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Samurai Legend Musashi
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US Spring '05
Japan 2005



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Here is the "manga shaded" Musashi.
 
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Expect a lot of innovations in the gameplay.
 
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Feel the power baby.
 
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Our hero travels in style.
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Stuart Hoggan
Preview First Look
01/18/05
Stuart Hoggan

It has been six years since the PSX release of the popular Brave Fencer Musashi, best known for it's wacky humor and hilarious characters. Though it never got outstanding critical acclaim, it found success in the US. It was successful enough that Square-Enix are planning to release the sequel in the US (a release date in Japan hasn't been given.) Takashi Tokita says it best. "Musashi is a samurai game so both American and Japanese [players] will love it. Square-Enix is [making Musashi] for America because the previous Musashi -- Brave Fencer Musashi -- got a good reputation in America and Square-Enix has confidence that samurai action will get worldwide [recognition]." Samurai Legend Musashi is less of a sequel and more of a fresh interface with many new concepts. The only returning element is the actual hero, Musashi, and his two swords. Yoshimoto says the reason for this was to carry over the dual sword feature from the last game, and Musashi was a great fit.

Samurai Legend Musashi tells the tale of Vespire: a realm under the control of the Gandrake Corporation. They achieved this power by developing an invention called the Nebulium Engine that sped up the lands' advances. Greed dominated the company over time and they took the next step by plotting to take over the world with its own energy source, Nebulite.

Meanwhile, the main protagonist Musashi is still continuing his journey of training in the art of swordsmanship. He is summoned by the Princess of the Mystics' desperate plea to save her people from the meglomaniacal plans of Gandrake. Not only that, she herself has been captured by Gandrake leaving Musashi with the task to save her if he wants to return to his own world.

The most notable thing about the new game is the unique visual style, directed by Takeshi Fukimoto. In a transfusion of the popular cell shading and a tinge of anime, the graphics have been described as 'manga shading.' Fukimoto clearly describes the distinction of this style from normal cell shading: "It basically relies on calculation done by a program," and he goes on to say that the director wanted a different approach for Samurai Legend Musashi. "Mr. Yoshimoto wanted the character's outline to be comic-like, so we first manually drew in the outlines to some extent, then had the program itself calculate the shading." Also employed were artists to draw the lines and soft colours on each of the characters and of course, Tetsuya Nomura, whose character designs for the game have beem deemed his most unique. On top of this, they have also collaborated with the famous animation company Gainax for the computer cell shading cut scenes. Director Youichi Yoshimoto says "Gainax has created really exciting, fast-paced movies, which is why we asked them to do the animation for us." And with all the pretty visuals comes English voice acting for all the characters.

The technique adopted here can be quite misleading at first, but on video the full charm of the breathy colours and textures comes through. Fans of Dark Cloud 2 and Tales Of Symphonia in particular should relate well to this natural and wholly fresh visual style. It's a bold move, and definitely one that has gone out of it's way to produce a genuine comic feel.

Like the first game, Samurai Legend Musashi is an action/adventure RPG with a series of great twists in the gameplay. Yoshimoto admits that inspiration came from martial arts and stunt legend Jackie Chan. Examples of this come from the ability to carry an NPC, throw said NPC into the air, and attack the enemy whilst the NPC is airborne. Musashi can also lift enemies and throw them to either kick or slice them up. And to add to the new innovations in the action RPG region, Musashi can do more than just cut his way through enemies- he now has over 20 abilities and extra moves he can learn to help him on his quest. And if this wasn't exciting enough, Musashi is also able to steal enemy techinques by inputting button pressing combinations at certain points of battle. Yoshimoto also says that this game adopts one of the features from Final Fantasy XI: "When Musashi levels up, there will be a sign indicating so, like in Final Fantasy XI." And on that note, players will also be able to customise Musashi's statistics. Yoshimoto considers this a vital milestone in RPGs, and vows "In this Musashi, it's shown as the player leveling up with different parameters. If I'm creating an RPG in the future, it will definitely have such player creative features."

All in all, it looks promising that Samurai Legend Musashi will not only be a stylish feat, but a fun one too. The most anticipating thing about this game is that it introduces new vitalizing aspects to the action RPG genre that could hopefully leave a mark for all those that will follow. It seems that the developers, who are in the last stages of making the game, have had as much fun crafting it as they expect gamers to have playing it. Musashi Samuari Legend will be released in the spring.



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© 2005 Square Enix Inc.
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