JP title: 装甲悪鬼村正 贖罪編
Note: Shokuzai-hen is basically kind of a sequel to Muramasa that takes place after the true end. So keep this in mind. If you haven’t read Muramasa (the main game, that is), don’t read this review unless you want to be spoiled on a bunch of things.
Well, this certainly came as a surprise, in more ways than one. Partly because holy shit, Muramasa is back, and also because this particular spinoff story on offer is actually… pretty good! I’d say I enjoyed it more than most of the other Muramasa-related works, including Janen-hen. The story itself (before you get *too* excited) wasn’t written by Narahara Ittetsu, Muramasa’s original author. No, it was actually penned by a fan for a contest held by Nitroplus a couple years back. And it won the grand prize (so that should tell you something about its quality, at least), which was that Nitro would actually turn it into a VN. Well, they sure took their sweet time with it, but hey, whatever. It’s here. It’s good. It’s free. All is forgiven.
So yeah, the game is indeed free, and you can download it by following the link above. Granted, it’s a little 200+MB thing and you’ll likely finish reading it in one or two sittings, but let’s not look the gift horse in the mouth, especially one so well-groomed. The story of Shokuzai-hen centers around Kikuchi Akitaka, who you may remember as the foster father of Kageaki from the main game, and also the police chief. Well, he feels tremendous guilt and responsibility for everything that happened, so, after learning that the leader of the dreaded 武帝 is indeed Kageaki, decides not to remain at the sidelines any longer, and sets out to have a little father and son heart-to-heart with him. But this is Muramasa so you know it will end in a Tsurugi fight, lol. Ichijou and Kanae also make appearances, but they’re mostly just side characters and don’t really have that big of a role. Kanae is still funny, though:
At first I wasn’t sure how to feel about Akitaka as a protagonist since he’s a side character in the original, but his role actually worked out quite nicely here. Now that Kageaki had become a true 悪鬼 and is killing people left and right under the banner of an organization that operates based on the tenets of 善悪相殺, Akitaka is kind of the “everyman” MC. Or at least a less “holy shit I don’t want to be in the same room as this guy” kind of MC than the new and improved Butei-Kageaki. A voice of reason in a world gone mad, if you will. I guess even the tagline above connects to this. He suffers the same way Kageaki did during the main game, and wants to stop him the same way Kageaki wanted to stop Hikaru. History repeats itself, sort of. The other important character is Makimura Kaede, the nurse who didn’t even have a sprite in the original game. If her name doesn’t ring a bell, I don’t blame you. She’s the nurse Akitaka protected, and this is when he suffered that war injury that rendered him impotent. She also sets out to meet with Kageaki in an attempt to protect Akitaka (because she obviously loves him).
What I liked the most about Shokuzai-hen is how it touched upon things I really wanted to see in Janen-hen but never did. Re:Blade Arts kind of just introduced Kageaki as the 武帝 and that was it, you saw what became of him. He was completely badass and everything, but the contrast with his old self is pretty huge, so it was a bit of a shame that we didn’t get to see more of him and Sansei. Shokuzai-hen remedies that just a little bit. Not too much, but enough to put a smile on my face. For example, think about what people who knew Kageaki would think if they saw him like this? What would they say to him during a confrontation? I mean, consider the scene with Subaru in Chapter 5 when she tells him not to kill anyone because it would spiral into more and more bloodshed. And now he’s doing just that, which is why I’ve always found him to be a really tragic character. Either way, I digress. This is where Akitaka comes in, and it was pretty exciting to see him confront Kageaki face to face about what kind of a man he had become.
Same thing with Sansei. Here in Shokuzai-hen, there are some references to how she feels about Kageaki and his newfound 武帝-ness that made me appreciate the character even more. Kageaki, too, feels a touch more human compared to Janen-hen, where he was basically a cackling avatar of 善悪相殺 and not much else, as far as I recall.
The major bummer about the game is that it’s unvoiced. Man, how I wish this was voiced. The finale in particular would be even better. Seriously, I would pay for a voice patch and I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way. Speaking of the finale, after a bit of rumination one might say it’s not *entirely* Muramasa-like, but on second though, it wasn’t particularly meant to be. Once again, see the tagline. He’s just a man. Not a hero, not a villain. That was the entire point, and I guess it managed to convey that message nicely enough. Either way, this was not meant as a complaint by any means, I did enjoy the ending very much, and it definitely tugged on the heartstrings as well. Also, can I just mention how much I loved that final CG at the very end? Yeah.
Anyway, Shokuzai-hen was pretty cool, and sorry if this review feels too short or anything, but there’s not much else to say other than “go read it”. It neatly recreates the atmosphere of the main game, touches on some interesting themes and gives you a fairly memorable finale too, with well-timed insert songs and everything. Very much recommended if you’re a fan of the original.