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Game Guys review - Muramasa Rebirth

5:43 PM, Jul 10, 2013   |    comments
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  • Aksys Games' 'Muramasa Rebirth' for PlayStation Vita.
  • Aksys Games' 'Muramasa Rebirth' for PlayStation Vita.

Four years ago, the Nintendo Wii got a surprise hit in the third-party game Muramasa: The Demon Blade.  Fast-forward to today, and PlayStation Vita owners have a chance to experience a refined and expanded version of the beautifully-made game and one could argue it's even better than the original.

Now called Muramusa Rebirth, the game's story will seem quite familiar to those who have played the Wii original.  Familiar, but not the same.  While the core premise of playing as a character who's lost his or her memory and is fighting to regain not only it but the mastery of the legendary Demon Blades along the way, Rebirth adds four new scenarios and characters available via DLC.

Each character's story is interesting enough, but fails to be ultimately compelling.  Rather than wanting to continue playing to advance a character's storyline,  players will find themselves playing simply to enjoy the game's great visuals along with its well-done 2D gameplay.

Presenting a blend of basic platforming along with hack-n-slash action and RPG-lite features, Muramusa Rebirth controls better on the Vita than it did the Wii.  As simple as it sounds, the choice to map jump to the 'X' button rather than by pressing 'up' on the D-pad makes a world of difference.  The rest of the controls fall into place nicely and proves to be quite easy to learn and un-daunting to master.

While the control scheme might be fairly simple to get down well enough, it's in the execution of those controls that Muramasa Rebirth offers the greatest challenge.  With a combat system set up for ninja-like reflexes for physical knockbacks and projectile deflection, timing really can be the difference between life and death.  This is especially true in battles against larger, tougher foes.  Mastering when and why to perform certain actions will do a player quite well.

As the game progresses, enemies grow stronger.  Luckily, so do the game's characters through its rather simple leveling up system.  Just upping the ratings of a character's stats aren't the only way to improve on paper, however, as Muramasa Rebirth has a number of different swords that can be forged.  In fact, there's more than 100 of them with characters equipping three at any one time.  Finding the combination that works well for the player and the situation only makes things that much better later in the game.

The visuals found within Muramasa Rebirth fall in line with what one might expect from a Vanillaware-developed title.  Just like the upcoming Dragon's Crown game the studio is working on, this title shines a lush color scheme and characters and environments that look hand-painted.  While foreground and background graphics don't always agree, it's a very nice-looking package overall on the Vita's OLED screen.

Similar can be said about the game's audio.  Featuring a soundtrack ripe with wooden instruments, it's quite pleasing on the ears and matches well with the game's feudal Japanese and Shinto-like feel.  For better or for worse, Muramasa Rebirth's voice track is Japanese only and might put off those who would rather hear conversations in English rather than reading subtitles.  An English voice track, however, might take away from the old-time oriental presentation Vanillaware did so well to produce.

When all is said and done, Muramasa Rebirth is one of those games that the majority of PlayStation Vita owners should check out, if not simply purchase for themselves.  It offers an overall great gameplay experience that has a lot to like about it from top to bottom.

21/25 23/25 18/25 20/25 24/25 88/100

Version tested: PlayStation Vita

(Aksys Games supplied a copy of this game for review.)

See how what our review scores mean and how the math adds up.


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