Almost 4 years after Vanilliaware’s critically acclaimed Nintendo Wii title Muramasa: The Demon Blade, the Playstation Vita sees a port of the 2009 game in the form of Muramasa Rebirth from publisher Aksys games. This digital only title (in the UK) comes packed with a revised translation script, stunning visuals and backdrops, two campaigns with a hack-n-slash gameplay that looks very stylish.
The original Muramasa: The demon Blade looked pretty good on the Wii, despite the hardware that it had at its disposal. However, in Rebirth, the 2D hand drawn sprites and backdrops have received a massive upgrade for the Playstation Vita’s vibrant OLED screen. The redone art looks absolutely gorgeous and they shine especially well when you are in battle; watching these fighting animations being played is like a painting in motion.
There are two campaigns which are parallel to choose from which are both separate stories each with its own main character. One side features a princess whose body has been possessed by a swordsman and the other following a young ninja who has amnesia and is being chased with no idea why as to why. You can play one of these two campaigns in any order you want. You have a few difficulty modes to choose from ranging from your standard normal mode to a mode which is the hardest where 1 hit kills you.
Combat in Muramasa Rebirth is simple you move with either by choice the d-pad or analog stick and whatever control scheme you choose that unused control scheme will become how you use items by pressing down. You press square to attack, X to jump, triangle to cycle through the swords you have equipped and you have a “Secret Art” that swords have which is activated by pressing the Circle button. You can also hold down square to block incoming attacks or press it rapidly for incoming multiple fast objects such as kunais to block in rapid succession. You can forge new swords in which they come in two flavours a standard sword which deal out quick hits but weaker in damage dealing and a Long sword which are much stronger but slower. You have branching paths in this forge system that will lead down to stronger swords with new unique secret arts or a powered up version of an already seen secret art. You can have three swords equipped at any one time and switch between the three in battle on the fly however if you time it correctly you can deal damage to all enemies on screen in one quick slash. Swords also have a Soul Gauge in which allows you to use the swords secret art. When the meter fully drops you can use the secret art any more however the gauge does refill slowly over time and there are items to buy to refill the soul gauge of your swords. Swords can break by blocking which decreases the sword’s energy but restore over time so it is has some nice micromanaging over when your sword will break to quickly switch out to a healthy sword while the other sword restores it strength in the background.
There are some areas in the locations you visit where you will talk to different types of NPCs. Some give you items or you can purchase inventory items ranging from a smoke bomb to escape from a battle to health items that restore health. A downside though is that while you transverse through the locations they all look the same for the most part and in that the game has you going back and forth through some locations which can be long so it becomes tedious. There are hot springs points when you can visit when you find a monkey in some of the locations which recovers your entire health and soul gauge but an incentive to find these monkeys are that events can also happen whilst you are there. You can also visit a ramen shop in which you can eat different types of ramen to restore X amount of health and soul to your sword. To ensure you aren’t spamming health items there is a fullness meter that appears on top of your characters head each item have a different amount of how full they make your character once that bar has depleted you are able to use another item again. You can also make items using different items by using ingredients which is fairly straightforward and easy.
The story progression in this game comes in forms of chapters and at the end of these chapters you get the boss in which is a really nice change in pace and puts your skills to the test. I think the bosses are where the game really shines for me as they interesting and have you doing different kinds of things during the fight whereas normally running through the game map fighting the general enemies can become monotonous.You can also test your skills in certain locations you will find a “Cave of evil” which are challenge rooms essentially that pits you against a wave ton of enemies at once in which you have to defeat although it can at times be really chaotic when they just fill the screen and it gets a bit hard to see what exactly you are doing in terms of seeing which enemy went where they tend to start overlapping each other. If you were to die though during a boss battle or in a cave of evil don’t worry about losing your progress as it will send you right back out just before that event so it respects your time in that aspect rather than you having to go through the whole location to the end again.