Jeremy Jastrzab
29 Oct, 2005

Musashi: Samurai Legend Review

PS2 Review | Not quite a legend but it's a charming and joyful romp while it lasts.
The legend goes, that Musashi Miyamoto was the most famous samurai of all time. However, he’s only had one appearance in the gaming world so far and that was in a little title known as Brave Fencer Musashi. Released after Ocarina of Time, the obvious comparison was never going to allow it to flourish. So while many may not remember the game, this hasn’t stopped Square-Enix from reprising their youthful caricatured version of the legendary swordsman.

Musashi: Samurai Legend places the player in the role of the a young samurai, summoned to a distant land by a group of magical people know as the Mystics. Their way of life had been thrown into turmoil after an evil corporation has been abducting the magical people and abusing the magical powers for their own dastardly ways. Attempting to bring a legend to life, Princess Mycella of the Mystics uses her power to summon a hero. Well, not only does she stuff up the co-ordinates, but she manages to summons young, brash, thickheaded samurai-in-training. Given that he’s a pretty quick learner, it’s not too bad.

The deal with this mess and a depleting magic supply, Musashi must help the Mystic maidens recover the five elemental swords that hold the key to their magical energies. And that is the crux of the game. For an RPG, it isn’t that deep and it doesn’t really have any monumental twists but it gets the job done better than most. At least it’s done in a light-hearted manner. There’s enough charm and enough colourful characters to allow the game to have a sense of life. It’s hardly original but it can be fun for anyone with an open mind.

This is your initial training ground

This is your initial training ground
From the outset, Musashi is placed under the tutelage of Master Mew, a character that looks like a cat version of Yoda. He takes you through the games basic functions and it will cover most of the things that you’ll need to know. These boil down to combat, combat when carrying someone and duplication.

The combat is relatively simple, sometimes a little repetitive but it works very well. Musashi has two basic weapons, his Katana and numerous large “special” swords. These being the five swords that you need to collect as well as a weapon called the Great Oar, which you receive at the beginning of the game. The katana attacks are controlled using square button and the large swords deliver a huge smack with the press of the triangle button. You lock-on to enemies using the R1 button and block with the L1 button. Thankfully, the controls are spot on and Musashi handles very well. Attacks are responsive and the block can easily bail you out. While it lacks range, the lock-on is better here then in many other prior games.

There are a couple of twists to the combat. There will be several occasions where you will be forced to carry someone or something and do battle at the same time. You’ve only got two basic attacks in this position and one involves tossing whoever you’re carrying in the air and unleashing a circular strike. It is certainly novel, but you’ll drop whoever your carrying whenever your hit. The biggest oddity is that your attacks in these situations are so much more powerful than normal, possible to encourage holding onto your cargo.

Some minor platorming is present

Some minor platorming is present
The best feature of the game is the duplication system. Virtually every enemy in the game, when first encountered has a blue circle accompanying the lock-on icon. If this is the case, you will be able to duplicate that enemy’s primary attack. An exclamation appears over your head at the opportune time, where you then press square, followed by the prompted input to learn the enemy’s attack. Though most a linked to the circle button, there are a lot of enemy attacks to be duplicated. They cover both attacking and defensive maneuvers. Not only is it a lot of fun to explore what techniques can be found, there are enough techniques to allow for almost every style of gameplay. Everything from huge strikes, multiple hits and even defensive sword-whirls are here for the player to check out.

Every time you acquire one of the special swords, you get a free special move as well. For example, the sword of Earth gets a move where you slam the ground to cause a quake. Not only does this clear enemy hordes but can be used in several environment puzzles such as pushing huge buttons and destroying boulders. Each sword serves such a purpose.

A slightly disappointing aspect is that while there are plenty of moves to duplicate, there really aren't that many enemies. They mainly consist of these weird ninja beings and big robots. The main difference is that they'll change colours and have more health as you go. However, they are formidable, especially in groups. It may get a bit repetitive at times but lower opponents make for great experimentation with all the moves that you have at your disposal. Boss battle consist of many huge beasts and are generally challenging and stimulating. Unfortunately, the camera can get in the way sometimes and patterns are easy to pick up. Enemy AI, normal and boss, isn't the best we've encountered but they manage to be pretty aggressive.

Most strikes are accompanied by flashes of light

Most strikes are accompanied by flashes of light
Musashi has a few interesting activities that he can perform when he gets back to his "base". Through out the game, you'll find blue spheres that hold inhabitants of your base. By releasing them, you unlock a stall or shop. This opens up shops where you can buy all your upgrades and equipment. Others allow you to partake in events such as the Arena, where you fight for money and prizes or the Inventors chamber were you can experiment with loose materials that you happen to run across in the game. While some of these people aren't necessary to find, others are mandatory for progression. So be sure to release them any time you find one or return immediately once you attain a way to get to them.

The gameplay is rock-solid with the duplication system being the highlight. The action is quite frenetic and the game is paced quite well. On top of that, there's a whole lot of charm and good-feeling going around. However, there are a few concerns that hold the game back.

There have been a lot of complaints that Musashi moves too slowly. Well, he may not be Speedy Gonzales, but the game is built in a way that this is issue is somewhat negligible. If you think about it, a dash feature would've been nice (especially in the huge boss fights) but what we have is definitely workable. However, there are some issues that people will have difficulty getting over. These mainly relate three things: progression, ease and length.

Musashi fends off autograph hunters

Musashi fends off autograph hunters
Progression in the game is very standard. There aren't too many points in the game that we were scratching our heads and feverishly attempting to figure where to go. On top of that, many people generally expect there to be some sort of twist and turn in the story. Unfortunately, you won’t find one here. The game is very easy. Even on the normal difficulty, we were never forced to restart. Enemy health and magic refill drops are very generous. Finally, the game won’t go to far over 15 hours. While it may be a little short for an RPG, in the very least, you’ll get a taste for everything the game has to offer in that time and it is still somewhat satisfying.

Musashi: Samurai Legend has a great visual style. It’s a charming mix of manga and cel-shading. It gives the game the effect that it desires, creating a vivid and colourful world with some wonderfully realised characters. Animations stand out as well, with some impressive movements and effects. This is embodied in Musashi’s long hair bouncing back and forward as he runs. One look at this game and some people will be sold immediately and for the most part, these are the people who will enjoy it the most. While there are some slow-down and disproportion issues, in essence there is a feeling of pure joy when looking at this game. Sure, not everyone will accept it but to date, Musashi is one of the better exponents of this kind of visual style.

Sound-wise the game is very good as well. The music is excellent, with a wide variety of tunes and plenty of light-hearted feeling. The sound effects get the desired job done with a good variety of both serious and silly additions. Given this, it’s a shame that the voice acting is so erratic and the general presentation of voices is half done. By this we mean that the character will speak the majority of their first line but the rest is text. That and half the voice cast is unconvincing, not a good thing when Musashi is one of them.

If Musashi: Samurai Legend were done using a realistic graphic style, the flaws and issues in the gameplay may have stood out a lot more than they actually do. While it’s not the most original action RPG, the underlying gameplay is very solid, the controls are tight and the duplication is a blast. However, put it together with the style, charm and flair in both the visuals and music make from a thoroughly enjoyable gaming experience. From the evocative set-up to the satisfaction of stealing enemies move, those with an open mind and lenient expectation are likely to find a cool title that is perfect to fill the gaps between big releases.
The Score
The people who fall in love with the visuals at first sight will be the ones to get the most out of this game. However, for the open-minded, there is a great little game with plenty to like about it in Musashi: Samurai Legend. Not the best but easily one of the most charming and joyful games of recent times.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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