Muramasa: The Demon Blade
|Muramasa: The Demon Blade|
North American Wii cover art
|Genre(s)||Action role-playing game|
Muramasa: The Demon Blade, known in Japan as Oboromuramasa (朧村正?, literally "Hazy Muramasa") is an action role-playing game developed by Vanillaware and published by Marvelous Entertainment in Japan, Rising Star Games in Europe, and Ignition Entertainment in North America for the Wii. The game was released in Japan on April 9, 2009, in North America on September 8, 2009, and in Europe on November 27, 2009.
Muramasa follows the story of Kisuke, a fugitive who has lost his memory, including that of a crime that he committed; and Momohime, a lithe princess possessed by a dark spirit. Gameplay allows players to use the Wii Remote (with Nunchuk), the Classic controller or the GameCube controller. The game allows players to use two different characters and features three difficulty levels.
Within its first week of release in Japan, Muramasa sold all of its shipped copies and reached the top Japan sales list.
A PlayStation Vita port titled Muramasa Rebirth was released in Japan on March 28, 2013. The port features four new short scenarios with four new playable protagonists available as downloadable content under the four-part expansion Genroku Legends (元禄怪奇譚 Genroku Kaikitan?). Aksys Games published it in North America on June 25, 2013.
The game has three different control methods, one that involves the Wii Remote, one that involves the Nintendo GameCube controller and another that uses the Classic Controller, for players who prefer more precision.
Graphically the game is the same hand-drawn 2D art style as its spiritual predecessor Odin Sphere, though inspiration was drawn from Japanese mythology and culture rather than Norse mythology. The game has over 30 different locales set on an overworld spanning across Japan.
Two playable characters are selectable: Kisuke, a young amnesiac ninja, and Momohime, a young princess of Narukami Han, Mino Province. Momohime starts off in the eastern Edo and goes to the western Kyo, while Kisuke goes the opposite direction. Both start with three katana out of 108 to collect and forge and can equip up to three at a time.
Weapons are distinguished into two categories, Blade (katana) and Long Blade (nōdachi). Blades are geared for high agility combat, with fast attack speed and less momentum, while Long Blades are bigger and deal more damage but have less mobility, suitable for sweeping a group of weak foes. Each sword has a Secret Art (ōgi), a powerful attack technique. Overuse of a sword (either by unleashing Secret Arts or deflecting attacks) will deplete its "Soul Gauge" and eventually break it, dropping its offensive capabilities substantially. Sheathed swords will gradually recover Soul Gauge; broken swords are repaired when the gauge is fully restored.
The game can be played in three modes: Muso, Shura, and Shigurui. Muso Mode focuses on character leveling as opposed to action, whereas Shura Mode is more action-based, recommended for skilled players. Shigurui Mode is only available after a player clears the game in Shura Mode. This mode plays in the same fashion as Shura Mode but limits the character's health to 1 and will never grow when the character levels up.
The game takes place during the Genroku era at the time of shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi on Honshū, the main island of Japan. Because of his thirst for power, a conflict over immensely powerful swords, the Demon Blades of Muramasa Sengo, occurs. The swords are cursed and are said to bring tragedy, madness, and untimely deaths. As the chaos from the conflict spreads, creatures from the netherworld are summoned by these blades, along with Dragon and Demon Gods.
There are numerous intersecting storylines of travelers. One tale is of Kisuke, an amnestic fugitive is aided by a Kitsune named Yuzuruha and the warrior miko Torahime to find a certain katana in the east. Another story is that of Momohime, the younger sister of Torahime, who is possessed by the spirit of the foul swordsman Izuna Jinkuro and is forced to assist him after fleeing from her castle while fighting supernatural forces bent on thwarting Jinkuro. Four additions in Genroku Kaikitan DLC expansion tell of a nekomata who assumed the form of a murdered girl to avenge her death, a farmer leading an uprising against the Daimyo for taxation, a rogue ninja seeking to avenge his father, and an Oni girl who searches for the treasures of the Seven Gods of Fortune.
- Momohime (百姫?) (Miyuki Sawashiro): A young and introverted princess of the Kagami House of the Narukami clan that was led by her father Akiyoshi Kagami in Han within the Mino Province. Ending up being possessed by the spirit of Jinkuro, she is forced to flee her castle and head westward to Kyo from Edo. In one ending, Jinkuro saves Momohime by giving her back her body and willingly going to hell. Momohime decides not to marry Yukinojyo and instead becomes a nun to pray for Jinkuro and offer penance for his crimes in hopes of freeing him from Hell. In the alternate ending, when her body is mortally wounded by Kisuke, Jinkuro fused his spirit with hers to save her life. As a result, she loses her memory and forgets her name. Under the name "Oboro", she embarks on a journey to regain her past. In her third ending, thanks to the fate-changing power of the Muramasa blade, Jinkuro negates the moment he possesses her so that she can live a happy life. Having married Yukinojyo, whose body Jinkuro manages to obtain, Momohime was said to have lived to be 100 years old with three children.
- Kisuke (鬼助?) (Hiroyuki Yoshino): A young ninja with no memory of his past and filled with a sense of vengeance as he goes eastward to Edo from Kyo, later revealed to be of the Uzuki clan taken as an infant by the Iga ninja. He carries a phantom katana as his weapon. He was granted skill in the powerful Oboro style when a ghostly swordmaster, the former master of Jinkuro named Senju Oboroya, saved his life by fusing his soul into him. Regaining his memory, that he was helping to procure Kuzuryu, Kisuke aids Torahime in taking the Demon Blade back. In his first ending, both he and Torahime die, but thanks to the mercy of Buddha they are reincarnated as a young man and woman named Kanbei and Ohana. Though they do not remember each other, thanks to Yuzuruha's influence they end up meeting again at a teahouse. In his second ending, Torahime dies, but as her final wish she asks him to become Momohime's bodyguard, to which he agrees. In order to make sure the Demon Blades never cause harm again, the two set out on a journey to destroy all of them. In his third ending, thanks to the power of the Muramasa blade, Kisuke is sent back in time to the night his death to avert both it and Torahime's. With the power of the Oboro Muramasa granting him control over all other Demon Blades, promising to marry Torahime once he returns, Kizuke takes Kuzuryu for himself to travel around the world with the intent to exhaust all traces of the sword's evil by destroying any equally sinister.
- Jinkuro Izuna (飯綱 陣九朗?) (Jouji Nakata): The spirit of a foul swordsman who was cursed with a fatal illness by a Nekomata whose tails he chopped off as part of a contract with the Wakamiya Clan. Refusing to accept his fate, Jinkuro planned to transfer his soul into Yukinojyo's body so he can claim his political and physical strengths, but accidentally took over Momohime's instead due to her interruption. Regardless, Jinkuro attempts to use Momohime's body to suit his needs before finding himself facing Fudo-Myoou. In the first ending, Jinkuro releases Momohime and goes to Hell, while the second has him save Momohime's life by fusing his soul with hers. In the third ending, after defeating Fudo-Myoou, Jinkuro is sent back in time to the moment where he was about to possess Yukinojyo and does not carry it out to spare Momohime and live her to live in happiness. He apparently dies later, but managed to take over Yukinojyo's body on his wedding night and said by scholar to have influenced horrific events .
- Kongiku (紺菊?) (Omi Minami): An Inari Kitsune (fox deity) under Fushimi who shows affection toward Jinkuro, who sees her as a tool to achieve his own goal. In the second ending, her actions resorted with her stripped of her powers and remain in her fox form. In the third ending, under the name Kiku, Kongiku disguises herself as a human to work in the Yagyu household as Momohime's personal maid.
- Yuzuruha (弓弦葉?) (Shiho Kawaragi): Another Kitsune who aids Kisuke, she is driven by the loss of control of the Demon Blade that sealed her kind's mortal enemy, Kuzuryu. In Kisuke's first ending, she is responsible for guiding Kisuke and Torahime to meet each other again after they are reincarnated.
- Torahime (虎姫?) (Ayako Kawasumi): The older sister of Momohime, she is a miko of the Kagami line who guards the Demon Blade Kuzuryu. Though killed during the battle, Torahime is allowed to remain among the living for forty-nine days to reclaim Kuzuryu to keep its power from being unleashed. In Kisuke's first ending, she is reincarnated without any of her memories, but thanks to Yuzuruha, she and Kisuke later meet again at a teahouse. In Kisuke's second ending she dies after her time runs out, but as her final wish she asks Kisuke to become Momohime's bodyguard, to which he agrees. In Kisuke's third ending, thanks to Kisuke using the power of the Oboro Muramasa to alter fate, she does not die on the night the Kuzuryu was stolen and sees Kisuke off before he embarks on his journey around the world, where he promises to come back and marry her once he has finished his task.
- Yukinojyo Yagyu (柳生 雪之丞?) (Shō Hayami): Third son of the Yagyū clan who serves as swordsmaster to the Shogun's family, having acquired a mastery of the Yagyuu swordsmanship sect and is in charge of espionage. He was originally planning an engagement with Momohime as a ruse to get the Kuzuryu, but it was nearly ruined by the dying Jinkuro when he attempted to possess him. In Momohime's third ending, it appears that Jinkuro managed to successfully take Yukinojyo's body and used him to perpetrate a number of terrible events.
- Sayo (小夜?): A young female Yamabushi who uses paper charms, explosives, and crows in combat against demons during her journey.
- Rankai (乱戒?) (Yasuhiro Mamiya): An evil monk chasing after the Jinkuro-possessed Momohime for personal reasons as he was a swordsman that was crippled in a fight with a then-living Jinkuro. However, in the first ending, after seeing Fudo-Myoou, Rankai renounced his evil ways and travels the country as a wandering monk to repent. During one of his journeys, he came across Miike in the care of a priest at the Totsuka shrine.
- Danjyo Shikami (Chafurin): A retainer of Momohime's family who betrayed them to Tokugawa. In Momohime's story, protected by a Nue spirit, Danjyo's treason is exposed by Jinkuro and he was eventually executed by the shogun with his soul sent to Hell. In the third ending of Kisuke's story, as its protagonist thwarts the theft of Kuzuryu, Danjyo's treason was uncovered by Torahime and he was imprisoned soon after.
- Tsunayoshi Tokugawa (徳川 綱吉?): The shogun, whose thirst for power caused the conflict over Kuzuryu and ordered Yukinojyo to exterminate Torahime with her family. In the third ending, the events leading to Kuzuryu ending up in his hands negated, Tokugawa never falls under the sword's evil influence.
- Kuzuryu (狗頭竜 "Dog-headed Dragon"?): A Muramasa blade that contains an evil Inugami that and entrusted to the Kagami Clan family before Tokugawa claimed the blade. Forging a pact with the human, the Inugami uses Tokugawa to accomplish its own desires to regain the divinity taken by Inari before using him as host to regain its physical form before Kisuke slays it. In the third ending, the events leading to it in Tokugawa's hands negated, Kuzuryu ends up in the possession of Kisuke as intends to exhaust any malice its blade holds.
- Fudo-Myoou (不動明王 Fudō-myōō?): The protector of the Buddha, he appears as a giant statue that the Jinkuro-possessed Momohime must destroy while dealing with his emissaries Kongara Doji and Seitaku Doji.
Four new playable characters are introduced in the Vita version of the game, along with their own story and boss characters. Unlike the other protagonists, they do not use swords and each use different playstyle.
- Okoi (お恋?) (Rina Hidaka): The catgirl heroine of the Fishy Tales of the Nekomata, she is actually a cat named Miike (三毛?) who assumed the form of Okoi Inukai after she and her brother were murdered by hired swordsmen in the service of a hired samurai named Shinzaemon Shigematsu (重松新左衛門?) to obtain the teacup that they were delivering for their father to the shogun Tsunakama. Though she succeeded in retrieving the tea cup to honor the real Okoi's dying wish, the news of Kenmochi Inukai's death made Miike furious as she resolves to kill both Shinzaemon and the man responsible for her owner's death: Netsuzo Wakamiya. While she fights with her claws, Miike-Okoi can revert to her true Nekomata form or transform into a monstrous version of herself. She gains more power as a result of drinking an elixir provided by the Tanuki Danzaburo. In her first ending, having killed Wakamiya and Shinzaemon, Miike was still full of hate as she proceeds to extend her wrath towards the Wakamiya clan before being attacked by Jinkuro. Though she cursed Jinkuro with a fatal illness, Miike lost her tails and was forced to take refuge in the Totsuka shrine as a normal cat, going by name of Suzu while secretly creating the Cat's Ballroom legend. In a second ending, with Miike attempting to eat a young monk before being outwitted by his master, the events of her adventure are believed to have been the result of rumors.
- Gonbe (権兵衛?) (Shintarō Asanuma): The protagonist of A Cause to Daikon For, a hardworking rice and daikon farmer at the Oone Province during the 6th year of the Genroku era whose loyal wife Otae (お妙?) died of the plague a year prior. He fights with a hoe, a bamboo spear, and throwing sickles; during combat, he can also summon other villagers to fight alongside, who may also fight with hoes and spears, or throw wooden logs. Visited by his wife's ghost as she intended to kill him so they can be together in death, Gonbe convinces Otae to let him live long enough to march towards Edo with Tagosaku, Umekichi, and Moheiji in an attempt to plea for help against the actions done to their village by Mamedayu Hatono. But when Umekichi died as a result, Gonbe takes matters to his hands by leading a revolt on Umabuki Castle where he killed Hatono before being captured and executed. Though condemned to Hell, Gonbe's appeal to Emma to lessen the Oni's hard work results with him, Otae, Tagosaku, and Moheiji given a second chance of life. Some time after Oone, Gonbe becomes a family man and lived a humble life. In an alternate ending, having dreamed up his actions in the previous ending, Gonbe encounters Sayo who reveals that he has been dead with his spirit trapped in a delusion. But once his sins are absolved, Gonbe is allowed to pass on to heaven.
- Arashimaru (嵐丸?) (Ryota Osaka): The protagonist of A Spirited Seven Nights' Haunting, he is an Iga ninja armed with kunai, bombs, and kusarigama. Killing the Ogata clan's retainer Yukie Okabe for the Spear of Bishamon, Arashimaru learns he is actually the man's first born son Akanemaru Okabe who was kidnapped by the Iga Ninjas' leader Aburada Kaburata. Becoming a rogue ninja out of disgust of being used to kill his father, Arashimaru takes refuge in an abandoned Shirogane temple where he accidentally shattered the mirror of the goddess Inaraki, who becomes a Shirohebi (white snake) that wraps around his neck as part of a curse where he will die within seven days. Arashimaru eventually learns his life was actually manipulated by the Iga Ninjas' true leader Mumyo, who possesses Banzaiten's lute and is later revealed to be a Ming Dynasty monk named So Xian who developed the Oboro style's Soul Transfer technique to become immortal and has been acting to bring Japan into chaos. In the first ending, having killed So Xian, Arashimaru accepts his impeding death while asking Inaraki to help his younger brother Dengoro restore their clan. This results in Arashimaru becoming deified with many coming to the Ara's Head gravestone to pray to regain what they lost. The second ending ends up with Arashimaru becoming a new host body for So Xian, who assumes the name Orochimaru and forces Inaraki to aid him in his mission with only Jiraiya and Tsunade standing in his way.
- Rajyaki (羅邪鬼?) (Kumiko Watanabe): The protagonist of the final arc, Hell's Where the Heart Is, her full name Enen Rajyaki, she is a young female Oni who is the 108th child of Emma and is on a quest to retrieve the Treasures of the Seven Gods of Fortune after losing them. She managed to win back Daikoku's size manipulating mallet, using it to change from child to adult or full demon, and Budai's bag. Rajyaki is joined in her quest by Seikichi, a perverted ex-monk who accidentally proposed to her and attempts to ditch her for hot women but helps her obtain Ebisu's fishing pole from the Yamauba Oyae and then save her from Jorogumo Dayu by feeding her Fukurokuju's peach. In one ending, her sadness eased by Seikichi, Rajyaki is allowed to return to Hell after the Seven Gods forgive her transgression and she later marries the reformed Seikichi under the alias of Ofuku. In the second ending, telling his story to Dengoro, Seikichi reveals that Rajyaki ran off after defeating Dayu and asked Seikichi to kill her after she became a full Oni. But he instead saves her and she secretly married Seikichi, renamed Seibe Karaki, bearing five children who show their mother's demonic heritage.
Development and release
|This section requires expansion. (July 2015)|
Originally titled Oboromuramasa Yōtōden (朧村正妖刀伝?, literally "The Hazy Legend of Muramasa's Mystical Sword"), it was shorted to Oboro Muramasa before release. While being developed, the game was referred to as Princess Crown 3, as Odin Sphere was referred to as Princess Crown 2. Director George "Jōji" Kamitani said he wanted to create a similar atmosphere as The Legend of Kage and Genpei Tōma Den. Audio production was assigned to Hitoshi Sakimoto's music production studio Basiscape, as was the case with Odin Sphere.
The game received "favorable" reviews on both platforms according to video game review aggregator Metacritic. Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave the Wii version a score two nines and two eights for a total of 34 out of 40, citing the game's difficulty, short load times, graphics and sound, but criticizing it for its lack of a climax. The game entered the Japanese sales charts at number 2, selling 29,000 copies in its first week. It opened to similar numbers in North America, with 35,000 units. On June 8, 2009, X-Play named the Wii version the "Best Wii Game of E3 2009". When reviewing, they scored it a 3 out of 5. Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb later explained in a discussion that "just because a game gets Best Wii Game Of The Year, doesn't make it good." It was then stated that they only based their previous crowning of Best Wii Game on the basis that they had only played a small portion of the game. Play praised the same console version, stating, "The art and animation throughout is so refined...the gameplay is intuitive and never grows old; the RPG elements are unique and superbly presented and the score is simply mesmerizing." 3xGamer noted that it had some of the most unique backgrounds and music, which combined to make a solid gaming experience.
411Mania gave The Demon Blade a score of 7.3 out of 10, stating, "There are parts of the game that will make you turn it off and leave it alone for a few days, like when you go into a boss fight while being totally unequipped, or when you realise you have to run through 15 empty screens to get to the next stage. In between those quibbles is a solid game with surprising depth for a 2D side-scroller and enough extras to keep you playing for longer than you'd expect." The A.V. Club gave it a B−, stating, "An arcade-style game, Muramasa is fun in short bursts, but without much depth anywhere—meaning players should only come to the table when they’re especially hungry for it."
The Wii version was later released under Nintendo’s "Everyone’s Recommendation Selection" of budget titles. It was also included in IGN's Top 25 Wii Games, coming in at #21.
The PlayStation Vita remake Muramasa Rebirth sold 45,660 physical retail copies during its first week of release in Japan. Within the first month following its release in Japan, the game topped 100,000 shipments, with at least 67,800 physical retail sales, and the remainder as digital copies distributed on the PlayStation Network. Muramasa Rebirth ranked as the seventh most downloaded digital Vita game on the Japanese PlayStation Network in 2013.
Famitsu gave Rebirth a score of all four eights, for a total of 32 out of 40. Elsewhere, Anime News Network gave the game a B−, saying that it "isn't a bad game by any means, but its peerless graphics are infinitely more impressive than the shallow and ultimately repetitive combat. As such, we wouldn't really recommend going to the trouble of importing it, although when it's officially released here it's well worth the compromise between gameplay and graphics. That's not something we say often, but the game really is that beautiful." However, Slant Magazine gave it a score of three stars out of five and stated that it "occasionally falters as a portable port because of its refusal to use the Vita's technological capabilities for anything other than enhancing things strictly on a superficial level."
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