PS2 REVIEW: MUSASHI SAMURAI LEGEND

Musashi: Samurai Legend is a game that has the attention span of a gnat when it comes to making its mind up about what it wants to be. With elements of RPG, puzzles, combat and platforming there is not one consistently solid genre on which to base this game. Worse than that, the pace of the game is in low gear from start to finish.

Don't read this wrong, I didn't say this game was for players with short attention spans. Quite the opposite in fact. There are long periods of pure boredom interspersed with repetition, backtracking and other elements that have been added to fill in the emptiness. In an effort to turn this game into a RPG there is an incredible amount of padding. Mushashi should have been an action adventure game - with a focus on more action and adventure. Instead it's so insubstantial it's like eating a cloud sandwich.

The RPG storyline is as textbook as it comes. It's the traditional rescue-the-princess-from-the-villain premise. Our hero, in this case, Musashi, finds himself in a city atop an albino whale where be must stop the evil Gandrake from making slaves of the population of mystics that can empower the evil one's energy force. Don't let the giant albino whale throw you kids, this fairytale fantasy is so transparent that the CD only has one side. That's a joke kids. Laugh it up. You see, according to physics nothing can have one side - with the exception of this game. Do you think I'm being one-sided? Who's side are you on anyway?

It takes so long to get anywhere in this game despite the apparently linear paths that force you into locations such as tunnels and bridges where hordes of killer robots await your arrival. Fighting is decent but there's little variation to it even when you finally level-up to a degree that's noticeable.

You will use swords and magic to disable and destroy your enemies. It's easy to slice them up individually but when you are swarmed it's a different story. All you have to do is block and move back to get them in a more manageable position.

Even when the action appears to kick into a higher gear, the game goes into neutral - and sometimes reverse. The animation of the action is slow and plodding. You can even see background animation such as the fountains in the street slow down. It's in direct contrast to the opening cutscene which shows Musashi slicing and dicing through enemies like the Tasmanian devil on crack.

At times Musashi will ride a motorcycle or a hoverbike but it's not much different than walking about, in that you'll find yourself forced to drive in areas inhabited by the dreaded gangs of robots, some of which will also be on bikes. You will be forced to defend yourself with your blade as they approach you - as slowly as if they were tricycles.

Aside from weapons and magic, Musashi has the ability to mimic his enemy's moves. By tapping the square button at the right time you can assimilate new moves. Eventually you will be able grab enemies and toss them into the air while slashing at them like a windmill. An interesting animation shows robots splitting in half where you slice them, displaying their internal mechanisms.

At times the camera seems confused as to its actual duty. Sure it's capable of giving us some nice cinematic angles but at the expense of allowing us to see our surroundings which are rife with enemies. I know the enemies are easy to take care of but they don't need this form of handicap.

You'll encounter many of the same enemies as they level-up, with no visual upgrades to indicate their increased powers. Boss patterns are simple to learn but it's a lot easier to avoid them then to attack them offering one of very few interesting challenges in the game. The puzzles and platforming seem like nothing more than make-work elements and have little if any relevance to the game. The story is so generic that you could attach anything to it and try to make it work - and it shows.

A form of cell-shading called manga is used for the characters. It's just a thicker outline which makes them stand out from the environment a lot more. I like the fact that the anime has been watered down a bit so that it's not so distinctly derivative of the art form. Musashi, if nothing else, at least has a unique look.

Musahsi is not a total disaster. There are a lot worse games out there but it's a shame to see so much wasted potential. I can't help but feeling a little ripped off, especially with the opening scene that instilled some hope that the pace of the game would pick up as I leveled-up. Things don't really pick up despite some promising new moves. That's why I advise you not to pick up Musashi.

Preview by Vaughn

Talk about sequels that are a long time coming....Musashi Samurai Legend is the sequel to Brave Fencer Musashi which appeared way back when on the PlayStation. Remember the PlayStation? Little grey box that screwed me out of $500 the day I bought it in early 1996? I'll never forget it and consequently, neither will my wife. Thank God the Xbox bundle took $800 out of our pockets back on launch day, because she finally stopped yelping about how much I spent on that rinky dink PSone.

The story involves around Gandrake, an evil corporation hellbent on taking over the world via it's Nebulium Engine which harnesses the power of nebulite - an abundant energy source. Gandrake begins it's evil machinations in the land of Vespire, but the princess of Mystics has summoned a hero to put an end to this dastardly plan.

A young swordsman named Musashi answers the call for help and travels to Vespire via the young Mystics powers. Unfortunately by the time Musashi arrives, the princess will have already been captured. If he ever wants to return home he will have to save the princess and rid this new world of the evil that holds it hostage. Of course, this means that you, the person on the other end of the controller will have your work cut out for you. But hey, don't despair; that's why you'll be dropping $50 for this one later in March when it arrives on storeshelves.

Like any good hero, Musashi will drop anything for a chance to make time with a chick. It's a time honored hero tradition which everyone from Sir Lancelot to Tarzan to Spider-Man have upheld and Musashi is right in there with the best of them. Thankfully he is well prepared for the task at hand having trained daily with his sword back on his home world. And of course, like any good hero he welcomes the chance to show off his asskicking techniques.

Musashi Samurai Legend has been on the release lists since mid 2003 and we're glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If all goes according to plan you should be digging into this one in just over 2 months. As you can tell by the screens, localization is already underway and it's all systems go for a North American launch. Let's hope it doesn't slip.

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System: PS2
Dev: Square Enix
Pub: Square Enix
Released: March 2005
Players: 1
Review by Dan
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
2.5
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
2.5
MUSIC/FX
3.0
VALUE
1.5