Everyone loves a Samurai. Just ask Cruise, Kurosawa, or Ghost Dog. Like those great movies Musashi: Samurai Legend has a great sense of style and tells the story of the often misunderstood, but always-respected Samurai. It is the Samurai that will likely be the main draw for many gamers along with the “manga shaded” graphics, which are very pretty to look at. (Manga, for those who don’t know, is the Japanese word for comic book) Everything has this two-dimensional look to it in a three-dimensional world. The story: The world of the Mystics is being threatened by a man named Gandrake, he’s kidnapped Princess Mycella along with many of the other Mystics, but not before she could summon a hero to save them, that hero is Musashi. As Musashi it is your duty to rescue the kidnapped Mystics and restore order to the land so you can go home, and become a legend for all eternity.Musashi: Samurai Legend has a great artistic style to it, due to the “manga shading”. Everyone is drawn with such great detail. The characters and all their actions just have such a great flair to them that even watching the game can be enjoyable. Bosses are huge, and look like they’ve come straight out of an anime movie. The animation of each character’s movement is done well, too. One look at Musashi: Samurai Legend and you’ll think anime just went interactive.
With music by the Japanese surf rock legends, the Surf Coasters, Musashi gets off to a good start in the audio category. The music is pretty cool, and fitting in a Pulp Fiction kind of way. The voice work could’ve used a lot of help, but it’s pretty good also. The biggest problem here is Musashi himself. He sounds like a twelve-year-old boy being voiced by a 35 year-old woman. The other characters are voiced pretty well, but the main fault lies on the writing because the actors can only do so much with the script they’ve been given. The audio effects are also done well, and overall Musashi isn’t something that you’re guaranteed to turn the sound down while playing, but it’s not exactly crank it up material either.
The best and worst parts of Musashi lie in the gameplay department. The majority of the game is spent collecting the Five Swords, the ancient swords that you’ll need to defeat the evil Gandrake. In such, you’ve got to visit each level, rescue the maiden of the sword return her safely to Antheon, where they reside, then go back to the level and play through it all over again to fight the boss. It gets tiresome after the second time. Luckily, there are some vehicular areas thrown in between to break up the monotony. You will ride a motorcycle, a train and even some giant firefly bug type thing.
Musashi is best when you’re utilizing enemies’ skills to defeat other enemies. You see, there is this focus meter and when you use it on an enemy just as they’re about to connect, you can learn their attack. Pretty much each enemy in the game has an attack or special move to learn and gaining each one, while difficult, will make the remainder of the game easier for you. While it’s not necessary to learn to duplicate enemy attacks it is handy and especially useful for taking on those tougher groups of enemies as well as in boss battles.
Another problem plaguing Musashi is the camera. This comes in to play the most during boss battles. Bosses are huge and very mobile for the most part and should they back you into a corner prepare to suffer death by camera. The other thing that is wrong with the camera is that they assigned, for some reason or another, the camera adjustments to the right analog stick. It’s hard to get it in the right position when you’re surrounded by a group of enemies that you’re trying to attack, so it’s just not practical to push the analog stick at the moment. You then force yourself to either be attacked from all sides for a second or two, or suffer from some awkward angle. The controls themselves aren’t always free from blame either, you have to focus on enemies in order to learn their abilities, but it doesn’t lock on as well as you might hope. If an enemy jumps up you lose your focus, if you get too far, which isn’t far enough in my opinion, you will lose your focus. It doesn’t work as well as it does in a game like The Legend of Zelda and will end up causing more harm than good because of the screwy camera. Overall, though Musashi plays very well, despite some gameplay issues that a little more polish could have fixed. It’s still fun to play.
Unfortunately, Musashi leaves something to be desired; replay. While you have lots of abilities to learn from enemies, they’re not vital to the game. There are cards to collect, but all they do is give you information about enemies, non-playable characters and the bosses, in the end it’s neat, but it’s nothing so interesting that you’ll want to come back and play another round for. There are also some side quests that involve collecting kits for the guy who runs the arena, a place where you can go to fight the bosses you’ve already defeated and other challenges for prizes, but that’s over with about halfway through the game. You can also open up a harder version of the game after completing it, but in the end it’s not going to make the same game any better. The tedious nature of the levels will be enough to keep some from replaying this game again.
What makes Musashi enjoyable is the fact that it looks great, has decent enough controls and combines some entertaining games. There is an element of Suikoden, where you rescue Mystics and they in turn contribute to the city by building shops, and offering goods or services. Unfortunately, the majority of them offer food or drinks, which all pretty much have the same effect of replenishing either health or magic. There are no save points during the game and the game can get hard in some spots and returning to the beginning of the stage just won’t make anyone happy. There are checkpoints, but only one or two per stage and with the levels being so huge and requiring as much as 30 minutes or more to complete, those aren’t enough. Not being able to save in the middle of a stage just hurts so badly. The saving grace here is that if you lose to a boss, you start over right at the boss with full health and any items that you may have used on him right before you died. It’s not exactly the best system, but it works here and since the boss battles are pretty tough, you’ll be happy in the end. The camera should have been better, the controls a little tighter and the game should have made for less go rescue this Maiden, come back, do the level all over again, but now fight the boss. All of this should have been done in one fell swoop. It feels like a cheap attempt to extend the length of the game, but it’s so noticeable that it’s displeasing and feels like a slap in the face to the gamer. What you do get is pretty enjoyable, and while Musashi isn’t exactly a Samurai legend he does make for a decent game.
If you’re looking for a pretty looking action/role playing game with a hint of Zelda meets Suikoden this is the game for you. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you may want to try renting this game first. Musashi: Samurai Legend has some flaws, for sure, but for the most part it’s fun to play and a good way to burn 20-30 hours if that’s what you’re looking for.
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