Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mashbuttons takes some Demon Blades on the go | Muramasa Rebirth PS Vita Review

I've had the PS Vita since December of 2012, and to be honest it doesn't get much use.  Yes, I know - there are a lot of games out there, there are PS One games, the free games with PS Plus, but so far, at least to me, there hasn't been a singular game that gives me reason to pick it up over my iPhone or iPad for quick gaming on the go.

Enter, Muramasa Rebirth a re-issue of the 2009 Wii title Muramasa: The Demon Blade, released for the PS Vita on June 25th.  We already reviewed the Wii version here, so we'll be focusing on the PS Vita version only.

In Muramasa Rebirth, you play either as Kisuke or Momohime.  Initially, there doesn't appear to be any difference, but they each have their own stories to uncover.  The characters each are on the search for 108 "demon blades" that you either can find or forge using gathered materials.  Billed as an "action-RPG", the normal layout of the levels are like that of Metroid, or Castlevania - in where you move from "tile to tile" as opposed to a large overall level.  This introduces the ability to backtrack once you unlock certain skills, or are of a higher level.  As you move from panel to panel, you may be attacked by various enemy types.  The early stages of the game walk you through some basic moves to battle your opponents on the screen.  You can string multiple combos together for more XP at the end of the round.  And like a lot of RPG's, once you've defeated the enemies on screen, there's a splash that comes up with stats like time, enemies killed, XP points gathered, and any other bonus stats that increase your XP towards the next level-up.

As you progress through the levels, you gather items, equipment, and even ingredients to make recipes, and forge new swords.  You equip three swords at a time, and each has some unique aspect to it as well as they grow in strength.  Part of the strategy to playing is swapping between the swords during fights to string together combos as well as allow broken blades to "heal" when they're sheathed.  Yes, it may seem strange, but over time your blades will break...and to fix, why just put that sword away and in a few minutes, all will be well.

If you're familiar with the developer, Vanillaware - you may be familiar with their art style.  They use hand-drawn backgrounds and animations that are simply beautiful on the 5-inch Vita display.  Also being a game rooted in Japanese lore, the voices are in Japanese, with an english subtitle track in place, that could turn off some players who may dismiss it as not a worthy title, but that shouldn't detract anyone.  Gameplay is solid, controls are superbly tight, and there are even two difficulties if you get stuck and aren't familiar with the type of difficulty a game like this may be used to.

Muramasa Rebirth is not perfect however, sometimes you can go a few panels without any action occurring, which just seemed like a strange way to make the world seem "bigger" - and they use some seemingly recycled backgrounds to accomplish this as well. 

All in all, for a system (Vita) that is ripe for a killer app, Muramas Rebirth goes a long way in trying to achieve that perfect balance of quick pick up and play with deep RPG elements. gives Muramasa Rebirth an 8 out of 10.