Hazy Muramasa

I started up another playthrough of Muramasa: The Demon Blade the other day; my third such playthrough in the year-ish I’ve owned the game — and that’s not counting brief plays when I booted it up just to wander around a little bit or play around with different swords. It’s a bit peculiar, but the game is quickly becoming one of my go-to replay games despite the fact that I’m not really in love with its gameplay.

To put this another way, most games I replay I do so because I enjoy the act of actually playing them. While it’s great if I like their aesthetics and setting, those things aren’t really the main attraction — if you could get Super Mario Galaxy to run on the Super Mario 64 engine somehow, I’d still like it just as much because it’s just fun to play. The jagged polygons of games like Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy VII don’t bother me at all, etc etc.

Muramasa is different, though. If it was the exact same game except that it had 8-bit graphics and sound, I probably wouldn’t like it. Part of that is, of course, because Muramasa is pretty close to being my ideal game from a visual and musical standpoint, which makes up for a lot of gameplay ills. (Actually Odin Sphere would probably be closer, due to the fact that I usually prefer European high fantasy to Japanese mythology, but I haven’t spent much time with that game.) While I don’t have any problems with polygons, I certainly wouldn’t complain if every last game looked like this — exquisitely well-drawn and well-animated sprites and magnificently detailed backgrounds that fill every inch of the screen with beautiful art and colors. I don’t really have any interest in realism (or pseudorealism) — when next-gen consoles were being bandied about for the first time, this was the kind of game I wanted to see more of, not Brown & Gray Shooter: The Revenge. I’d love to see an RPG that looked like this — or a true platformer. The first few times I played the game it was on a 19″ SD TV, and I was dumbstruck. This time I’m playing the game in its proper perspective and it’s simply breathtaking.

I’m making my third straight attempt at trying to beat the game on the Shura (hard) difficulty, after two attempts of starting on that difficulty and abandoning it. I’m trying to put an emphasis on really learning the attack patterns and dodging techniques this time around. I don’t really care for either of the difficulty modes in this game, though — Muso (easy) is so easy that it’s nearly impossible to lose except in the very hardest Enemy Lairs, but Shura feels a little cheap sometimes — you don’t really notice how much you lean on the autoblock function until it’s taken away from you, and one drawback of being such a well-animated game is that it can be hard to read the enemy tells sometimes, especially on smaller enemies who are often obscured by various things. Shura seems to be more about exploiting the invincibility frames of your swords’ Secret Arts than anything else. I’ve gotten further on this attempt than ever before, but it’s growing increasingly difficult — I died multiple times to Torahime, for god’s sake.

I also think I’ll try and hunt down the hidden octopus boss this time, as well. I’d heard about it before even playing the game (thanks to the infamous magazine cover), but I’ve never actually seen it. Muramasa doesn’t have a bestiary, but killing it would complete mine.

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