A guest review by Moz.
Musashi:Samaurai Legend is the sequel to Brave Fencer Musashi one of the first action, role playing games to set the standard for the genre in the market though it only gained release in the United States and Japan. Atari has now decided to test the European market and Musashi: Samurai Legend was recently released in the UK.
It tells the story of a village named Antheum which is inhabited by a race of peace loving Mystics. The village is named Antheum because it is built on the back of a giant beast called an Anthedon (which looks remarkably like a giant earwig with fins) and it soars through the skies up above the world. The Anthedon's magical power has always shielded the inhabitants of the village but now this power is dwindling. The Anthedon as well as protecting the mystics also gave them the gift of magic but this skill in magic soon drew the attention of a conglomerate called Mandrake Enterprises. The village draws energy from a mineral called nebulite which is extracted from a nearby mining site. Mandrake Enterprises had coincidentally constructed a nebulium engine which uses the mineral as a power source. The President Mandrake of Mandrake Enterprises approached Banon the Chief of the mystics and offered the use of the nebulium engine of course for a price. At first all was well and the villagers accepted the engineering advancements that Mandrake offered. But then things started to fall apart. Mandrake began snatching some of the villagers that were extremely skilled in the art of magic and it was soon discovered that mandrake Enterprises was applying magic to the extraction process of the nebulite in search of a more potent form of energy. Then Mandrake attacked Antheum and many of the villagers fled in fear. Some stayed behind and tried to fight but the peace loving Mystics were no match for the mighty Mandrake.
The battle between Mandrake Enterprises and the Mystics continued for nearly a month and the Chief of Antheum Banon and his wife Fermiere were distraught at what was happening the to their village but they were helpless. However their daughter Princess Mycella had heard a legend from a distant land that told of a hero who was summoned from another world that helped people in their hour of need. In a final attempt to save the village and its people Princess Mycella decided to attempt the Vocatus Herog summon that would bring this hero to their aid. However just before the summoning process was completed Mycella was interrupted by one of Mandrakes' five Directors who stopped the summoning and abducted Princess Mycella.
This is where the gameplay begins. You play as Musashi, and you are the hero that Princess Mycella was trying to summon, but unfortunately because Mycela did not get the chance to complete the summoning you find yourself a little off course and you awake in a forest in a land that you do not recognise. You follow the path and eventually come to a clearing where a one eyed cat awaits you. The cat introduces himself as Mew and he is a Samurai tutor. A screen prompt appears which tells you that it is now one week later and you have recuperated and recovered your health from the sudden summoning that brought you to the forest. This part of the game forms your tutorial and this is where you learn all of your basic moves. Mew, with the aid of on screen prompts, then goes on to explain your attack moves. By pressing L1 you can defend yourself against you opponents attacks. By pressing the R1 button you can "focus" on your enemies. A gauge in the top left hand side of the screen will indicate when you have fully focused and by pressing the square button at a given time when attacked you can learn your opponents techniques. Then when you have learned the technique which is usually an attack move you can use this move against your opponents killing them instantly. Once you have learned the move you not have to learn it again. However not all techniques can be learn right away. If you can learn a technique then a blue circle will appear when you are "focusing" however if this is not the case then you will need to level up your experience points to increase you focusing power. The more enemies you defeat the more experience you gain. Once you experience bar is full you have the opportunity to level up. This can be found in the status screen, here you can increase your skills. You can choose to upgrade one specific skill more than the others or you can improve them all equally. You can also improve you health meter or your magic points meter. By defeating opponents not only do you gain experience but you also can replenish your health and magic points. Once defeated an opponent will leave behind green or red orbs, red is for magic and green health. Some opponents or some items when destroyed will leave behind with which you can buy useful items when you finally reach the village of Antheum.
Mew will also explain that you may have to pick up your allies to help them escape. Whilst you are carrying someone you can still attack opponents. Either by pressing the square button which enables you to jab at an opponent or by pressing the circle then the square you throw you ally into the air and complete a spinning attack on an opponent before catching you ally perfectly, this move does a great deal of damage.
When you start the game you only have a katana (small sword) as a weapon. Although this sword does not create a large amount of damage it is quick and easy to use. However during your tutorial you will gain the "Gear Oar" which is the sword that Mew found you with in the forest. This is a much larger sword (it looks more like a meat cleaver) which deals far greater damage but is slower and heavier to use. Using this sword uses some of your magic points so you need to use it wisely. In some areas you will come across some glowing capsules. Normally they are blocking an access way. When you hit these capsules with the Great Oar a person will emerge. It appears that when Gandrake attacked Antheum some of the villages ran away and hid themselves in these orbs. By releasing the villagers they return to the village and may be of use later in the game.
Eventually after an interesting journey (which I wont spoil) you find yourself in a room in the village of Antheum. Here you can finally save you game. Then you are met by Banon the Chief of the Mystics who tells you what has happened to the village and how you came to be there. You are then given the task of saving the Anthedon and the village. To complete this task you must find the five swords belonging to the sacred Mystics. These swords have been scattered over the world and they are, earth, water, fire, wind and void. Each sword has a hidden power. You must find the swords and release the power. With every sword that is found a little of the Anthedon's strength will return. However to find these swords and release the power you will also need the help of the guardian maidens who you must also find.
This all sounds very complicated, but do not be put off it really isn't. As with most Japanese games the story line appears intrinsic to the game, however if you are finding it hard to follow don't worry it doesn't really matter and it all becomes clear as the game unfolds. The control system also is relatively easy to master and are not overly complicated. There is an easy option that is also available for those that are new to the genre.
The graphics are cell shaded and come to life in the Japanese comic book style. The environments and locations are colourful and interesting and I found myself eagerly anticipating the next task to see where I would end up. The game also has an interesting puzzle element which gives a break from the hack and slash offered by some other action rpg games on the market.
To be honest this is not the sort of game that I would normally prefer to play, but I can honestly say that I have enjoyed playing Musashi-Samurai Legend. I find that some games can be overly complicated and you get bogged down by a multitude of potions and concoctions and amulets and weapons that only work on some enemies and not others and in the end it just becomes a case of trial and error and tedious. This game is relatively straight forward an extremely enjoyable to play. In fact I'm fed up with writing about it I'm going now to play it...