Muramasa Rebirth Review
The phrase ‘killer app’ is an overused and – frankly – useless term. Why should a single game or software sell the benefits of a device? Surely just having a lot of great games is enough for the PS Vita?
Muramasa Rebirth isn’t a ‘killer app’. It doesn’t make some obscure use of the rear touch panel or shoehorn in touch screen function just so it can say it does. But Muramasa Rebirth is probably one of the best games on the PS Vita right now.
Because sometimes you don’t need technical achievement, you just need a ruddy good game.
Muramasa Rebirth Review
The best question here is probably going to be ‘What the hell is Muramasa Rebirth?’
A fair question: initially released on the Wii, Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a Vanillaware game about slicing up ninjas, eating rice and defeating a giant foot as one of the game’s bosses.
The art style is gorgeous, the combat is slick and the RPG mechanics simple but solid. In other words, it’s about as Vanillaware as it gets.
You’ll play one of two characters, each of who have their own storyline and personal traits. While it doesn’t really change much, those looking to get the most of Muramasa Rebirth will likely find it interesting to play through as the alternate character.
There’s also different endings and hidden challenges and all that usual nonsense, so if you like to get really into a game then there’s plenty of hours to mop-up your free time with here.
It’s the combat that impresses the most, however, managing to avoid overcomplicating but always looking impressive all the same.
There’s no combo unlocking or skill limitations at the start: everything you can do with a sword is possible from the beginning, a refreshing change to the typical system that often throws you in with nothing but a basic attack.
The skill comes in learning how to best utilise your weapon to maximise efficiency, knowing when to block, when to roll, when to deflect or when to do a sweet-ass midair ninja dash.
Muramasa Rebirth’s Combat
There’s more to the mechanics of it than just hack-‘n’-slashing, though. Play on the trickier difficulties and you’ll need to pay more attention to avoid damage than dealing it.
Part of this comes in the form of a spirit bar. With three (demon) blades equipped at any one time, it’s possible to switch between them on the fly – a merciful stopgap during the chaos of the melee.
Block too many attacks, however, and your spirit bar will greatly decrease. Wipe out the bar and you’ll wipe out the sword, snapping it and massively reducing your damage output.
Thankfully it’s possible for your sword to regenerate as long as it is sheathed – it is a demon blade, remember? – and so you can switch to make the most of your weapons.
The fun comes in picking how you want to play, and though it often makes sense to pick the sword with the most damage, it’s worth knowing both what it’s special ability is (its Secret Art) and whether it’s a quicker sword or a slower but more powerful long sword.
It’s a simple twist, but enough to make combat really compelling.
A PS Vita Version?
It might seem strange porting a Wii game over to PS Vita, but the former version didn’t make the motion controls mandatory.
Nonetheless, the addition of the OLED screen is enough to make Muramasa Rebirth one of the best-looking games on the console, and that only helps make the combat feel smooth and super slick.
Controls-wise it does nothing untoward. You’re mostly just tapping square and moving the left stick, and while it can sometimes lead to unwanted actions – the stick is just a little too small – it is on the whole a thoroughly well-made port.
But what is most surprising is how well suited Muramasa Rebirth is to portable play.
Depending on how skilled you are battles only take a handful of seconds, meaning it’s easy to boot up, bash through a few sections and leave it on standby. Perfect for bus and tube rides.
There’s a fairly large amount of back-tracking involved, meaning you’ll need to dash through an environment without anything to interrupt.
But this is mostly an issue early on in the game. When the odds start stacking against you there are much more frequent ambushes from kite-flying ninjas, ice maidens and even angry boar.
Boss fights take a little more time, but they’re always well scripted so you know what you’re in for before it begins. It’ll take a bit of practice hacking away at some of Muramasa Rebirth’s bosses anyway so best make sure you have the time.
And later on fast-travel options are unlocked, so it’s not such a pain to head back towards the locked caves you found when you were level four and chop off a few hundred monks’ heads.
Is Muramasa Rebirth For Me?
If you know what a ‘Vanillaware game’ is then this is very much a game for you. It’s akin to Odin Sphere but focused on Japanese mythology instead; and boy is it big on Japanese mythology.
But even if you don’t know much about Vanillaware then it’s worth looking into anyway. Side-scrolling hack-‘n’-slash games are surprisingly well suited to PS Vita, and Muramasa Rebirth seems to fit perfectly on the handheld.
While it might not be an FPS, or a ‘killer app’ or whatever made-up excuse it is you have for not owning a PS Vita, you’re missing out by not playing Muramasa Rebirth.
Sadly, it doesn’t currently look like you’ll be able to buy a copy of Muramasa Rebirth in the EU – at least not any time soon – but don’t worry, you can always import it.
And we suggest you do.
Version tested: PS Vita