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TGS 08: Hands-on with Muramasa: The Demon Blade

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I don't like the Wii very much. That's not "being biased," that's personal preference, and I'll straight up admit that I don't like the majority of its software, the way the controller feels in my hand, or any of its online services. I do, however, like good videogames, which is why Muramasa: The Demon Blade is the first Wii game in a long time to make me stand up and take notice. It looked, after all, simply amazing.

Developed by Vanillaware, the people behind Odin Sphere, and published by Marvelous, the people who put out intensely Japanese crap that a handful of people (Dale, Colette and me) care about, Muramasa is a hand-drawn 2D sidescrolling action game. It's pretty much my type of game. It was a TGS priority of mine, and I got to play a stage of it so that I might deliver a preliminary verdict.

So, does Muramasa play as beautifully as it looks? Read on to find out.

Let me preface this by saying that you are not prepared for how truly beautiful this game looks. You might think you are, but you really aren't. Seeing the game up close and in motion is something that a compressed online video or a handful of screenshots really can't mimic. This game is absolutely jawdroppingly gorgeous.

With that out of the way, let's talk game. 

Rather than continuously scrolling from left to right, the stage I played was broken up into several smaller screens, in which a group of enemies would appear and need to be killed for the game to progress. After each screen is cleared, your chosen character briefly celebrates while text -- in Japanese of course -- appears on the screen. One can assume this was a grading system, but I cannot be sure.

Combat is a simple affair, with a regular attack and a powerful magic attack at your disposal. The combat feels a bit too simple, but I must also add that the language barrier always hinders one's ability to fully get into the controls. As it was, much of my time with the female character was spent simply hammering one button until everything was dead.

The combat may feel simple, but you certainly look like a badass as you take down ninja warriors, umbrella-wielding creatures and a huge number of other terrifically animated enemies. One particularly cool trick is to knock enemies into the air, then jump after them and knock them perpetually higher.  

That's the trouble with this game though, from what little time I had with it. It all looks great, but the gameplay itself feels somewhat flat and unfulfilling. The enemies put up very little fight and it wasn't until the boss battle that I ever felt under real threat.

When the demo ended, I was left thinking: "Is that all?" I'd waited a long time to play this game and I expected a little more than what I received. It is of course unfair to judge the whole product based on a few minutes' playtime, but a few minutes is all I had and I was disappointed by them.

My hope is that the full game offers something more challenging and a little deeper. If the full experience is what I played, then this game will be little more than style over substance. This game is too beautiful to be such a disappointment.

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Filed under... #Tokyo Game Show #Wii

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