Bladed Fury review: a sharp nod to Vanillaware

So…why wasn’t Muramasa: The Demon Blade brought to new game systems again? When Vanillaware initially released this stunningly beautiful game for the Wii several years ago, it became a massive underground hit. That prompted the studio to release another version…for the PS Vita. And yet, here we are without a version for current-gen consoles, where it would no doubt shine brightly in 4K.

But at least we have a pretty good fill-in with NExT Studio’s Bladed Fury. While it’s a bit on the short side and has a few slight issues with its gameplay and visuals, it has Muramasa’s spirit completely intact. Not only that, but the story delves deep into Chinese culture, creating a tale that’s as fascinating to watch as it is to play.

The story focuses on an unlikely heroine named Princess Ji, who finds herself on the run after she’s framed by the Tian for the murder of the Duke of the Qi region. But she’s not running away without a fight. She’s gathering weapons and spirits, readying for a showdown with the folks that wronged her.

Yep, it’s a story about revenge. But it sets the stage for Bladed Fury’s action, which is quite satisfying. Though Muramasa is still somewhat preferred, there’s some great combos to take advantage of here, between power and quick strikes. Not only that, but you can also knock enemies into the air; and utilize other special techniques. It’s not entirely original, but it is cool for those of you that missed out on what Vanillaware’s title had to offer.

That, combined with the Princess’ swiftness to get through platforming and challenge bosses, makes the game an overall blast to play. There are moments when you can slip a little bit, due to minor glitches, but the ebb and flow is there enough to satisfy. If you’re a fan of hack-and-slashers, this is worth adding to your list. You can also upgrade abilities, which will help you expand your skill set over the course of your journey.

Not only that, but Bladed Fury also features exquisite visuals that almost reach the level of Vanillaware classics of old. The hand-drawn animation is impressive; the backgrounds are colorful and bring this Chinese world to life; and some of the enemy designs really stand out. There are times that the action slows down a little bit, but not enough to throw off what you see exploding on-screen. I just wish it was longer, as it ends at a fraction of the time that Muramasa concludes in.

Also, the music isn’t quite as good. It has some great tunes here and there, but I miss Muramasa’s mighty soundtrack. Still, it fits the tone of what’s on-screen, so it’s not too shabby.

Overall, Bladed Fury can’t quite match the graciousness of what Muramasa’s team brought before. However, it’s truly inspired by it, feels excellent to play, and offers some fun visuals to watch on-screen, especially in 4K. It may not be the original warrior we asked for, but the Princess is more than ready to deliver on her own accord. Give her a shot.

RATING: 7.5/10