Musashi: Samurai Legend


Review by · March 15, 2005

Brave Fencer Musashi was a title that went under the radar of most gamers. Those who snagged the PSOne game, however, were met with a platformer-RPG hybrid that was a diamond in the rough. Fast forward a hardware generation to today; Square Enix announced a quasi-sequel to Brave Fencer Musashi with Musashi: Samurai Legend, keeping the character’s name and ability to copy enemy moves, but putting him in a whole new body with a rather psychedelic environment. Could Square Enix successfully copy the formula for underground success with their newest title?

One of the main draws for Musashi: Samurai Legend is its graphics. “Manga Shading,” a technique similar to Cel-Shading, was developed for Musashi. No matter which programming algorithm it uses, the end result makes a startling view: The game puts a thick black line around the characters, giving them a hand-animated look, similar to Level 5’s Dark Cloud 2. As a character, Musashi himself is an oddball; despite his goofy styling and wild hair, Musashi manages to move smoothly with a sword in his hand and his hand on his hip. A combination of wacky hair and belly shirt, Musashi finds himself in a world populated with other unique characters. With all character design duties handled by Tetsuya Nomura, players may find some characters all too familiar. Gandrake has the vibe of Sephiroth, just with black hair. Other characters manage to be unique by both design and the fact that not all of the borders in the “Manga Shading” are black. Some characters have borders color-coded to fit them, such as the dog in Antheum that has a red border and an old man who has a grey border.

Musashi traipses about mostly in environments that are both sprawling and beautiful. There are a few exceptions to this rule of thumb, such as the initial dungeon, where Musashi’s main flaw, repetitiveness, rears its ugly head. While fighting his way into Gandrake Corporation, Musashi fights hordes of ninja and robots. Although they all look the same, enemies animate fluidly and are slain dynamically. Based on Musashi’s last slash or thrust, enemies will fall apart and dissolve from the center point. Despite the animation style, the enemies dissolve gorgeously with a good deal of polygonal flair.

Musashi continues through the Gandrake Corporation to rescue the Princess of the Mystics. Initially, Musashi is taught by Mew, a talking cat who finds Musashi unconscious. It turns out that the Princess of the Mystics, Mycella, summoned a hero to help reclaim the citizens of Antheum. The home of the Mystics is certainly a unique one, as Antheum is found on the back of the Anthedon, a giant, flying whale. Despite the unique setting, Antheum is mostly deserted and takes a little while to navigate its three floors correctly. As Musashi progresses through the game and rescues more townsfolk, the city becomes a little more crowded, but not much so. As there are fewer than 35 citizens, there’s not a great deal of people per square foot.

In spite of all of this, Musashi’s quest is an interesting one, simple as it is. One of the interesting features of Musashi: Samurai Legend is the ability to pick up and wield the maidens Musashi is on a quest to rescue. Oddly enough, these maidens tend to do more damage than Musashi’s solid steel sword; a woman’s scorn, indeed. Musashi also wields several swords on his journey, enhancing his strength. Musashi gains his new abilities by focusing on targets and mimicking their moves after he is struck. Although Musashi can gain upwards of twenty abilities, he still manages to be rather repetitive – and slow – as he journeys through the land to rescue maidens and stop the evil Gandrake Corporation.

Musashi’s antagonist is the leader of the Gandrake Corporation. Fortunately enough, the leader of the Gandrake Corporation happens to be Gandrake. Gandrake is very reminiscent of Nomura’s other villians. Gandrake is out to do exactly what evil villains do: take over the world. The story itself is rather simple with decent, somewhat witty dialogue. The game’s overall feel is definitely meant for the younger crowd, especially with the Manga-Shading style. Although the dialogue can be good, the voice acting is generally on the mediocre side. Musashi sounds like a cliche surfer/X-treme character from any of today’s Saturday morning cartoons. Other voices are rather mediocre, as well. They have a bit of style, but lines aren’t delivered nearly as well as they could be.

On the flip side of the audio game, the music in Musashi is actually very good and fits the different points in the game to a tee. Composed by Masashi Hamauzu (SaGa Frontier 2, Final Fantasy X) and Junya Nakano (Final Fantasy X), many of the game’s songs feature a surf-rock vibe. The title song is by the band “Surf Coasters”, a Japanese surf-rock band. Most of the game’s music, however, is standard RPG battle and overworld music like those songs heard in any of Square Enix’s other games.

Musashi’s main draw, graphical style aside, is the overall gameplay. Unfortunately, Musashi moves a bit too slowly for my taste. After playing games like Ys: The Ark of Napishtim, Musashi moves around at a pace more akin to a knight in plate-mail than an armorless samurai. Musashi’s standard combo, a five-hit slashing attack, takes upwards of five to six seconds, a far cry from Ys’ and Dynasty Warriors’ quick combo attacks. Even though Musashi is a bit slow, his attacks do have certain flair to them. Still, the game manages to be a bit repetitive. For instance, one of his attacks allows him to burst through an enemy with a star pattern. If it kills the enemy, it dissolves in a sequence that’s more impressive than the standard disintegration.

Similarly to the first game, Musashi runs across many large and challenging bosses.. Unfortunately, the main problem of Musashi rears its ugly head during boss fights. The camera work in Musashi is dismal, at best. It’s not a problem in the main part of the levels, as fights tend to be over quickly. However, when dealing with the boss fights they become increasingly difficult when the camera’s placed in a spot where none of the battle can be seen, causing Musashi to find himself knocked out cold.

Musashi features a full-fleshed experience system with six statistics: Hit Points (HP), Mystical Power (MP), Attack, Defense, Luck, and Focus. All of the skills, sans focus, are rather self-explanatory in their standard RPG roles. Focus, on the other hand, is a statistic that’s unique to Musashi. Focus allows Musashi to lock onto his enemies more quickly, which then allows him to spend less time dodging before learning a move. Musashi also has a simplified level-up system if the player doesn’t wish to go stat juggling on level up. Choices such as, “Improve my Offense/Defense” let the game level up the character accordingly. Of course, players are still able to manually distribute statistics if they would like.

In his quest to save the Mystics, Musashi has a few points of interest that don’t directly pertain to his quest. For instance, there is a motorcycle portion of the game where the player slashes at opponents. It’s not particularly engaging, but it’s a nice portion of the game to distract from moving to different areas. Musashi also comes across objects that he can take back to Antheum to have inspected. These items run the gamut from worthless baubles to awesome accessories that can be used to boost his statistics. Musashi also collects cards which he can buy and sell as the market changes. Additionally, challenges are available for Musashi to push through.

All in all, Musashi: Samurai Legend is not a bad game. In fact, it’s entertaining. However, the fact that its target demographic is undeniably the players of the first game, coupled with the slower pace of the gameplay, and Musashi winds up in the exact same boat as it’s predecessor. There will be those who fall in love with the game’s graphics and general story, but many gamers will be turned off by its gameplay speed and repetitiveness. Fans of the first game, your sequel is here. Everyone else, try before you buy.

Overall Score 79
For information on our scoring systems, see our scoring systems overview. Learn more about our general policies on our ethics & policies page.
John McCarroll

John McCarroll

A Nevada native now in the Midwest, John started at RPGFan in 2002 reviewing games. In the following years, he gradually took on more responsibility, writing features, news, taking point on E3 and event coverage, and ultimately, became owner and Editor-in-Chief until finally hanging up his Emerald Cloak of Leadership +1 in 2019.