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Musashi Samurai Legend Updated Impressions

Square Enix gives us an inside look at its upcoming action RPG.


TOKYO--The original Brave Fencer Musashi was a solid action game for the original PlayStation when it shipped in 1998. It was distinctively different from developer Square's other games around that time. The cartoonlike action role-playing game featured stylized graphics and fun, accessible gameplay. Although Square never followed up the original Musashi with a sequel, Square Enix has opted to do so now with Musashi Samurai Legend, a new game in the series that serves up a healthy dose of swordplay and detailed graphics.

Musashi will fight an army of enemies, many of them faster and more dangerous than this tree.
Musashi will fight an army of enemies, many of them faster and more dangerous than this tree.

There are only a few obvious ties to the original Brave Fencer Musashi in Samurai Legend: the character's name, based on the famed Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, and the game's action RPG structure. There will be some other minor connections in the gameplay, but Samurai Legend will, for the most part, be an original game that already seems impressive. Despite the differences, Samurai Legend is still being crafted by the same core creative team as the original game and it appears to be heading in a very positive direction.

The game's story follows Musashi, a young swordsman who is summoned by a mystic princess to restore order to the troubled land of Vespire. Musashi's first order of business is to find his summoner as she has been kidnapped by the evil Gandrake Corporation. The corporation is intent on ruling the land, and it actually has a fair shot to do it thanks to the Nebullium Engine, a powerful piece of technology that has helped the land prosper.

As we mentioned, Musashi Samurai Legend's core gameplay is similar in spirit to its predecessor, but this one features its own unique features. The three standout elements are the duplication, carrying, and slicing mechanics. The duplication system lets you learn your enemies' techniques. These learned abilities will let you buff up Musashi's already formidable arsenal of moves. The exact system for learning techniques will freeze time and give you the opportunity to scrutinize their moves in a scripted sequence; at the end of this sequence, you must input the commands to perform this ability. If you do so correctly, you'll earn the ability and you'll be able to use it later on. The carrying system is a flexible mechanic that will let you interact with both friendly and threatening characters. You'll be able to pick up friendly characters and either carry them out of harm's way or simply use them as human battering rams in a fight, much like in a Jackie Chan movie, by whipping them around in combat. If you're feeling more benign, you can also throw your charges up in the air and get a few licks in at your enemies before having to stop and catch them as they fall. You don't have to be anywhere near as nice to your foes when holding them. Your primary strategy when carrying enemies seems to be throwing them at each other. Finally, the slicing mechanic lets you hack your foes into different artistic shapes. This flourish lends an extra layer of credibility to Musashi's reputation as a swordsman your enemies won't want to mess with. As you progress through the game, you'll actually be able to learn over 20 different ways to hack up your foes. You'll eventually be able to do anything from basic slashes to cutting star shapes and assorted holes into your enemies.

Gaining levels is also a big part of the experience in Musashi, given its action RPG structure. As you progress through the game and kill such creatively named foes as "voltrabots" and "ninjaroids," you'll earn experience that will increase Musashi's overall level. Once you've gotten Musashi to the next level, you can determine which of his attributes will increase--basically, you can customize your version of Musashi as you see fit.

The game uses a graphical technique that recalls traditional Japanese
The game uses a graphical technique that recalls traditional Japanese "manga" cartoons.

The graphics in the game make use of a new art technique that the team is calling "manga shading." While the technique appears to be another fancy name for cel-shading, there's a bit more to it. The game's art style makes use of the color palettes used in manga, with distinct, vibrant colors for the main characters and softer hues for the backgrounds. More importantly, the technique allows the artists to manually place lines and shading on the characters.

Musashi Samurai Legend is shaping up to be a solid game from Square Enix and an interesting next step in the Musashi series. The game's interesting art style and gameplay look promising and should have a lot to offer players when it ships. Musashi Samurai Legend is currently slated to ship in the US this March, with a ship date still to be determined for the Japanese market. Look for more details on the game in the coming months. For more updates, be sure to check GameSpot's coverage of the Tokyo Game Show 2004.

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