Released around the same time as Xenogears in late 1998, Brave Fencer was Square’s first true action-RPG for the Sony PlayStation. The game proves to include some original game elements that make it stand out from the crowd. It’s entertaining, but not without its flaws. Read on!
Brave Fencer Musashi’s plot revolves around the plight of Allucaneet Kingdom (pun intended). The evil Thirstquencher Empire is on the rise and looking for trouble, and the only thing left for the good people of Allucaneet is to summon the fabled hero. As you might have guessed, that hero happens to be none other than our good friend Musashi. His job is to protect the people, defeat the Thirstquencher Empire, and gather all of the sacred scrolls while wielding the legendary swords Lumina and Fusion.
The plot sticks to that basic script the entire time and there isn’t much else to write about. It’s simple to understand, at times entertaining, but seems like it was written for an eight-year old to comprehend, since this game is more geared towards a younger audience. The plot is sufficient for the game, nothing more.
The characters in Brave Fencer aren’t the best either. Musashi has his cocky attitude, and… wait, there are no other characters that are focused on… sorry. That’s right, the only character receiving any (if at all) development is Musashi, and the only thing about him that changes is that he begins to like the town. Whoa.
Of course there’s a bunch of people you’ll know by name from the town, like Mint and Princess Fillet, but they receive very little game time, and even the game’s “antagonists” are just huge monsters, guardians of the sacred seals for the sacred scrolls. The design and artwork is good, but the characters themselves are empty. They just serve their purpose and that’s it. Sufficient for an action-RPG of this kind, but there could have been a bit more done here.
This is probably Brave Fencer’s highlight. The soundtrack is quite good. This is a surprise, considering that the MIDI quality isn’t very high and the tunes aren’t very complicated; in fact, the simplest of tunes, the nighttime town theme, is one of my favorites. The songs seem to fit in each area, but that’s not to say the soundtrack doesn’t have a few sour ones. There are a few MIDI instrument/sound effects that are very annoying, and you’ll know what I’m talking about if you play the game. Overall, however, this is an excellent showing. A diverse soundtrack with catchy tunes equals good stuff.
The sound effects are also right on target for the most part, and the voice acting is sufficient. The voices are usually extremes- either high and whiny for the Princess or old and crackly for the old wise attendant at the castle, but they’re decent. The exaggerated voices make up for the lack of character development, in a sense. They’re something you’ll definitely remember.
Braver Fencer’s gameplay is quite interesting and a lot of fun. The game is comprised of a bunch of tasks, which are for the most part fetch quests. Usually this sort of thing would bother me, but in an action-RPG, the focus on the actual gameplay allows me to overlook that fact.
Musashi travels through many different areas in his quest to save Allucaneet, from dark magic forests to ice palaces. The variety in locales is refreshing, and each area has different enemies and puzzles for Musashi to deal with. The puzzles never get to the point of frustration; they’ll make you think, but never to the point of throwing controllers.
Battling enemies is as simple as pressing a button; all combat is done in real-time. Musashi can absorb the powers of enemies, turning them into useful abilities that may allow him to solve a puzzle or progress further. There are fun mini-games and there is some degree of freedom, which is definitely welcome. One annoying flaw is the jumping system; this platform element was not integrated well and is probably the main source of frustration. However, the game is still a ton of fun. The focus of an action-RPG is the gameplay; Musashi delivers in that department.
Brave Fencer uses polygonal characters and polygonal backgrounds, with a controllable camera in a 3-D environment. The backgrounds, for the most part, are well designed and look pretty good. The characters are deformed in the same vein as Final Fantasy VII, however the character models in Brave Fencer have a bit more detail and certainly are comprised of more polygons. The environments have a lush detail not seen on many games on the PSX, and the vibrant color scheme is very pleasing to the eye. It isn’t the best the PSX can or will offer, but it’s certainly something pretty to look at.
Brave Fencer has a good translation. There are few grammatical errors, the directions are clear, the names original (and filled with puns). The voices are fine, and the dialogue never sinks to the levels of Star Ocean 2. I’ve seen better, but I’ve seen worse. The lines flow perfectly- a pat on the back to Square for a nice localization.
Thankfully Brave Fencer has excellent control. The analog control is fluid and responsive, and the standard button layout easily allows for manipulation of all of Musashi’s actions and movements. The Dual Shock vibration is fitting.
The game lasts for about twenty or so hours and there are only a few instances of immense difficulty scattered about; as I stated earlier, the puzzles and such are pretty well-balanced difficulty-wise. Brave Fencer Musashi is entertaining and proves to be a worthwhile effort by Square. Still, it ain’t no Zelda.