Vanillaware is a personal favorite developer of mine, thanks to their consistently qualitative output of addictingly fulfilling titles. While I am not what I would consider a hardcore fan of their work, I have greatly enjoyed most of the games they have developed, such as Grim Grimoire, Odin Sphere, and most recently, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. One title of theirs that to this day has left a starkly monumental impression on me, though, is Muramasa Rebirth.
Muramasa Rebirth, originally released on the Wii as Muramasa: The Demon Blade, is an enhanced port sporting several alterations, both sizable and minuscule. The title is an action hack n’ slash with some lite RPG elements like forging swords which offer unique skills and stats, and cooking food, all with their own variety of benefits. The base game houses 2 playable character stories, following the protagonists Momohime and Kisuke. While you do traverse most of the same environments as these characters, the narratives they weave are anything but.
The writing of Muramasa: Rebirth is honestly probably what I found myself compelled by the most. There is a distinctly discernable level of vocalized nuance among each member of the cast. Though the events can certainly be somewhat arduous to parse at points, the quality of the clearly Japanese-folklore-centric myths and tales leave a drastic impact. The notable caliber of Vanillaware’s art direction plays a vital role in that positive outcome.
Vanillaware is arguably most known for how gorgeous their titles are because they really blow it out of the park every time, regardless of the game. They have even tackled fundamentally unique environments and designs, from the sophisticated mechs in 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim to the more fantasy-like setting of Odin Sphere.
Muramasa Rebirth is where I found their artwork to shine the brightest, though, and as ignorant as this sounds, I can’t quite identify a singular reason as to why this is the case. Whether it be due to the more majestical, otherworldly sights, or maybe even the primarily foresty and rural setting, Muramasa: Rebirth emits this comfy ambiance for me even if that was not the developer’s intention.
Regarding combat, Muramasa Rebirth isn’t quite as creatively applicable as Odin Sphere Leifthrasir, but it is still a wildly joyous time. Both Momohime and Kisuke play identically, and their traversal move-sets are knit and compact, which are admittedly some of the critiques I have for the title.
The real meat and potatoes, though, is the sword forging. Forging swords requires Spirit and Soul, the former being gained by eating food, and the latter being gained by slaying enemies. This creates a continually engaging gameplay loop between the 3 tasks that are inexorably tied to one another.
The bosses are yet another highlight of the title, to the point where I actually remember each one of them, which, at least personally, is a rare feat for many games to achieve. Their stand-out nature results from Vanillaware’s visual mastery, managing to incorporate both individualistic traits and occasionally remarkable locales for specific fights.
Muramasa: Rebirth even contained 4 DLC characters with their own stories who all played differently from one another as well. Despite how short these DLC episodes are, the amount of replayability present thanks to the pronounced difficulty levels and newly introduced character arsenals was astounding, to say the least.
All of this is to say that Muramasa Rebirth deserves a port to modern platforms because, as I have neglected to mention, this game is only available on the PS Vita. For as much as I love the handheld, not only do I desire to see this game enhanced to its full potential on larger resolutions, but the fear of the PS Vita store shutting down at some point in the future is still ringing in the back of my mind. Though the store’s closure was held off for now, who’s to say that Sony won’t attempt this cessation in the future?
Muramasa Rebirth isn’t a masterpiece, nor is it even my favorite Vanillaware title; Odin Sphere Leifthrasir boasts that mantle though Muramasa is a real close second. Still, I believe a substantial crowd would derive enjoyment from this game, and having it readily available on PC would be awesome.
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