Review: Musashi Samurai Legend (PS2)

Samurai Legend Musashi
Publisher: Square/Enix Co., Ltd
Developer: Square/Enix, Inc.
Genre: Action Role-Playing Game
Release Date: 03-15-2005

Brave Fencer Musashi captured the eye of many gamers as a fresh fun action/RPG featuring a wise-cracking kid samurai named Musashi. Widely respected as a solid game, fans of the original have waited seven years to see the spunky samurai return. Hopefully this funky reincarnation of Musashi (and his duplications) will be worth the wait.

It’s no secret that when it comes to action games, Sarah has all the mad skillz of your arthritic grandmother… But I braved the action/RPG world just for you, lovely reader, so onto the review:



Story:

The world of Vespire has just been advanced by the introduction of the Nebulium Engine, created by the Gandrake Corporation. Despite the great gains the engine has afforded Vespirians, recent actions on behalf of Gandrake have revealed that the corporation has little interest in making the world a better place and is conspiring to dominate all of Vespire.

The Mystics are a magic-wielding tribe that lives upon the Antheum: a giant, pretty, multi-finned whale… thing. Their princess, Mycella, gives a last ditch effort to save her people when Gandrake attacks — summoning a hero from another land. The co-ordinates are a little off, but better late than never, Musashi arrives.

Rescuing maidens is the name of the game, elemental swords the prize. The plot certainly isn’t complicated; following the comic-style art is a fairly simple comic-style storyline. For the most part this works, the unfortunate thing is that when it doesn’t it’s usually Musashi who is suffering. His lines are completely awful. I mean, really really awful.

Let me give you a couple of examples. Word for word ‘I’m-not-shitting-you’ examples:

Musashi’s very first line, spelling doom for those of you into foreshadowing –
“I’m all set, whisker dude!”

While talking to a maiden –
“Don’t cop a ‘tude!”

While engaging in ‘witty’ banter with the enemy –
“Props to you dude. That’s so cool!”

It’s like someone’s mom trying to be ‘hip’. Think of a kindly woman with a perm and floral print sweatshirt ‘getting jiggy with you young folks!’. My guess is the aim was kid appeal, but it misses the mark. Kids won’t fall for it, and anyone old enough to get the double meaning of Riesling will be cringing. The rest of the dialogue is okay and easy enough to get past, as well as the stickiness in the plot. As gameplay builds up the bulk of the Samurai Legend cutscenes are usually short and not overly frequent.

Story Rating: 5/10


Graphics:

Square/Enix has touted Samurai Legend Musashi’s ‘manga-shaded’ graphics, and they don’t disappoint. The characters are thickly outlined and brightly colored, definitely reminiscent of a comic book, but moving beautifully. Motion is fluid and always smooth. The destruction of enemies is super nifty with cool animation — Musashi can master different techniques to slice them up in various ways and it’s worth getting them just to watch.

The landscapes are nice and ambient. The Antheum is bright, each room has a different theme and is nicely detailed (some better than others). For the most part the level of detail is pleasing without being distracting. There are a couple levels, however, that could have used more attention. While in a mine there are times when it becomes too dark, and a level of platforms and lava quickly becomes confusing as it’s difficult to discern higher ground from basic rockface.


Nomura’s Kingdom Hearts experience certainly rears its head. Depending on how much you liked Kingdom Hearts this can be good… or bad. I mean, Musashi is wearing a halter top. There are strange net things and buckles all over the place in the wardrobes. Sometimes it works: the twin Fire Maidens are cool and stylized to reflect the element. Sometimes it doesn’t: the aforementioned halter top.

Graphics Rating: 8/10


Sound:

One out of… er… one roommates agree! The music is good.

Musashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano composed the game’s score and “The Surf Coasters” lent their talent for the intro animation’s theme. Both did a really good job. I mean… really. It was a pleasant surprise, and somewhat reminiscent of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles level background music (definitely not reminiscent of the opening song which suuuuucked). There you have it, great music. If the sound ended there the game would have a rare 10/10 score here.

Unfortunately, the voice acting makes you press the ‘x’ button at a furious rate hoping to skip past Musashi’s terrible voice.

Why why why do they get women to do the voice of men? You’ve heard a woman try to approximate a boy’s voice, inevitably it sounds like an eight year old fat kid. I can only think of one example of this ever working, and that is with Bart Simpson. Musashi is no Bart Simpson. His voice is really awful. Some of the other voice actors are mediocre to downright bad, but by sheer fortune of being juxtaposed to Musashi, they begin to shine.

Luckily, as was previously mentioned, the cutscenes are not really long and the action takes up a lot of your time (especially if you like to gain extra levels) so the nice background music will often leave you forgetting the voice acting. Sure, it comes as a rude awakening when Musashi pipes up, but a visit back to the Wellspring Woods will soothe your aching ears.

Sound Rating: 7.5/10


Control & Gameplay:

Arthritic grandmas move over! Ima kick some ass!

Well sort of, at least, I would kick some ass if the bloody camera would let me see said ass.

It’s not so noticeable when you are fighting a couple ninjaroids, a tap on the right analog will swing your friend, camera angle, back over to your side. Really, it’s the first couple boss fights that alert you something is wrong. The camera is quite interested in cinematic views, swinging in front of Musashi at an angle that is quite pretty yet utterly useless. The first two bosses have a couple special attacks, after which they are vulnerable for a thrashin’. This is fine, except good luck to you player finding them after you’ve finished running from the attack. After the enemy shoots a series of missiles, or jumps in the air, it takes forever to swing the camera around at a reasonable angle to see where one might, you know, attack.


Complicating this further is the fact that Musashi doesn’t really move all that quickly. Trying to turn and run after completing an attack takes longer than it should, especially if you’ve mastered the Chain Attack (which you pretty much have to, it’s the first duplication), rapidly pushing the attack button will turn each attack into a combo which takes even longer to recover from. I’m only a teeny bit ashamed to admit I am a button masher, so I’m tappa tappa tapping away on attack without even thinking about it. I’m not sure taking the time to slow down and do each hit separately would really help, either.

Those are the two major complaints, and unfortunately they are sometimes enough to overshadow the really fun parts of the game. For the most part, I really enjoyed Samurai Legend, slashing away at most of the enemies is fun, and once you get the hang of duplication, it’s alright. At times it feels like it’s suffering from Blue Magic Syndrome – pain to get, and kinda sucky. Players can pick and choose whether they want to pursue getting these special attacks and some do come in handy (non-spoiler advice: Be sure to get the Karmic Circle dupe from the Ninja Trooper, it’ll be useful for death avoidance). The swords Latent Powers are cool, relatively easy to pull off, and a sometimes welcome relief if you’ve been avoiding getting duplications and hence just slashing away instead of using magic.

Control & Gameplay Rating: 5/10


Replayability:

I will definitely pick this game up again when I want some nice, mindless hack and slash. My collection is mostly made up of RPGs, so it’s nice to get a little action. I wish there was more to it than that, but despite a great amount of stuff to do in the game, I can’t think of anything specific that could expand only upon beating the game.

There is a lot to do though, crafting with Inventions, rescuing all the Mystics, an arena to fight new enemies and fight bosses again for prizes and money, hidden items to appraise etc. The game moves along at a good enough pace that players who enjoyed it the first time around would more than likely replay it now and again.

After every level up the player gets to choose how the stats will increase, strength, defense, or focus (higher focus helps duplication) can all be selected for greatest increase, the stats can go up evenly, or the player can choose for themselves which stat should go up the most. All defense, or all focus etc. games would definitely be an option for players who want to go through again for a different or more challenging play.

Replayability: 6.5/10


Balance:

At the very beginning of the game there is an onslaught of attacks while Musashi makes his way to the Nebulium Tower. I wondered at this point what I had gotten myself into. After reaching Antheum, though, the RPG elements really come into play. Musashi has his own room which serves as a resting and saving place. There are lots of different food shops (once you rescue the appropriate Mystics) that sell goods to recover HP and MP. Another shop sells Accessories to improve skills and stats, a blacksmith will temper Musashi’s katana if given enough magic alloy, items can be appraised to find rare goods (sometimes not so rare… hello paperweight!), and imagicards can be won, bought, and sold at constantly shifting rates.


A player can spend all their time fighting and gaining levels, but they will miss out on bonus items and side quests. Trading imagicards can be a big financial bonus if apt attention is paid to the changing prices. Making sure to rescue all the Mystics opens up many roleplaying venues in the Antheum.

Hardcore action gamers might be able to get through without paying attention to the RPG elements, but there were definitely a few boss fights that made me very happy to have healing items. The game has RPG length (I did have to level to be able to beat some levels/baddies, that definitely added to my time), coming in at 15+ for me. All around very good stuff, and a well balanced game accessible for different types of players.

Balance Rating: 7.5/10


Originality:

Samurai Legend Musashi takes the character and duplication technique from the original, but most similarities end there. Again, the plot isn’t really all that original, but it suffices considering the comic book feel and aim towards the childrens.

There are a few fun perks, it ends up being a bit of a running joke that the rescued maidens can’t walk for whatever reason and Musashi ends up having to carry them to safety. The fun part comes with the ability to wail on the enemies with said maidens for a rather decent amount of damage. Also amusing are the grumbling complaints when you drop them after getting attacked. Musashi can pick up objects for puzzles, as well as enemies for… well whipping at other enemies, or off ledges, depending on whatever floats your boat.

At times the influence from previous Square/Enix games is too apparent and Musashi suffers from that since the original sort of had a flavour all its own. Thems the breaks in sequel land I guess, but it’s hard to wonder if the character designs and dialogue weren’t more of an afterthought, or just not well thought out in the first place.

Originality Rating: 5/10


Addictiveness:

Slicing up enemies to watch them disintegrate in various ways is quite addicting in a mildly macabre way. It’s just cool to watch, and not boring even when you are just fighting a swarm of ninjaroids.

Levels have enough brevity to keep you coming back and looking forward to the next area; only a few times did the backtracking become irritating.

Building up the Antheum by rescuing Mystics had me searching high and low for the glowing blue orbs that meant new villagers and new additions to the living city. There is enough to do in the Antheum to keep the player busy, be it trying your hand at the bosses another time around, or experimenting with metal parts in the Invention room.


The one thing that can get a player down is… you guessed it, fiddling with the blasted camera. At times fighting a boss will seem utterly hopeless when 80% of your time is spent trying to swing the camera around to see the enemy before it smites you into oblivion. This can grate on a player and cause the need for a break. Personally, I was able to get past it enough to really want to go back and play the game, but some players may not.

Addictiveness Rating: 6.5/10


Appeal Factor:

Fans of the original should check this out. If they can get over the halter, a pretty decent play is in for them.

As far as appealing to new players, Kingdom Hearts was a success, and Samurai Legend Musashi could definitely pull in the same demographic.

The action is of average difficulty, making it more attractive to casual action players, or people generally wary of the genre. The ability to gain levels, carry healing items, and saves relatively frequently should clear any frightening spectres of fighting entire levels only to die at a boss and have to start all. Over. Again. (If ‘continue’ is selected, the game starts over at the boss battle with all items restored).

The game is rated Teen, but really, there is no swearing, nudity, or blood. It’s rather friendly to everyone except I guess people who uh… don’t like pointy swords. Most of the creatures destroyed are robots. In short, Mommy, buy little Timmy this game.

Appeal Factor Rating: 7.5/10


Miscellaneous:

Really, who knew flinging maidens could be so much fun?

Miscellaneously, this was a pretty fun game. The flaws are for the most part easy to overlook if you have the want to do so. There are lots of different aspects to the game for players to pick up on. Samurai Legend is pretty open as far as letting you choose how much you want to get into the RPG versus how much you want to cut things.

I would have liked a bit more freedom as far as traveling goes. The Antheum can move farther with every elemental sword you get, which is fine, it makes sense. But at times, you can’t return to places you’ve been already to explore unless it’s part of the story. I’d rather be able to go back and find out I can’t do anything till a certain event happens or item is attained rather than be prevented from going back altogether. I think it fleshes out a game more to have that sort of freedom. Also, there is a certain smug satisfaction from getting an item or beating a boss before it’s required. In this respect, Samurai Legend Musashi could have used more of the RPG side of things. I should clarify, the good RPG side of things.

(For those just dying to know what a Riesling is, it is typically a dessert wine with a fruity kick and a floral bouquet. Accompanies fish quite well. HA! I defy you to find a thirteen year old well versed in that!)

Anyway, trust me when it comes to Musashi’s voice acting, get that thumb ready for rapid passing of the nastiness.

Miscellaneous Rating: 6.5/10


The Ratings:
Story: 5/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 7.5/10
Control/Gameplay: 5/10
Replayability: 6.5/10
Balance: 7.5/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 6.5/10
Appeal Factor: 7.5/10
Miscellaneous: 6.5/10

Overall Score: 65/100
FINAL SCORE: 6.5/10 (ABOVE AVERAGE!)