Full Metal Daemon Muramasa Review – Definitely Not a Story of Heroes

    Title: Full Metal Daemon Muramasa
    Developer: Nitroplus
    Release Date: August 23, 2021
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: JAST USA
    Genre: Visual Novel

Full Metal Daemon Muramasa is a visual novel developed by Nitroplus, responsible for classics such as Song of Saya and YOU and ME and HER: A Love Story.  Before I delve into the details, I must mention that the best way to experience Muramasa is to go in as blindly as possible. I’d recommend not even checking a guide for answers at first, so you see how choices work as well as their consequences firsthand. There are, however, a few trigger warnings to keep in mind, as the title has a few brutal scenes of sexual assault and violence.

In an alternate history, humanity’s pinnacle of weaponry is the tsurugi, intelligent metallic armors of dreadful power. Originally made by expert craftsmen such as the dwarven clans and the Japanese Emishi, these weapons are unparalleled on the battlefield. The warriors who use the tsurugi have to make a pact with them before taking on the mantle of the mechanic fighters called musha. Unfortunately, though, by the time the visual novel takes place, mass-produced ones are also present.

After a war, Japan is currently ruled by Rokuhara, an army that, instead of protecting its country, decided to sell it out to the western forces of GHQ. However, instead of being allies, these two forces see each other as a necessary evil. The truth is there’s a veiled conflict between them, and they’d love to eliminate the other.

Still, they’re not the only forces causing uproars all around Japan. A monstrous musha known as the Silver Star, Ginseigo, has been terrorizing numerous villages. Calamity ensues wherever it goes, leading to people going mad, resulting in abnormally large-scale conflicts where no one survives. Even for the kind of destruction, the armored warriors can spread around, Ginseigo is on a supernatural, insane scale, like a force of nature.

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Muramasa ultimately tells the story of a young man called Minato Kageaki, whose only purpose in life is fighting Ginseigo. However, he’s not what one could call a hero. He’s a pragmatic man with strong ethical concerns, but this is not a setting that would allow him to be such a naive and pure creature of myth.

If there’s one character who could perhaps take that place, it’d be Ayame Ichijo, one of the girls he meets along the way. Her straightforward nature makes her unable to accept anything evil. On the other hand, there’s the sly fox Otori Kanae, who seems quite fickle. It’s hard to predict where her allegiances truly lie.

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Along with many other important characters in the story, those three represent aspects of human nature that are important for general discussion. But, as the game constantly reminds the player, this is not a story of heroes; it’s about flawed people, messed up situations, and harsh truths.

Though there are mechs in the story, Muramasa is closer to a Japanese historical drama. The whole concept of the musha personifying a way of the Sword is a simple indication of it. It’s also noticeable in the backgrounds that usually oscillate between depicting the rich cultural assets of the country or its small towns closer to nature.

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The soundtrack also does a great job of evoking this feeling of classical Japan. Some tracks use regional wind instruments, such as the shakuhachi, the shinobue, and the nohkan. Select tracks, such as “The Hero’s Charge,” reflect this ambiance. Still, even tracks that don’t use those instruments complement the conflict and emotional aspects of the story intensely.

Battles are well written and accompanied by engaging visuals. At times it’s possible to see from inside the musha frame and their positioning on the often airborne battles. The visual novel also uses special effects, and some moves even have animated videos. On the other hand, the slower bits of the plot often show little graphic detail. The full-body depictions rarely change stances, leaving emitted emotion to the miniature portraits.

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All of the H-scenes are brief and are honestly not a selling point. However, I believe this is a wise move. The conflicts of sexual assault hit their intended dreadful effects without going needlessly overboard. On the other hand, the scenes with Kageaki and his potential lovers feel organic and tease different sides to the characters. If they were longer, they’d risk feeling like cheesy pornographic media.

A significant design decision worth noting is the affection meter. As Kageaki makes certain choices during the story, he’ll become closer to specified characters, and this meter alters whenever any change occurs. The way it works in the context of the story shows a profound understanding of visual novel staples.

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Regarding the life quality functions, it’s imperative to note that Muramasa‘s reading log doesn’t feature the names or portraits of characters. As such, it ends up being less useful than it really should be, as it’s difficult to comprehend who says what. However, the handy skip tool can jump through massive portions of text in a flash.

Moreover, it’s impossible not to mention the high-quality translation. The English text is simply perfect. For such a lengthy experience, which took me over 100 hours to complete, it kept me completely immersed the whole way through without finding a speck of pacing annoyances. The staff behind the translation deserves recognition for their brilliant work.

Full Metal Daemon Muramasa

I had heard rumors of Full Metal Daemon Muramasa‘s quality before playing, but I’d say my experience with it far surpassed what I expected. This is one of those works that should be considered a masterpiece, experimenting with the genre in thought-provoking ways and telling a bold and harsh story, not of heroes, but of humans and their flaws.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.