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Muramasa: The Demon Blade - hands-on

In addition to watching your own health in a fight, it's nearly as important to watch the damage taken by the swords you're using. You have several on you at a given time, with 108 in all to collect in the game, and they start to wear out as you use them, to the point that they’ll break temporarily. So not only did we often switch swords on the fly to use different special attacks and take advantage of enemy weaknesses, we also had to give them a chance to heal. The process can happen slowly when the damaged sword is put away, but there are health-potion equivalents you can use on the blades as well.

To help the game feel comfortable for every player, you can play with the standard Remote-Nunchuk combo (with no waggle), a Classic controller or a GameCube controller (the latter being what we used). Yes, it's not just for Super Smash Bros. Brawl anymore, and the nearly ten-year old controller felt perfect for moving around our little killer. No offense to the wagglers out there, but we'll probably stick with our purple friend when we get the finished game.

In between fights, we saw some RPG elements sneak in – speaking to people in a town, buying more health items, stuff like that. But if you’re impatient, you’ll be glad to know we were able to get past that stuff in a hurry. Partly because our allotted time with the game was short, but also because we wanted to try our luck with the boss of the stage. And after falling to him the first time - which we won't embarrass ourselves by showing - we took down the beast in the epic fight seen below:

The most interesting thing about this fight was the semi-random nature of it. Most of the fight took place in two different stages, as you fought the gargantuan god's foot on the ground or his fist in the clouds, but sometimes, and with no warning, he turns into his true form. Imagine our surprise as the epicness of the battle cuts out and we're back in a normal snowy forest slashing at a huge, but defenseless boar. We were told that, during other demos that day, the people showing the game around had seen the boar appear five times in one sitting, and not at all in others.

Even discounting its looks and elaborate boss battles, there’s little doubt that Muramasa will be a truly hardcore game; after we wrapped up our time with it, we were told we had played on the easiest mode, and that the hardest mode was Ninja Gaiden-esque in its challenge. On top of that, the publisher went with the daring choice of keeping the original Japanese dialogue and having it subtitled. Some players may have problems with this, but the world is just so steeped in Japanese myth and history that it really fits. Here's hoping that the exciting gameplay and pretty looks can sustain themselves for an entire game when it comes out early next month. We leave you now with the promised sexiness, which followed the boss’s defeat.

Aug 19, 2009