The recent blog, Peace in the Era of Call of Duty really made me think about war games that dig deeper than simply a kill streak reward. The first game that came to mind was Spec-Ops: The Line and although I haven’t played it, I began to wonder if it did the war genre as...
The Good: Gorgeous visuals, memorable characters and interesting story, fun yet tough boss fights, two whole story lines, perfect controls
The Bad: Can be extremely tough, not much to do outside combat, story is a bit too basic
Muramasa was a highly acclaimed Wii game from Vanillaware of Odin Sphere (and now) Dragon's Crown fame. It had high speed and fancy fight moves but was extremely challenging and had memorable characters. It now makes its transfer to Vita in HD with bright gorgeous graphics and two whole storylines to play through.
I played through Momohime's (Peach Princess) story line so my experience is based on that. Momohime is possessed by a spirit who wants the infamous Demon Blade and will cut anyone down in her path. She goes from Hell to Heaven and even cuts down gods. The game is 90% combat and man is it tough and fun. You can equip three different blades at once and switch between them with triangle. When your blades are flashing you can press triangle to unleash a powerful full screen attack. Each blade has their own special power which is key to winning hard fights. If you use the blade too much or block too often the blade will break and you will need to switch to a different on and wait for it to recharge. You can use whetstones to hasten this, but as you level up and forge new weapons they will break less often.
This is the basically all there is to combat: You press the attack or use special powers combined with directions. It may seem simple but the game is so tough you can't just button mash. You have to use strategy mixing up dodges, blocking, special and regular attacks. The game constantly kept me on my toes and I had to learn every bosses' moves and some times restarted dozens of times. When I finally beat a boss it was so satisfying. In between there's some platforming and item hunting but you traveling from locale to locale and getting stopped by fights between each screen. I had a lot of navigating the gorgeous environments and even stopping to shop for health items and various other ones to help out in fights.
One other small feature is being able to cook with items you find. These are used to heal you which you will use often. Always make sure you are stocked on health items or you will never make it through the game. Outside of all the fighting the dialogue is interesting and the Japanese voice acting is fantastic. The characters are memorable (I have already purchased a $145 figure of Kongiku) and you will stay hooked. With two stories to play through there's a lot of content here.
Vanillaware is known for their unique high-fantasy mixed with ancient Japanese art style and it really shines here. The game pops to life on the Vita's OLED screen and just makes your eyes water it looks so crisp. The controls are perfect and extremely responsive, honestly even though this is a port, it's one of the best Vita games available right now. That makes two Vanillaware games on one system. If you love 2D games or action hack and slash games this is a must buy.