the plot was a muddled mess. However, with Muramasa Rebirth (http://muramasarebirth NULL.com/) for the PlayStation Vita, Aksys appears to have fixed several of the original’s issues while adding additional content into the mix.
There is absolutely no comparison between the graphics and presentation of the original and Rebirth. While the original was certainly impressive in its day, the graphics in Rebirth really breathe new life into the experience. I’ve never considered myself a graphics snob, but it definitely enhanced my enjoyment of the title, especially having played the original. Colors are rich and vibrant, and seem to jump off the screen. The clarity is simply astounding; it makes the original look washed out in comparison.
The animation is as perfect as ever, and your character’s attacks feel even more over-the-top, visually impressive, and satisfying. I definitely enjoyed slashing, dashing, and cutting my way through groups of ninjas during my short time with the title. I used a secret art during my playtime that shot flames out of the sides of Kisuke, and watching and hearing the flames race and burn through my enemies was especially satisfying. The graphical upgrade almost makes it feel like a new experience, but since the gameplay is still largely the same, you’ll still spend most of your time slaughtering wave after wave after wave of ninjas and other enemies.
On the gameplay front, Aksys added the ability to customize buttons and, thankfully, assigned jumping to a button. You had to push up on the joystick in the Wii version, which never really felt natural. Having a dedicated jump button helps keep the pace of the combat fluid. You’ll never accidentally jump—or not jump, for that matter—which is a relief. Muramasa Rebirth feels quite natural on the Vita, and since save points were pretty frequent in the original, handheld play on the go should work well, too.
Perhaps most importantly, at least to me, Aksys re-translated the game’s script. I honestly had no idea what went on in the Wii version due to its spotty translation. While I didn’t experience any story segments during my time with Rebirth, I’m pretty confident in their abilities, at this point. After their work with 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and its sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward, I have little doubt this translation is better. Benefit of the doubt, perhaps, but it’s hard not to think of it like that.
In terms of new content, Aksys has four DLC scenarios with four new protagonists planned for after the game’s release. I’m unsure of the content and length of these scenarios, but Aksys will probably release more info as we approach the game’s June 25 release date.
As for me, I’m unsure of whether or not I’ll pick it up. While Rebirth is definitely the definitive release of the game, the gameplay itself is still largely the same as the original. So despite the graphical upgrade, new script, and refined controls, it still feels awfully familiar, and I can’t help but feel that the hack-and-slash gameplay will still grow stale for me. If you’re a fan of the original or the genre, you’ll probably want to pick it up. But if you didn’t like it the first time around, your mind likely won’t be changed by Rebirth. If you’ve never tried it, at least give it a shot, if nothing else for the presentation. For me, though, Muramasa was a case of style over substance, and that’s still the same with Rebirth.