Review: Muramasa Rebirth (PlayStation Vita)

Muramasa Rebirth: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation Vita 1,223 view 0 likes 0 comments
Reviewed by Thomas Hugh, posted Jul 1, 2013
Back on PS2 I played the great Odin Sphere and instantly became a fan of the game's developer Vanillaware. I also played a bit of Muramasa: The Demon Blade on the Wii but never got round to finishing it and the game ended up in the backlog of Wii games that I'll probably never play. After hearing of the better suited handheld release and seeing the gorgeous visuals of the Vita version I decided to import the Limited Edition of Muramasa Rebirth!
Jul 1, 2013
  • Release Date (NA): June 25, 2013
  • Publisher: Aksys Games
  • Genres: Action RPG
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Muramasa Rebirth is the story of Kisuke the amnesic Ninja and Momohime the princess who are in search of the legendary Demon Blades. Muramasa Rebirth is exclusive to PS Vita with redesigned graphics, enhanced controls and 4 new (paid) DLC characters.
Thomas Hugh

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Like Odin Sphere before it and the upcoming Dragon's Crown, playing a Vanillaware game is literally , like playing a piece of art. The gorgeous artwork of the characters and backgrounds in Muramasa Rebirth look stunning on the Vita's OLED screen.

 

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Levels are vibrant and rich in colour

In fact it's the crisp visuals that save Muramasa Rebirth from being a mediocre hack and slash ARPG and raising it to above average. The game is set up in a similar way to the Metroidvania games, with each game screen being a map 'block'. If you try to take one of the few branching paths in the game, more often than not you will come to a coloured barrier that you cannot pass until you aquire the correct sword, usually obtained by defeating the area boss.  This setup makes progression in the game linear. Exploration is not rewarding and with the amount of backtracking required, it becomes daunting to try different routes when the outcome is to hit a wall and have to run all the way back to the correct path.

 

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World and area map

Backtracking is annoying in the game, there is a way to fast travel but it costs money and is very limited. Too many screens are just dashed through in a couple of seconds with no enemies to fight, no items to find and no souls to collect. All that is left to do is admire the views. Maybe that was the intention.  The mob fights that do appear as you run through each screen are never challenging and there are not enough of them.  They are basically there to level up and gain souls.  Leveling up increases HP and souls are used to forge stronger blades. There are 108 blades in the game each with a special attack and unlocking them (forging) is done in the menus and basically consists of highlighting the weapon and pressing X.  There is no combining items or trial and error or stat crunching; if you have the required souls you can make the weapon.  Even if you are not a high enough level to equip the sword you can still forge it.

This is the meta game within the game, if you can't beat a boss to gain the next sword to unlock the next barrier, you go and grind a bit, level up, make a stonger blade and then destroy the boss.  I only had to do this once throughout the game as generally you can beat the boss with one or two trys.

 

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Boss fights are the best parts of the game

Boss fights are where the game really shines and each one is unique and a blast to fight. This is where you really get a chance to unleash combos and hit counts can easily go into triple figures (there is a trophy for a 999 hit combo). Button mashing isn't really an option in boss fights as it is with random mobs, if you attack and block too much your sword will temporarily 'break' forcing you to switch to the next weapon until the broken sword fixes itself (the swords are spirited). You can equip 3 blades at any one time and selecting which ones to use is part of the fun, but it usually comes down to picking the 3 with the highest attack power and best special abilities. When switching out a sword just before it is about to break your character unleashes a special attack that damages anything and everything on screen.

There are 'hidden' caves in the game that can be endured when you have the required sword to unlock them.  These caves are usually a tough ride with waves of enemies and are a great way to grind a few levels should you feel inclined.  Before entering each one the game will tell you the recommended level to face them.  There are also hidden bathing shrines that are used to recover your HP and Sword Spirit.  These are more for fun at seeing your character almost nude as you always come across them when you do not need any healing and your swords are nowhere near broken.

 

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Bathing is literally pointless

As well as the swords you can also equip an accessory which can boost attack, vitality or increase item drops. These are bought from merchants and NPCs in each town and also dropped from enemies or found in levels with an item marker on the map. There is also cooking, which is done in the menus and consists of combining ingredients to create HP recovery items or poison antidotes etc.  I didn't really do any cooking outside of trying it out as I never really felt the need to use it.

The soundtrack is great with a feudal Japan theme and the original Japanese voices are still in the game. With the Limited Edition (Blessing of Amitabha) you get the abridged soundtrack on CD as well as some other cool stuff you can see in the unboxing video below.  I've read the game's script is also an improvement on the Wii version however the story doesn't feel epic and the text is just a few conversations here and there leading up to getting back your Demon Blade.

I enjoyed my playthrough of Muramasa Rebirth and it is definitely an improvement over the Wii version. When the Vita version was first announced 4 additional characters were planned for its release however since that announcement the characters have been cut and are planned to be paid DLC.  This hurts the Vita version as the characters are not available yet and anyone that played the game on the Wii will have literally no reason to pick up this version other than portability.

I'm not sure if I will play through as Kisuke or go for more trophies as the game does start to get boring around the half way mark.  If there were more mobs to fight or not so much backtracking I think the game would be better overall.  As it stands the length of 8-10 hours per playthrough is a bit inflated due to the amount of backtracking and my finish time was just 7 hours. I'm not sure if I got a good or bad ending but I'll go with bad as it was pretty uneventful. There are a few endings depending on what sword you beat the final boss with and it's pretty much impossible to complete all the caves and unlock all the swords without grinding so there is a fair bit still to do post-game.

 

-=SPECIAL EDITION UNBOXING VIDEO=-

 

 

Verdict
Pros
+ Gorgeous visuals
+ Great soundtrack
+ Boss fights
Cons
- Feels repetitive
- Lots of backtracking
- Meh story
9 Presentation
The graphics of Muramasa are created from hand-drawn artwork and really shine on the Vita's OLED. Menus are basic but functional and the soundtrack is excellent.
7 Gameplay
The gameplay is basically go from A to B with a few mob fights on the way, boss fight, rinse and repeat. Cooking and crafting are possible but neither are needed to progress in the game.
7 Lasting Appeal
There are two 8 hour campaigns, one per character but they are the same levels just visited in a different order depending on who you select to start the game with. Combat is fun but the game starts to grate around the halfway point when the repetitveness kicks in.
7.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Murasma Rebirth is a nice addition to the Vita library but the decision by the publisher to remove the extra characters originally planned for the release and charge extra for them at a later date via DLC hurts the final product. If you have played the game on the Wii then there isn't any real reason to buy the Vita version unless you are a die hard Vanillaware fan and want a portable version of the game.
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