MusashiThe city of Antheum, carried on the back of a magical beast known as the Anthedon, is under siege by President Gandrake’s forces. Princess Mycella of the mages of Antheum invokes an old summoning in the mystic Chamber of Rites in hopes of a hero coming to save their kind. However, Gandrake’s lieutenant, Rothschild, interrupts the ritual and kidnaps Mycella, leaving a much disorientated hero to arrive ever so slightly off course.

Luckily for Brave Fencer Musashi however, he is found by the old martial arts master Mew who immediately takes Musashi under his wing and sets him on his mission to find the five guardian maidens who guard the legendary swords of the elements.

Armed and alone, Musashi now prepares to take on the hordes of killer ninjas and robots that stand in the way of him taking down Gandrake Enterprises and saving Princess Mycella at the same time!

Musashi: Samurai Legend is a third-person action RPG game developed and published by Square Enix (the group famed for the Final Fantasy series) in 2005 for the PlayStation 2. It is a …spiritual’ sequel to 1998’s Brave Fencer Musashi that appeared on the PlayStation, in fact sharing a lot of similarities with the earlier game.

Musashi: Samurai Legend is billed as an action RPG, in that it a normal third person action game in which you cut down as many enemies as are thrown at you, mixed up with a couple of boss battles for good measure, but at the same time allowing you to pick and change equipped weapons and items as well as the ability to level up various attributes of your hero.

The gameplay of Musashi is pretty simple, and it keeps nicely in the line of being a younger-player-friendly game. The story is split into a variety of ‘fetch’ or …save the maiden’ missions, which sees you traverse some gorgeously rendered 3D platform world complete with minor environmental hazards/puzzles and hordes of fairly simple to beat robotic fiends. In some places they mix it up by throwing in a bike or other …rail gunner’ type challenge which basically sees you on a fixed track trying to destroy things as they fly on by. The game also features a number of boss battles, though these are generally not too challenging, apart from the battles right at the end of the game.

Combat is a fairly simple affair. Musashi has two swords equipped at any time, one his trusty quick striking katana, the other a heavier …ability’ sword for more powerful and magic attacks. A button is mapped to each sword plus you get a button for jumping as well as unleashing your selected ability (which you learn by focussing and duplicating enemy attacks). There aren’t many combos to speak of, but by virtue of some button bashing you get treated to some spectacular sword work, so you can pretty much sit on autopilot for this one. On occasion you also get to carry maidens around on your way back from rescuing them. Although no longer being able to swipe at the baddies with your swords, you can instead knock them down with the maiden or alternatively, toss her up into the air, perform a circular slash and then catch her as she comes tumbling down.

As I mentioned, this game comes across as intended for slightly younger players, so the level of difficulty isn’t all that great. In addition, the puzzles are pretty simple and uncomplicated and because of the restrictive level designs, you can’t really stray from the intended game path. Another little drawback is the repetitiveness of the game, mainly due to the fact that there is a rather limited number of different enemies, and you’ll pretty much be cutting down the same guys over and over again. This isn’t helped by the fact that these goons are forever respawning, making it quite possible to stay in one place and battle the same enemies over and over again! These little things add up and there are definitely some spots in the game that you can’t help but feel a little frustrated.

However, and this is a big however, the game’s charming and quirky story and characters (mostly named after cheeses and wines), bright manga-styled visuals and well-animated fighting combos more than make up for these little niggles, leaving you with an enjoyable, if a little short-lived, experience.

Visually, Musashi is nothing short of stunning. The developers have employed a …manga-shading’ look for the game, which is basically a cel-shaded approach using thicker lines for the outlines, leaving us with a distinctive anime/manga feel to the game (this look has been successfully used in a number of games, like Dark Cloud 2 and Okami to name but a few).

The backgrounds are diverse, lush and extremely colourful. There are a lot of added little touches, like the …heat haze’ on the volcano stage which adds to the level’s illusion of interactivity. Unfortunately though, the routes are usually quite narrow and Musashi doesn’t give you all that much world to run around in. The backgrounds look beautiful but are rather restrictive and pretty much forces you down a single route. That said, the levels are well designed and every aspect of the backgrounds slot beautifully together.

The characters are all extremely cute, colourful, charming and quirky – pretty much thanks to the manga-shading look and the oversized hands and feet. This matches the light heartedness of the game and gels with the feel of the game completely. In fact, even the villain robots don’t come across as threatening (apart from the boss monsters – though even then it is pretty hard to take any manga-shaded creation seriously!)

Unfortunately, even with the characters looking as good as they do (from a stylistic point of view) it is a real pity they don’t quite sound as good. In general, the voice actors used for the characters are a pretty sorry bunch, with almost no one coming through as unforced and even though they try and match the cartoonish feel of the game, it just really doesn’t work. Musashi has an arrogant, too childish voice that becomes really grating pretty quickly. In fact the only voice that you most likely will enjoy (and have you in stitches) will be that of Master Mew – guaranteed to bring a smile to your face I tell you! Luckily the music for the game is a lot better than the voice acting, presenting a decent mix of synth-heavy mystical tunes, surf rock and decent battle music.

Musashi is a fairly easy, short, but enjoyable action game. It is light-hearted, guaranteed to make you smile and features some enjoyable boss battles and loads of swathing through hordes of enemies. Visually stunning, stylish and easily accessible, Musashi makes a great purchase for any younger gamers out there, but is probably more suited to rental than buying.

If you feel like some stress free chopping up of baddies and appreciate some cartoonish flair, Musashi makes for a fun ride.

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