You know the drill. You wait ages for an eastern 2D side-scrolling brawler on the PS Vita, then two come along at once.
After Vanillaware released Dragons Crown on PS3 and Vita, they followed that straight up with Muramasa Rebirth. Whilst there are many similarities between the two games, there is no reason to choose one over the other.
Muramasa Rebirth is one of the best looking games you’ll find on the Vita, once again showing how 2D is going from strength to strength. At times it will feel like you are playing a painted canvas, rather than a videogame, such is the attention to detail in every visual aspect of the game. Unlike it’s stablemate Dragon’s Crown, the action feels better balanced on the screen, without you losing track of where your character is, due an overload of action.
Battles are all about your blade, it is your primary means of attack and defense. Only drawn when the enemy are on screen you basically attack in various ways with your blades. Press down along with the square button and you’ll attack low, press forward and you’ll dash attack, jump and attack, defend then attack. It is all pretty simple, which makes it great for newcomers to get used to the action.
Yet, should you spend the game mindlessly button bashing, you’ll soon find yourself coming unstuck and struggling. Early on you can get by without much of a strategy, but a few levels in and you will find yourself needing to really consider how you approach enemies, finding their weaknesses and strengths, let alone how you approach a boss battle.
You can equip up to three swords at a time and how you use these is important. You can switch between them, with each switch giving a quick special move, yet use a sword for too long and it breaks, leaving you unable to attack or defend properly. Each sword also has a special power, that can cause devastating damage, but this again has to be used properly, as there us a gauge that will determine if the move can be used. Empty gauge, then no move.
It is a very simple game to play, even taking into consideration the possible weapon upgrades through the crafting mechanism. You find a game that starts to become repetitive after a while, traversing various levels, defeating groups of bad guys, then making your way to a boss.
It is the boss battles that show off the game mechanics best and allow you to showcase your skills, the rest comes across as filler after going through a few levels. Which despite an increasing difficulty and need to learn self control and tactics, it doesn’t offer enough change to keep your attention for the long haul.
However, the pacing is just about right. The main campaign will take around 10 hours to complete, which you can do twice over, as the game features two different characters. Kisuke and Momohime do technically have different stories, but these essentially boil down to retreading the same areas in a different order. Any longer than 10 hours a piece would have been too much and having the game split into two stories means you can easily take a break between finishing one, before starting the other.
Muramasa Rebirth is a showcase for what visuals the PS Vita can produce. It does have solid gameplay, but lacks enough variation to be an absolute must have purchase. There is fun to be had for sure though and would be a solid introduction to the genre thanks to the simple to use mechanics that take plenty of mastering.