You can switch skills on the fly but in this fast and dangerous world you’re going to wait until you’re alone to make the switch as doing so in battle completely immobilizes you making you a sitting duck. You can also switch between weapons in the same manner but once again you’re left open for a target and even once you select a weapon you have to wait momentarily while the game loads it in to place. See this would not be so bad if the game was a little bit more lenient on how it threw enemies at you, unfortunately there is a fine line from being out of view and spotted, and once spotted enemies have a hard time letting Musashi get away unpunished. Coupled with the problematic frame rate and you’ve got a recipe for frustration.
Another game play “gimmick” comes in the form of carrying people. There are going to be points in time where characters seem to conveniently manage to get themselves into a predicament and subsequently cannot walk around and follow Musashi, so what is a hero to do but carry this hapless victim of circumstance. This can be a real drag at times as your main mode of attack is substituted for a thrusting move where you slam the person you’re carrying into your enemies. Doesn’t sound very heroic to me, and to add a little variety and in an attempt to make Musashi look cool, you can toss the character in the air, do a circular slice to repel enemies and catch your cargo and be on your way. The timing on this is very unforgiving and will cause you to drop whomever you were carrying more often than not, so a lot of time will be wasted trying to pick up a person only to drop them again after taking a hit from enemies nearby.
Lastly there are the normal controls for the game. They are at best stuff and cumbersome, Musashi himself moves smoothly and fluidly outside of battle, but once you get into a fight then it’s really just a mashing of the square button. But to alleviate this there are a number of special attacks that you can insert anywhere into your combo which is a nice change of pace. Getting through the platform areas of this title can also be a tad on the frustrating side as Musashi simply does not jump high enough, this is especially true when he has some babes in arms. I reached a point where I did not think I could progress further but it turned out I was not doing the jumps close enough to the edges in order to make them, once again the frustration of poor platform designs rear their ugly heads.
As a final send off for the game let’s talk about the challenge, or lack of one, or somewhere in between that fails to satisfy. I remember the first Musashi title being reasonably challenging, it had it’s moments where the bosses would make you scratch your head, and you navigated through a massive dungeon fraught with enemies to get there. You needed to be well supplied to make it to that eventual end of the dungeon and would fight a boss that provided a reasonable challenge that matched with the skills you had thus far. That goes out the window for this new tale. Instead the game starts off incredibly hard and then tapers into the easy realm about midway through. A large number of the bosses were easy to fight once you learned to dodge one or two minor things. There was no need to continue, at least not in the later half of the game. But early on the checkpoints are so far and few between that it is easily a turn off to try and play this game. This game also has a bad habit of not providing you with any reprieve after besting a boss. Should you die on your way through to the next area or don’t make a save at some point then you’re going to be doing a lot of back tracking. This I can understand partway through a dungeon, but when I’ve slogged through a boss fight only to die from a weak minion shortly after, don’t make me do the boss fight again, it’s annoying and pointless.
At this point you’re probably thinking, where’s the redeeming bits to this game, it sounds like I’ve hated this game throughout. After a while once you start learning some of the better skills and have a little bit of a better grasp on the fighting system it becomes just a little bit more than your standard hack and slash. There are just so many other areas where there was not enough effort that I can’t rate this game higher, and that’s a real shame considering how long it has been since the last Musashi title. Hopefully if Square Enix decides that another Musashi is in order they will take the time and effort to make sure the flow of natural progression and character/player evolution is there. This title shows a great deal of promise, but until that sequel comes I’ll simply stick this one in my stack of games and go back to the old Musashi.
Musashi: Samurai Legend is certainly not the great game I was hoping for but there are a few decent moments in the game.
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