[2009] Muramasa: The Demon Blade

19 Dec

The developers behind games like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII must have contemplated suicide when they discovered that perhaps the best looking game of all time, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, is exclusive to the Wii. Perhaps the only thing that saved their lives was the fact that Muramasa‘s graphical style and placement on the Wii are both marketing stunts designed to generate interest in an otherwise niche game.

Muramasa‘s painted backgrounds and elaborate sprites, combined with Japanese voice acting and music, result in a gorgeous video game experience. I shouldn’t have enjoyed the game, though, because it also combined repetitive beat ’em up gameplay with unintuitive JRPG elements to create a mindless video game experience. Once you understand the mechanics behind the game, however, Muramasa becomes the perfect kind of mindless a good video game should be. The story makes no damn sense, at least not to anyone who didn’t grow up with or study Japanese history and mythology, and you do little more than run back and forth while button mashing, but it’s all very addicting. The entire experience is devoid of motion controls, and that’s what got me asking “Why the Wii?”

The answer is pretty obvious. Smart developers must work around the Wii’s graphical limitations if they want to stand out among the system’s vast library of games. They typically do this by utilizing unique art styles, like with MadWorld, but occasionally make a project of attempting to push the hardware to its limit, like with The Conduit. While the latter failed in it’s attempts to look good, the former succeeded. What Muramasa and MadWorld also had above other Wii titles were unique gimmicks. Muramasa had its distinct JRPG mechanics and MadWorld had stylized, over-the-top violence, two elements sorely missed on the platform by the ignored “hardcore” audience.

So, while both would have been noticed on other platforms, neither would have garnered the attention of consumers and the gaming blogs had they not been developed exclusively for the Wii where people were starved for what the two games appeared to be on the surface. The Conduit even managed to become a hot topic throughout the community, entirely because it was a Wii exclusive. It would have been completely ignored had it been released on the 360 or PS3.

I did enjoy both Muramasa and MadWorld (too short, unfortunately), but I’m not sure this is how a video game platform should work. Is it better to be able to occasionally get the games you want and be consciously aware of how you appreciate each one , or is it better to be consistently satisfied but unaware of how lucky you are to have so many games developed just for you? Given the way Nintendo has been running its business the last few years, I would say the second option is best because, when it’s obvious the company only cares about the cash of its newer, non-traditional audience, why should it care whether or not its older, loyal fans appreciate its work?


One Response to “[2009] Muramasa: The Demon Blade”

  1. Klara Patolot April 20, 2010 at 5:24 AM #

    i loves the wii mote plus. We’ve enjoyed Cook or be cooked almost constantly since we got the motionplus. What games are your favourite?

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