I think that screen sums up Muramasa Rebirth pretty well. However, I’m not damning the game as much as it may seem.
Muramasa is certainly more sizzle than steak. But that doesn’t mean the steak is bad, right? Peeking over the chef’s shoulder may reveal a cut of beef smaller than your used to, but it’s still enjoyable.
At that point in Muramasa, I wasn’t sure who was pounding on who. The placement of that tree was less than ideal, but I was still having fun. Muramasa is light on mechanics, instead focusing on beautiful scenery and characters. It’s a damning decision, but one I feel there is room for. Fun is still most important, after all. If Muramasa played like butt, I doubt I’d have the patience to have played as long to see that tree.
Muramasa does stumble as it walks that line between style and substance. At times, as you guide your character across beautiful but lifeless backdrops, it can feel like you’re playing a poorly designed Metroid-clone. Areas are locked away by magical seals that require specific blades to cut through, and the ground you cover to obtain them add up to quite a distance. It seems as though Vanillaware struggled with finding the right balance of combat and sightseeing. Of course I want to soak my eyes in the waters of your gorgeous artwork, but there’s only so many times I can appreciate the silhouette of a spinning geisha.
The combat does wonders to break up these sprawling journeys, but with as light as its mechanics are, it’s no wonder we don’t encounter more enemy folk. Regardless, what’s there works wonderfully, and while it’s moveset pales in comparison to Bayonetta, it works well on a handheld. The battles are fast and don’t eat up much time, perfect for on the go experiences.
Hopefully Vanillaware can create that perfect marriage of art and gameplay with Dragon’s Crown. Perhaps it all comes to genre, with a brawler like Crown being a better fit for the studio. Muramasa is an action title, and perhaps they tried to meet the expectations of that genre without talking into consideration their own strengths. An arcade-styled brawler doesn’t need to be that time consuming journey that Muramasa strives for. I hate to sit here and throw the word filler around, but there are times when Muramasa really stretches itself in an attempt to prove its worth to a crowd of gamers who place length ahead of quality. It may not be perfect, but it is certainly fun.