Game Review

The Mysterious Murasame Castle Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

The mystery is why this took so long to be released outside Japan

If you've played a bunch of Wii and Wii U games over the past few years, chances are that you might have noticed some references to a title you were completely unfamiliar with. Takamaru's Ninja Castle in Nintendo Land? Murasame Castle mode in Samurai Warriors 3? Or perhaps some music in Super Smash Bros. Brawl? All of these (as well as some more in other games) are references to this very game, which has now finally been released outside Japan for the first time since its original release on the Famicom Disk System in 1986.

The Mysterious Murasame Castle, a literal translation of its original Japanese title Nazo no Murasame Jou, puts you in the shoes of Takamaru, a samurai apprentice who has to defeat both an alien creature that has taken over the titular castle, and the daimyos of the neighbouring castles that were corrupted by said alien's power.

In a way, The Mysterious Murasame Castle is like a more linear, action-oriented version of the original The Legend of Zelda. It even uses the same engine, much like how Kid Icarus and Metroid shared an engine not much later. Although there are "only" five stages, each consists of two sections, one outdoors and one indoors, with each inside section ending with a boss fight, except for the final stage which has a boss in both sections.

In each stage, your goal is simply to make it to the end. While each of them is fairly maze-like, there are no puzzles to solve or keys to find, which means that you could technically just run to the end without ever fighting anything but bosses and a few other required enemies. Of course, that's much easier said than done, because this is easily one of the most fast-paced, hectic Nintendo games around, and there's almost not a single moment where you can stand still — enemies, which are for the most part ninjas, will be popping out of bushes, trees, water and even thin air left, right and centre, so you'll be dodging and attacking constantly.

Luckily, Takamaru is well-prepared for the onslaught as he has a number of tools as his disposal. By default you can slash with your sword (if you are close to an enemy) or throw shuriken (if you're not close). While the sword is quite powerful, there's usually too much going on for you to actually get close to something unharmed, so throwables tend to be the safer option. Of course, the trade-off is that these cost ammo, so you'll have to keep collecting more; luckily, enemies tend to drop plenty. Takamaru also has a highly limited-use invisibility cloak that, in essence, temporarily makes him invincible, which naturally makes it great for tough spots.

However, this is just what Takamaru starts with — there are plenty of additional power-ups and weapons that you can find through enemy drops or hidden pickups, or receive as gifts from friendly tanookis, such as fireballs or windmill blades to replace the shuriken, an explosive lightning attack to replace the cloak, shogi pieces that let you fire projectiles in multiple directions, sandals to speed up your movement or allow you to walk on water, and more.

Even when you're fully powered up, the game is still quite tough, but what is surprising is that there's almost no randomness — enemies will always pop out of the exact same spots and do exactly the same thing, which makes everything quite fair. However, in a Gradius-like fashion you'll lose almost all of the available powerups should you keel over, which can be absolutely brutal if you're in a later stage. Unlike the Vic Viper, however, Takamaru at least has three hit points, so he won't instantly disintegrate from the slightest touch — you can even find medicine to replenish lost health, and the game is kind enough to fully refill it after every segment.

For one of the earliest Famicom games, The Mysterious Murasame Castle is also fairly impressive in the audio-visual department, naturally all thanks to the fact it was on the Disk System rather than being a cart-based game. There's quite a lot of variation in the types of screens you'll run through and the enemies you'll fight, with each stage having a different colour palette and the enemies indoors being completely different from those outdoors. It's all accompanied by an incredibly catchy, upbeat soundtrack befitting a samurai that'll keep your blood pumping no matter how many attempts a stage takes. It should be noted that the game is completely untranslated — however, there is little to no Japanese text in the game to begin with, so this shouldn't pose any problem whatsoever.

Conclusion

It's anyone's guess as to why it took so long for this game to finally be released outside Japan, but it is without a doubt a very welcome release. The Mysterious Murasame Castle is unlike any other Nintendo game of the time, with incredibly fast-paced gameplay and a high degree of difficulty which, thankfully, manages to feel completely fair. With all of the references the game has had in recent years, you're now finally able to see what the fuss is all about.

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User Comments (35)

DestinyMan

#1

DestinyMan said:

I wish this game would come to America now. The game looks interesting. I'm hoping that because of the series appearance in Nintendo Land and that the game finally coming to the West, that Takamaru might be a retro newcomer for the new Super Smash Bros. I can dream, right?

Genesaur

#10

Genesaur said:

Yeah, to echo everyone else, I'd like to see this come here, as I'm quite curious to give it a whirl.

LawRulesALL

#13

LawRulesALL said:

I'm not into VC at all, but it looks very interesting, so much that I might take a bite. Obviously if it DOES come to NA, that is.

BertoFlyingFox

#14

BertoFlyingFox said:

I would love to play this game again, hopefully it comes to the NA eShop soon.

Not sure why they buried the main character so deep too. I think Takamaru made an appearance in Samurai Warriors 3 and that's about it. Would love to see the series revitalized and Takamaru put back into the Nintendo stable, a spot in SSB would be a nice start.

JJtheTexan

#17

JJtheTexan said:

I always assumed the game never came to North America because of localization issues. Since it appears there either are none or the EU localization is done, an NA release seems likely.

Beau_Skunk

#18

Beau_Skunk said:

@JJtheTexan I hope so, but I'm not going to hold my breath for an American release... (Keep in mind "Super Mario Bros. Deluxe" for GBC is on Europe's Virtual Console, but has yet to get a VC release, among some other games in America.) Still, I'd gladly pay 5 bucks for this game, as it does look quite good.

Dpishere

#23

Dpishere said:

The fast paced combat looks pretty cool so I may end up trying it out at some point.

BulbasaurusRex

#26

BulbasaurusRex said:

Sounds good. Seeing as this never came to the Wii VC in the West (and that the restore points will help allieve the difficulty level), I'll add this to my Wishlist if and when this comes to North America.

DrakeStaff

#27

Drake said:

@xj0462 It's not translated, but there's barely any text to begin with, only on the file select screen and during the ending.

Gridatttack

#28

Gridatttack said:

Oh hey. Its this game. I always wondered what was called. I have it on those weird 149 games in 1 GBA carts. And this along SMB3 where the only noteworthy games to play on it :P
Highly recommended :3

NodesforNoids

#30

NodesforNoids said:

And here I was thinking I'd have to track down another physical copy to ever play this again. Importing games is, unless you're into loli (3DS) or just really optimistic / fluent in Japanese (PSP), a lost art. I can honestly remember, at just 15 (half a lifetime ago) throwing my controller after dying not five minutes before the final boss. It took months to convince myself to attempt that again. I'm talking, Super Mario: Lost Levels frustrating. Then again, I had also imported Mother and that was just as infuriating. I had some reading skills, but my vocabulary was dwarfed by the injokes and cultural references. Japanese games, in reflection, CAN be universal but shine brightest when they remain unashamedly Japanese.

NodesforNoids

#31

NodesforNoids said:

To an earlier post, it's only kind of like Star Tropics. The pacing is similar, but the progression is quite different. Combat is more fluid, movement is less restricted. The backgrounds, while peppered with sprites and other objects, are still quite reminiscent of the offerings on the 2600. It would be interesting to see a sequel, but only if done from the same perspective. Any other view would ruin a game like this. Tenchu, apparently, was inspired by Murasame and The Demon Blade is a light homage in itself. On the subject of samurai epics, I'm surprised there has never been an updated take on Bushido Blade. I think Namco's SC squad could do that title justice, though I'd love to see Aksys' spin on it as well.

HnD

#33

HnD said:

Sigh, why is it an issue to bring it from Europe to N. American markets? Too much red-tape to get in the U.S./CAN? Terrible.

alvieao

#34

alvieao said:

Looks similar to The Legend of Zelda, but more challenging and fast-paced. Music is very catchy, while the levels and enemies are colorfully varied for an early Famicom title. For having various cameos and references in other Nintendo games (and Samurai Warriors 3), why didn’t Nintendo bring over the game sooner? In any case, I’m glad The Mysterious Murasame Castle is finally available in the West. Better late than never, I suppose…

Magrane

#35

Magrane said:

Woooo! Nothing like a NintendoLife review to get me to buy this game. This would probably the first 9-bit original game that I would pick up for my 3DS that I did not play as a kid. Nintendo probably made the decision to release it to the Western Hemisphere after the clamoring from their surveys of the people who buy Virtual Console games. Looking forward to regressing this weekend!

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