Musashi Samurai Legend brings Square Enix's wild-haired samurai hero back to the world of sword-swinging action with an all-new look and some new bladed prowess to show off. The game's boldly edged manga-style visuals are paired with gameplay that isn't quite as bold, as the methodical hack-and-slash that dominates the experience is lightly spiced with learned enemy abilities and a few racing-type sequences. Mushashi Samurai Legend isn't especially hard or deep, and you'll get virtually everything it has to offer on the first time through, but it's still a decent action adventure game with a good dose of quirky charm.
When your home and your people are threatened by violent conflict, only a slightly built hero with an eye-bendingly outrageous hairstyle can save the day!
Events kick off with a mysterious young woman performing a mysterious ritual beneath a giant crystal (which is perhaps somewhat mysterious). She is Mycella, a maiden with a mastery of the magical arts, and she's summoning a hero--a hero that can save her people, the Mystics, from a threatening corporation known as Gandrake Enterprises. The company has learned of a way to refine a precious ore, called nebulite, into fuel for its nebulium engine, which is powering an industrial revolution of sorts. Apparently, the maidens of the Mystics have a unique ability to draw even greater power from nebulite, and Gandrake Enterprises is out to snatch that human resource so it can then dominate the world, as evil corporations are wont to do. But Mycella's efforts are successful, and the young swordsman Musashi is brought into this world of conflict. His only way back home is to trounce the evildoers, rescue the princess, and live up to his heroic destiny, which he decides is fine by him.
The game has a rather unique look to it that the creators have dubbed "manga-shading." It's essentially a cel-shaded design with lots of thick outlines paired with anime-style art direction. Visually, it isn't too terribly far from something like Dark Cloud 2, and it looks good, with the standout design choice being Musashi's ridiculously long, impossibly zigzaggy hairstyle. You'll see that certain enemy types are repeated, but the various robot and creature minions are as well made as the other characters you'll meet, and the bosses you'll fight are nice and imposing. The visual performance starts to flag in large areas with many enemies, giving rise to some noticeable graphical slowdown. And while the camera is mostly content to stay out of your way, there are a few cramped instances where your viewpoint becomes difficult to manage. That won't happen most of the time, though, as you'll generally have a good view of where you're going and what you need to kill.
Musashi charges into battle with two weapons, a basic katana and one of a variety of larger blades that he'll collect as he presses on in his adventure. He can strike foes with his katana for a short combo, using a greater blade for either a slow finisher, a slower and harder-hitting strike, or any of a number of special moves he learns with that particular sword. He can also block attacks or focus on a particular enemy to learn a technique. When you focus, the color of the lock-on for that enemy lets you know if there's an ability you can learn. Once your focus gauge is full, you'll have to hit the square button just as your foe uses his special ability on you; and then you'll perform another button action to master the technique.
Capturing enemy abilities can be a tricky business. But while it's a cool concept, you won't actually need very many of them.
It's not as complicated as it sounds, though. In fact, the biggest problem in learning new abilities is usually in getting your enemies to use them on you in the first place. Since focusing to learn a technique leaves you completely open to attack, you'll often end up getting swiped by normal attacks or getting hit by other enemies entirely, which means you then need to build up your focus gauge so you can try again. And while learning new abilities is interesting, you won't get very many strategic opportunities to put those abilities into play, barring a few that will become staples.