Musashi Samurai Legend Hands-On Impressions
Square Enix's brave little swordsman is finally getting his due in a new game on the PS2.
It's been a full six years since Square released its quirky action platformer Brave Fencer Musashi on the PlayStation, and now that the RPG magnate has morphed into Square Enix, it's finally seeing fit to revive the brave little swordsman on the PS2 in a new game, Musashi Samurai Legend. We got to go hands-on with a demo version of the upcoming title and also spoke with producer Takashi Tokita and director Yoichi Yoshimoto to find out exactly what this new sequel will entail.
As you'd expect if you played Brave Fencer Musashi way back when, Musashi Samurai Legend stars an outlandishly dressed (and coiffed) warrior who happens to be pretty handy with a sword. The crazy dress and hair shouldn't come as much of a surprise, since longtime Final Fantasy artist Tetsuya Nomura is handling the character design duties for the game. In any event, this samurai has been mysteriously transported from his own world to another one, and the only way he can get back is to rescue this new land from peril. And what better way to start fighting peril than by killing lots of monsters?
Musashi's fundamental gameplay is pretty standard fare for an action RPG, so you slash at enemies and jump over pitfalls in a lot of colorful, whimsical environments spread across six worlds. The game has some neat and unique mechanics layered on top of this basic model, though. Chief among these is the mikiri system, which allows you to learn new attack moves from many of the enemies you'll encounter. To do this, you'll have to lock onto an enemy, which causes a small meter to fill. After this you must wait for the enemy to use its special attack on you. Finally, you must hit the proper button at just the right moment. If you do everything right, you'll add a new move to your combat repertoire that'll help you battle the game's myriad fanciful enemies.
There's also a carrying mechanic in Musashi Samurai Legend that gives you the ability to pick up both friendly and not-so-friendly characters. One of the sections of the demo we played tasked us with finding a princess who was lost deep inside a cave. We then had to carry her out to safety. You can attack in two ways while carrying someone. One way allows you to execute a spin attack that inflicts a small amount of damage, while the other allows you to throw the person you are carrying into the air so that you can attack your enemy with your sword before you have to catch your "cargo." This latter move is pretty comical to watch, but it also inflicts a substantial amount of damage to opponents, though it does take longer to execute.
In the aesthetics department, Musashi is really packing it in. In addition to the aforementioned character designs by Nomura, the game uses a graphical technique, dubbed the "manga shader," which was developed by the game's creators. This effect is quite similar to traditional cel-shading, except that all shadows are drawn on by the artists rather than being calculated by the game's engine. The brief demo levels we played had a very pleasant, colorful look to them. Hopefully, the rest of the game will follow suit. Also, legendary animation studio Gainax will be producing a new introduction sequence for the game. In the audio department, a band called the Surf Coasters will be contributing some music to the game, which is sure to provide some interesting extra flavor.
We were told to expect between 15 and 20 hours of gameplay in Musashi for the average player, so it sounds like there will be a lot of meat to chew on for fans of action RPGs. Musashi Samurai Legend is scheduled for release early in the fourth quarter of 2004, so look for more on the game in the coming months.
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