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Muramasa Rebirth isn’t
for everyone. First of all it’s a port so the target consumers are the gamers
who don’t have a Wii but have a Vita, then you have to reduce that audience
even further to VanillaWare fans and those who enjoy side-scrollers, and after
that point the numbers aren’t great. But then what does this port have to
entice new players that the Wii version didn’t? Well aside from much crisper
visuals not much. Enter the DLC.
Fishy Tales of the Nekomata
is the best kind of DLC, the kind you don’t need because the core game is so
good but still want because it promises hours of extra gameplay at not a whole
lot of extra money. I certainly didn’t need an excuse to pick this game back
up, but I was certainly surprised by how much quality there is to be seen here.
Let me save you some time by saying this added content is absolutely worth it,
but if you still need convincing, than read on.
This story centers
around a girl named Okoi, who after getting ambushed and nearly killed while
trying to deliver a teacup, becomes possessed by a cat named Miike. Now possessing
formidable new powers, the two travel across the country to uncover Okoi’s assassination
attempt as well as get revenge on Miike’s owners. The story comes nowhere close
to the grand scale of Kisuke’s or Momohime’s stories, but it’s very well told
and more than serviceable for the action ahead.
Let’s talk about the
visuals for a minute, VanillaWare’s games are always visually stunning and this
new content is no exception, but I was very surprised by just how extravagant it
all is. Okoi herself is amazingly well animated, and convey an incredible
amount of personality through the simple acts of running, jumping, or crouching
in the hot springs. And that goes for Miike as well, there’s an immense amount
of detail in Miike’s fighting stance, running animation, and even her crouching
animation in which she’ll curl up on the ground like a cat will. This goes for
the bosses as well, which are rendered in excruciating detail, the amount of
care that went into all of this is absolutely astounding, and we haven’t even
gotten to the gameplay yet.
Muramasa isn’t a
terribly complex game; it’s a side-scrolling brawler which utilizes swords and
secret arts to take down waves of enemies. That said, it’s extremely well done
and incentivizes good reaction over simple button mashing, and while the core
game is excellent, this new content put a refreshing spin on the formula. Okoi
forgoes swords in favor of razor sharp claws, she’s able to move very fast and
her attacks keep her constantly moving. Her dodge roll is also slightly more
effective than the two main characters, and since it can be mapped to one of
the shoulder buttons, can become much more pivotal in combat. You’ll also be
switching from Okoi to Miike in combat, and she proves her strength by being
just as fast and utilizing a variety of powerful spells, and in addition to
that, you also have your avatar form to use when things get really hectic. Depending
on whom you’re in control of when you switch to avatar you’ll become something
different. If you’re controlling Okoi, you’ll transform into a giant powerful
tiger, if it’s Miike, you’ll change into a giant evil cat head, made of cats.
Okoi’s progression is
governed by a skill tree which is used to gradually increase the strength of
all three forms, adding more attack power, strengthening her secret arts and
unlock new abilities to augment combat, and while the story isn’t very long,
once it’s complete you can test your mettle against all of the core game’s
challenges and bosses to fill out all of her skills as well as find powerful
new equipment, making the experience much longer and more fulfilling than it
would be otherwise.
Also, there’s one more thing I
should mention, Muramasa is a game very heavily rooted in Japanese culture, and
this new content takes it to the extreme. The entire first boss fight is a
hellish spectacle of Japanese folklore that could legitimately give nightmares
if you’re not prepared. Of course if you’ve already played this game you should
know that by now, but even I wasn’t entirely prepared for what I saw, and I’m
very hard to shock. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s worth noting what you’re
All told, Fishy Tales
of the Nekomata is a welcome addition to an already excellent game, and an absolute
steal at only $5. It’s probably not enough to entice new players; but it’s a
must-buy for those of us who do have the game. Its one thing to make DLC in an
attempt to make more money, but this was clearly a labor of love on VanillaWare’s
part, and sometimes, that’s enough to garner praise. The fact that it’s a whole
lot of fun doesn’t hurt either.
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