A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this action/platformer is filled with violence and themes best suited for a slightly older audience. Players spend most of their time in battle against villainous ninjas and spirits. They use a variety of bladed weapons to attack, but there is no blood; enemies disappear in puffs of colorful smoke. When damaged, our heroes imbibe alcoholic beverages to restore health. Note, too, that players will be confronted with metaphysical issues, including demonic possession and the afterlife. Parents may also want to consider that certain scenes depict women as little more than sexual objects (one character has a large, swaying bosom that shows deep cleavage).
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What's it about?
MURAMASA: THE DEMON BLADE is a bit unlike anything most players will have previously encountered. A side-scrolling action game with platforming elements, it has an artistic design that can only be described as a Japanese drawing come to life. All of the game’s environments and characters have been drawn by hand before being transferred to the digital domain, which consequently makes the game feel almost like an old-fashioned -- but exquisitely detailed -- hand animated cartoon. As it happens, this aesthetic fits both the story -- which has the tone of an old Japanese fable -- and play. You take on the roles of a pair of conventionally clad Japanese warriors who use a variety of blades with varying powers to fight evil ninjas and spirits in a quest to restore peace to a world overrun by malicious and chaotic forces. Just be aware that the game’s themes border on the mature -- expect serious talk about spirituality, the afterlife, and demonic possession.
Is it any good?
Muramasa’s primary attraction is its presentation. Its hand-drawn design is both unique and beautiful, and lends the experience a grace and elegance typically absent in most hack ‘n’ slash games. The traditional Japanese narrative, which doesn’t shy away from difficult metaphysical subjects, helps immerse players even more in this compelling fantasy world.
If only the action was as innovative as the art. Players hop around environmental platforms (in the form of, say, tree branches), collect various items (such as wispy spirits), and hack at our enemies in a variety of ways by pressing buttons and tilting the control stick this way and that. The mechanics are polished and the play is fun, but it feels downright quaint next to the game’s wholly fresh visuals. Muramasa is unlikely to disappoint, but it could have been even better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about art in games. Most game makers settle on maintaining the status quo, providing players with characters and environments that are almost interchangeable between titles. What did you think of Muramasa’s artistic design? Do you think it was more or less difficult to create than what you’ve seen in other games? Did you like it, or did it feel out of place? Would you like to see more designers veer away from the sort of graphics we expect to see in our games?
Families can also discuss fictional depictions of spirituality, religion, and the afterlife, comparing and contrasting these examples with their own beliefs. Can learning about the spiritual views of other cultures help you better understand your own?
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