The Wii is selling like gangbusters as the champion of the casual gamer. With its motion controls and peripherals, Nintendo is using more plastic than Tupperware just to make us feel that much more immersed in its games. Yet I, and many other gamers, could give a flying frying pan about all these gimmicks. All we want are good games. Well, here's one: Muramasa. A gorgeous 2D side-scrolling action RPG that completely disregards the typical trappings of the Wii, feeling more like a nice PS2 import.
Others aren't a pleased. The primary argument I've seen against Muramasa is the backtracking. In this strange tale, you're hunting for swords, either as amnesiac dude Kisuke or the delicate-but-deadly Momohime. The rest of the story involves lots of ancient Japanese lore, busty fox ladies, hot springs, perverted inn dwellers, all sorts of foul creatures, and awesome bosses. To horde all them swords, you'll be trekking over the same areas many times, but here's the deal: the characters move really fast (they are master samurai after all), there are mirror items that let you teleport to the last-visited save location, you can pay villagers for transportation to certain areas, and you can use the time to level up or try out new weapons. It also gives you time to admire the gorgeous scenery -- going through hell was tough, but seeing the wispy bodies ambling in the background amidst piles of bones reminded me why I love 2D. Honestly, if this is you're only issue with the game, then get over it. There's a lot of greatness here.
Another potential knock against Muramasa is the action system. It's simple and intuitive, but not very deep. The game plays very much like an arcade game, complete with up being jump. There's a main attack, a button to switch weapons (since you can switch between three swords at any time), a button to unleash the sword's special attack, a button to rotate items, and one to use them. The sheer variety of swords and their special attacks should be plenty for the action addict. Add in a screen-clearing switch attack, and you have plenty of options for dispatching the denizens of Muramasa. The swords work on the premise of soul power, and it's depleted when blocking or using specials. I would have appreciated more focus on this aspect of swordplay, much how the later Onimusha games had varying ways to counter enemy attacks with critically timed counters. As it stands, blocking or parrying normal enemy attack works if used sparingly, but often in the optional challenge modes or in boss battles--when it's most important-- it becomes a detriment. There is also a cooking element that refills your meters and provides resources for forging new weapons, which is done incrementally throughout the adventure. After attaining story swords and visiting the forge menu, you can unlock additional swords along a branching tree. The swords are either long (more powerful, but slower) or standard.
I loved Muramasa. I get that its mostly surface and can be dominated by agressively mashy players, but what's wrong with that? Levels are gorgeous, but aren't very inventive. Rooms are big squares, and you move either right or left while looking for swords. For a game based on killing, the atmosphere of Muramasa is--oddly enough--relaxing. A fantastic soundtrack is often your only companion as you move from room to room in search of the next big battle. Though it may not be for everyone, Muramasa has succeeded in the seemingly impossible challenge of getting me to turn on my Wii again.