Muramasa Rebirth is a PS Vita port of Vanillaware’s former Wii exclusive Muramasa: The Demon Blade released in 2009. Just like the developer’s recent title Dragon’s Crown, the game features beautiful hand-drawn 2D environments and meticulously animated characters and enemies, along with a setting steeped in mythology.
What You Need to Know
Muramasa Rebirth is essentially a side-scrolling hack-and-slash game with light RPG elements such as being able to equip gauntlets which boost your attack power. The game revolves around Japanese history and mythology and is set during the Genroku period (1688 to 1704) at a time when a demonic presence tied to the cursed Muramasa blades threatens to wreak havoc across the idyllic landscape of feudal Japan. You can choose to play as one of two characters – the fugitive amnesiac ninja Kisuke or the beautiful princess Momohime who has been possessed by an evil spirit.
There are a number of innovative gameplay systems at work in Muramasa Rebirth. You can switch between Kisuke and Momohime after saving your game and returning to the main menu, and once you’ve completed the game with both characters you can equip any of the blades from your newly shared arsenal. The blades you collect during your journey make up the heart of Muramasa Rebirth as they represent the only means by which you can damage your enemy. Both characters can equip three blades at once and each blade is infused with Spiritual Energy which depletes every time you block an enemy’s attack or use the powerful ‘Secret Art’ unique to that weapon. Once this Spiritual Energy is used up completely the blade will break and you’ll be forced to switch to another weapon while you wait for the broken blade’s energy to recharge.
What’s the Same?
Muramasa Rebirth has the same DNA as Vanillaware’s other action-orientated titles in that there are intricately designed bosses to defeat which have their own health bar so you can easily see how much longer the battle is likely to take. The game’s visual aesthetic is also very similar to the likes of Dragon’s Crown although there are far more moving components in Muramasa Rebirth’s pre-rendered environments since the game is mainly set outdoors in the Japanese countryside. Animation is another area where the similarities between Muramasa Rebirth and previous Vanillaware titles are immediately obvious since they all boast hand-drawn animations which impart plenty of personality and style to each character and enemy.
You’ll Enjoy Muramasa Rebirth If You Liked…
… The Onimusha series. Capcom’s popular samurai-themed hack-and-slash series features many of the same nods to Japanese history, warfare and traditions as Muramasa Rebirth and also features similarly gorgeous environments.
… Dragon’s Crown. If you loved the visual style of Dragon’s Crown then you’ll find plenty to appreciate in Muramasa Rebirth since they share Vanillaware’s signature hand-drawn 2D art style.
What I Liked
- 5.) Every time you load up a save game you can choose between two play styles – Legend and Chaos. The Legend difficulty setting is ideal for players who just want to get through the game as quickly as possible whereas the Chaos setting throws a lot more enemies your way and they are tougher to boot.
- 4.) Vanillaware’s president George Kamitani penned the script for Muramasa Rebirth and he did a great job of creating a consistently engaging story throughout the game’s ten-hour breadth.
- 3.) Renowned sound studio Basiscape handled Muramasa Rebirth’s music and sound effects and I was genuinely transported to feudal Japan thanks to their wonderful soundtrack featuring and inspired by traditional Japanese music.
- 2.) If you’re a fan of Japanese culture (as I am) then you’ll undoubtedly enjoy being able to replenish your character’s health by eating lovingly depicted traditional food such as herring soba and tempura udon during your journey.
- 1.) Muramasa Rebirth runs remarkably smoothly for a game using pre-rendered environments and every new area loads lightning-quick. I didn’t detect any slow-down during battles even when the screen was packed with enemies and visual effects.
Most of the areas in the game are packed with splendid visual details such as wheat waving in the breeze and dragonflies flitting overhead. There’s one environment in the game that particularly stood out to me, however, and that is a moonlit city area where you can see the shadows of people moving in their apartments as well as crossing a traditional Japanese bridge in the background.
What I Didn’t Like
- 4.) Muramasa Rebirth hasn’t really been optimised for the PS Vita in the sense that there are no touch screen elements and the English dialogue accompanied by Japanese voice-overs is written almost too small to read comfortably.
- 3.) There is a lot of back-tracking throughout the game and both characters end up visiting the same areas during their respective journeys. Unfortunately the ability to warp to particular areas on the map is only unlocked upon completing the game.
- 2.) The hack-and-slash action which forms the core of Muramasa Rebirth can grow tedious after a while. Since your only weapon is a blade it cuts down your attack options and makes you wish you could use other traditional Japanese weapons like those seen in the Onimusha series.
- 1.) Many backgrounds are used multiple times throughout the game, even when you’re in a different part of Japan. For example, you’ll see the forest environment crop up time and time again, sometimes sporting the slightest of alterations to try and keep things feeling fresh.
Least Favourite Moment
I played Momohime’s story first so I was hoping that I’d be treated to a plethora of new environments when I began Kisuke’s quest. Sadly this wasn’t to be as he journeys across the same regions as the princess does, just in a different order and with a few detours for boss battles which are thankfully unique to his campaign.
Unfortunately Muramasa Rebirth is a completely offline, singleplayer experience so that means no multiplayer and no leaderboards. There are a few extras to unlock, however, such as additional endings which are obtained by equipping certain blades during the final boss battle. There are also Evil Caves strewn across the map to test your skills in, containing dozens of enemies to defeat and yielding some great rewards for your efforts. Fresh scenarios featuring four new playable protagonists will be offered as DLC in the future but this content hasn’t even been released in Japan yet, let alone the West.
Muramasa Rebirth Official Launch Trailer
The Bottom Line
Muramasa Rebirth is a visually stunning hack-and-slash title offering insight into a fascinating time in Japan’s history, but repetition in a few key areas of the game prevent it from ascending to the top of its genre.
Muramasa Rebirth Gallery