Brave Fencer Musashi (PS1)

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Introduction

(This post contains many food puns. Reader groans are inevitable.) That Allucaneet Kingdom is under attack by the vicious Thirst Quencher Empire– and remember, even food based empires are evil and food based kingdoms are good. In a moment of desperation Princess Filet uses a spell that’s been passed down her family for generations. A spell that’s meant to summon a hero, THE hero of legend. She speaks the incantation and calls forth a small blue haired boy who claims to be the master swordsman Musashi. The hero of legend had gotten shorter and younger than he had once been but his task is no less great– it’s actually strangely similar to the legend itself…

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As you can see, they’re off to a lovely start.

 

History

It’s strange where an idea begins. Hironobu Sakaguchi, the games director, envisioned the game to be about Miyamoto Musashi, the famous sword fighter, fighting and living in a world he didn’t belong. Then I guess, somewhere along they way, they decided to market the game to children. Sakaguchi didn’t have high hopes for the project but after seeing a few technical demonstrations his hope returned. It was difficult to identify Musashi as a wanderer so they made his character more samaritanish. The technical challenge of the game was to get polygons to move in real time and still look good, something I think they succeeded at.

Fun Fact: In the Japanese release all of the villains are named after alcohol, but very much like Vodka Drunkinski, they changed all of them to be about soda.

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I’m sorry, I meant Soda Popinski. It’s totally different. And he can’t drive because he’s got a big caffeine buzz.

Brave Fencer Musashi came out on October 31st in 1998. It went up against Oddworld: Abe’s Exodus (PS1), Half-Life (PC), and Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped (PS1).

 

Nostalgia

This game and Final Fantasy VIII fed each other in this weird way for me. Each of them had a demo disk that had the other’s game on it. I played the Brave Fencer demo until I was red in the face for wanting to play it. Then I stopped playing FF VIII because I didn’t get the Junction system. When I played its demo that came with Brave Fence it renewed my interest in the game and when I came back to it I suddenly could wrap my head around this byzantine silliness. And that’s the power of a good demo, game industry. If you want people to play your game show us what it’s like and if we like it then we’ll buy it. None of this Colonial Marines stupidity, just show us the game and we’ll buy it.

Gameplay

Brave Fencer Musashi is an action hack ‘n’ slash with platforming and RPG elements. Musashi has got to maneuver between attacks and strike while the iron is hot with his blades, Fusion and Lumina. Fusion attacks quickly, doesn’t do a lot of damage, but can combo nicely. Lumina swings slow but hits like a runaway truck. Fusion can also be used to absorb an enemy to give Musashi a useful ability. Some of these abilities have utility purposes, some allow passage through areas, and others give Musashi combat edges over his enemies. Musashi can also charge for a little while to execute a spinning attack and, if you’re really good, unleash a devastating counter attack after blocking an incoming move. In RPG style, Musashi can gain levels by using his weapons, defeating enemies, and just walking around. Musashi can also spend his hard earned loot on healing items or food at the local shops. As a being from another world Musashi has to eat a lot.

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Musashi can learn new techniques from Knights of the castle and the most unlikely of characters.

Musashi’s quest requires him to find the 5 scrolls, those of Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Sky. And to find Musashi’s old legendary armor. All of these things allow him to platform or otherwise reach places he hadn’t been able to before. This creates a cool gating mechanism where Musashi can go new places, find new stuff, meet new people, learn new moves, and then kick more Thirstquencher butt then ever before.

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Musashi can’t swim and basically melts in water so the Water Scroll is really important.

There’s a lot to see and do in the Kingdom of Allucaneet. Beyond going to the next objective there are a bunch of hidden palace members which extend Musashi’s BP (Like his mana), and Minku creatures who hold Longevity Berries which must be stolen to increase Musashi’s HP– animal cruelty HO!

 

The Gush

The music in this game is incredible. Every single area has its own theme and each theme promotes adventure! It’s all high octane and fast paced to match our swift fencing protagonist. You can rescue musicians for the palace just to spice up the music there. Musical stylings range from classical to more rock tunes. It’s emphasis on movement can make hurrying up and waiting annoying at times. But it’s all so wonderfully frantic.

The game over screens are fantastic. Musashi is mortally wounded and makes a quick one-liner before fading away such as, “If I die, I hope I’m reincarnated as Musashi again.”

The characters in this game are great. Most of their dialogue is voiced and it really shows their emotions. They’ve got witty dialogue that matches them wonderfully.

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Come on, it’s gotta be good. Steve Blum voice acts this mysterious treasure hunter.

There are a lot of really cool dungeons. From mines, to lofty peaks every nook and cranny of this world longs to be explored. There are just so many well designed places. Most of their purposes are obvious but sometimes I wonder, what was the ice palace a palace for?

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Weird ruins? Flying vampire zombies (Vambie for short)? Strange glyphs? Sign me up.

The art is really pretty for a PS1 game. Sometimes I just look at the backgrounds. The sprite work is also really good for the time. Their animation is really smooth.

I really like that there are 35 people to rescue from the castle and some of them aren’t useful. The janitor just keeps saying that he’s the honor of toilets everywhere or something. It just goes to show that the attendants of the castle are not all important in this conflict, as they shouldn’t be. But they’re still all funny.

The bosses in this game are bananas. They’re all huge and require interesting tricks in order to defeat. It’s not about unloading punishment it’s about finding and exploiting weaknesses. The only slug fight is with Kojiro, a rival fencer, so it makes perfect sense for the fight to be about actual fighting.

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“I heard it was someone’s birthday! I brought my favorite gift! Death.”

The combat is good overall. Fighting with Fusion and Lumina is satisfying before Musashi starts learning combos. Fusion’s quickness and Lumina’s range give them an interesting interplay between each other. The charge up techniques also create a risk vs reward system of dodging attacks to unleash more damage than ever. And then the blocking counterattack move is a nice little hidden trick that’ll surprise a player for taking advantage of an enemy’s opening.

THIS GAME HAS IN-GAME ACTION FIGURES! That is all. The 12 year old in me and the 12 year old me that played this game loved those little pieces of digital plastic. With their crappy playing animations. I still remember Capricola’s action figure had dumb poses with his gun accompanied by grunts.

 

 The Kvetch

The villains are a little flat– SODA PUNS! The big bad is evil for the sake of being evil and his lieutenants twirl their non-existent mustaches all the time. Evil isn’t a stand in for anything here, it’s just a romp to save the princess and beat up some bad guys.

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What happened to Rootrick? That art looks great but this model looks… like a mashed potato man with a gargoyle face.

 

All of the puzzle situations, or places where Musashi isn’t fighting are super difficult. I couldn’t figure out the Shogi Puzzle in the Meandering Forest without a guide, nor could I solve Soda Fountain’s Calendar Puzzle. And I can’t tell you how many times I was stumped by Steamwood part two (Binchotite Boogaloo). Maybe I’m just bad, but these were all unfun levels of hard for me.

 

The Verdict

I really like this game. I would get to the final parts of the game and play for hours. With so many things to find I bet you get something really cool for it all.

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Depends on your definition of the word, “cool.”

But it’s definitely worth playing all the way through.

Next Week: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. : Clear Sky

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2 thoughts on “Brave Fencer Musashi (PS1)

  1. pine717

    I sort of think this might be Square’s most underrated game on the Playstation. I never hear anyone talk about it. I did find the game tedious sometimes, although, because the day-night cycle makes you wait around for a while for certain story events to happen.

    Reply

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