Muramasa: The Demon Blade
has and will continue to receive more attention for its visuals, but there's a lot of game beneath the painterly exterior. Playing as either Momohime or Kisuke, players travel through side-scrolling zones in search of 108 swords. Each character has their own reasons for collecting the blades, offering two similar but completely different experiences. Momohime is possessed by an evil spirit, while Kisuke is attempting to regain his lost memories. Their stories are interesting though you are more likely to keep playing because of the gameplay and visuals, not necessarily the story. Not that doing so isn't a bad thing, though the story eventually feels like a throw-a-way aspect. The presentation is a bit off-putting and I can't say I ever really cared about the character's plights.
Gameplay is based around combat, though it isn't as combat heavy as you might expect. A lot of your time is spent wandering zones in search of items, souls and alternate exits. Rather than constantly attacking throughout the zone, waves of enemies will ambush you at certain points. Defeating enemies earns souls, adding a slight RPG twist. Souls allow you to forge new swords, though you'll also have to reach a requisite Spirit level by eating food. It's an odd mechanic, but it adds something different to the experience. Once you have enough soul and spirit, you can forge blades using a branching path system. This limits characters to 50 blades, but does offer some level of choice in how you want to play.
For all its good qualities, Muramasa does seem lacking at times. Levels and encounters eventually seem redundant and were it not for the quick pacing, it wouldn't be as entertaining. The ability to randomly switch between character's chapters also adds to the entertainment value. Though fundamentally the same, the two characters are different enough that the experience feels a little fresher when jumping between the two.