Brave Fencer Musashi - Review

A High-Quality Action/RPG Indeed

By: Phillipe Richer

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 6
   Plot 3
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

15-20 hours


Brave Fencer Musashi

   During its release 1998, and soon after the coming of the legendary Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Brave Fencer Musashi was looked at as the supposed "Zelda Killer" for the PSX. Actually, BFM is much more of an RPG than Zelda really is, and isn't advantageously compared to Nintendo's greatest adventure game. It's a very light-hearted and fun game, with just the right dose of challenge and quirkiness to appeal to almost every type of gamer.

   You'll begin your adventure in Allucaneet Kingdom after being summoned by the nosy princess to defend her land against the evil Thirstquencher Empire. Unfortunately, the Musashi of legends turns out to be much punier and feeble looking than the habitants of the castle would've liked. You'll have to acquire the legendary sword Lumina right at the beginning to prove yourself to those good people. Armed with both the Fusion and Lumina swords, Musashi becomes a walking death trap, capable of vanquishing enemies with some very cool moves. You'll wander through the various areas surrounding Allucaneet Kingdom jumping around (X button), bashing enemies, stealing their money and gaining experience. Yes, Musashi can gain levels. Musashi's power is determined by 4 things: body (strength), mind (defense), Fusion and Lumina. The "body" gauge will fill up as you defeat enemies, his "mind" gauge as he walks around and Fusion and Lumina gauges as he uses his swords by pressing square and triangle, respectively. The max level for each is 30, and the "exp" represents the number of steps he's taken.

   By holding the R1 button, which is also used to guard, an ability gauge will increase. You can then press the square button to throw Fusion on your enemy and press that button repeatedly to absorb that foe. That technique is called "Assimilation". Assimilating different foes grants Musashi with different abilities, some of which are useful and others which are just for laughs. Musashi can only have one of these abilities equipped at any time, and use of them depletes his BP (bincho power) bar. You'll start off with 150 HP and BP and gain some more by finding Minku's (25HP increase) and freeing the castle's inhabitants of their bincho cell (5BP increase). There are 35 people to rescue which you can then go visit at the castle later on. Some teach you special techniques (very cool), some give you special items (always useful) and some give you information (what nice people!). Sometimes you'll have to free certain characters to defeat a boss or just to advance to the next area.

Do you have Square's latest Action/RPG in store?
Do you have Square's latest Action/RPG in store?  

   Sadly, there is only one village in BFM. There, Musashi can talk to people, fill up his inventory with HP and BP restoring items, buy some toys to play with in his room or just get a good night o' sleep. And Musashi needs sleep because if he goes to long without resting his walking speed diminishes and all his stats go down a little (temporarily). You can sleep anywhere on the field by filling the "sleep gauge" with the L1 button, but doing so will only lower his tiredness to 20% and you'll only gain a little HP while losing some BP. Some puzzles and quirky little games will come across Musashi's path as he looks for the 5 scrolls, the 5 legendary pieces of armor and the obnoxious princess. The little hero will be thrown in a frozen palace, dangerous mountains and eerie underground waste disposal mines. In my opinion, BFM's biggest weakness is the smallness of the environments. There is only one village and pretty much every area can be accessed from there, which really dampers the adventure aspect and doesn't contribute to give the illusion of a vast land.

   As you explore Allucaneet Kingdom you will have to make some death defying jumps and some crazy pole-spinning action. Fortunately, the set camera always seems to be in the right place. You can zoom in or out and you can only rotate the thing in the village. Another big feature of BFM is the in-game clock, which affects the store's open and closing time and some specially timed events, like meeting a priest at 2:00 am precisely. The time is divided in 15 minutes increments and 15 game time minutes take approximately 5-6 seconds, meaning that a whole day is roughly 8-9 minutes. The few menus present are easy to navigate, fighting controls are easy to learn and might you become lost, opening the menu will prompt a little response from Musashi reminding you of your next objective.

   The music really came as a surprise to me. The themes are very pleasant and the dungeon music is quite invigorating. The main theme is always very well done and you'll get the chance to hear it along the game many times with different variation to match the present event's mood. Composer Tsuyoshi Sekito did a very nice job at creating a soundtrack that is both light-hearted like the game, but also quite striking. Sound effects are good for the most part, but what's even more impressive is the voice-acting. In sum, it's quite ahead of it's time with some good voice-over actors, some funny accents and some very good intonation. While there is no option to turn the voices off and while the voice-acting may annoy some with its over-zealousness, I think most people will be happily surprised by it.

   The dual-sword attack system and the in-game clock are both very good ideas and mesh with the game quite well. The opportunity to absorb monsters and use the power of the 5 scrolls for special abilities are some nice innovations BFM is probably the most RPG type of all Action/RPGs and all the elements which make a good RPG are there. As can be expected, the plot isn't all that gripping and is mostly forgettable. Aside from a few surprises and one or two plot twists, your goal remains pretty much the same from start to finish, which is to free the castle's residents and acquire the power of the 5 scrolls to vanquish the evil Thirstquencher Empire and rescue the princess. The cast is quite colorful, though, and enhance the plot's attitude suitably well. Let's put it like this; it's nothing like Xenogears.

Caution! Slippery road ahead.
Caution! Slippery road ahead.  

   As I've said before, the dialogues are very quirky and well-written. There isn't much text, but what there is of it is good and typo-free. The conversations might prompt a laugh or two on your part, but more likely you'll just wait for your chance to explore the new area while listening to the great acting. Kudos to Tomoko Takaya for the translation. The game doesn't offer much in terms of side quests or special items aside from special toys you'll be able to buy after completing the game a certain times with your levels maxed out, but even then, toys are worthless. Personally, I have played the game 3 times, the last time being 2 months ago when the urge struck me for no reason. It's fun enough as it is that you might just play the game again to relive the short, yet intriguing experience.

You'll get a lot of ear and mind candy, but what about your poor little eyes? Well, while they won't be crying of joy with what they'll see, they probably won't try to escape their sockets either. Since it was made in 1998, the character models are decent and the environments pretty engrossing. You can count the number of polygons every character has, and that isn't a good sign. Things get a little messy in cut-scenes where to characters tend to jiggle around a bit too much. The color palette is good, and the rest of the visual effects are acceptable. The game provides some challenging tasks which is always welcome. While you won't die every time you come face-to-face with a boss, you probably won't leave unscratched either. Some mini-games can be difficult too. The game shouldn't take you more than 20 hours, unless you want to max out Musashi's stats and buy every toy.

You'll grow to like the little guy, that's for sure.
You'll grow to like the little guy, that's for sure.  

While not being revolutionary or being a terrific work of art, Brave Fencer Musashi proves something to me; when Square does something, it always does it right. The game may not have had the ambition of other Squaresoft project, but it succeeds well in providing an entertaining, if not memorable, experience. If you find it cheap (on eBay), I say give it a try.

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