Brave Fencer Musashi
An in-depth review of a lost Squaresoft gem
Well, where can I start? Brave Fencer Musashi was a light-hearted hack and slash RPG title, and Tetsuya Nomura had done the character design, just as he did with Final Fantasy 7. Included in each copy of the game was a demo of Final Fantasy 8, which took a few more months until release.
Let's think back to the year 1998. What Squaresoft title was already a hit at this time? Xenogears. That's right. This game came out at the same exact year, but that's not why the game was ignored. It was much more of a rarity to find.
While I'm not one to talk about a typical RPG or japanese game storyline, BFM's isn't too bad, but it's a tad clich'e. Musashi is a summoned hero from the palace of Allucaneet (Not kidding, it really goes by that name in the north American release), and it's up to him to overthrow the Thirstquencher Empire, who's been public enemy number one to Allucaneet and the world that inhabits it. He must also claim the legendary sword Lumina, the sword of Luminescence to deal with Thirstquencher and the Crest Guardians that await him. Musashi must defeat the Crest Guardians and obtain the elemental scrolls, which will strengthen Lumina and help him on his quest.
Here's a small detailed picture of Musashi. Some have said that he almost bears a resemblance to Goemon of the Mystical Ninja series by Konami.
You have to remember, this was the time that 3D in gaming was still kind of a new thing, so of course character models won't look that great. the environments however are a great deal for this game, as they look way better.
Throughout the game, you'll use your original sword, the Fusion, to copy enemy abilities. Sometimes they will have to be used to overcome obstacles, such as a set of thorn vines which are impossible to cross unless having the hop ability.
Most of the sound effects sound like they come right out of an anime, which really adds to the effect of the game as character portraits have that anime-like style. This is also one of the first Squaresoft games to use voice acting during live cutscenes through a game. Most notably, Mona Marshall did the voice of Musashi, who is mostly known for voicing Wendy Testaburger on South Park, and a few anime and cartoon voices. The music is composed by Tsuyoshi Sekito, his first composition to Squaresoft. The music was so good that I had to look all around for the official soundtrack. However it's just as rare as the game itself, so not many copies were around for me to find.
Just like any platformer or RPG, there are bosses. In Musashi, there are specific ways to fight a boss, in this case, they are called "Crest Guardians", which guard the crests that the scrolls you obtain through the game (more mentioned on that later). Every once in a while during the game, you'll look for elemental scrolls which will grant you such abilities, like fire, water, and earth. These are also mandatory for fighting the bosses. Frost Dragon (pictured above) has to be engulfed with the flame ability to weaken it, then smack a glowing orb on its neck with Lumina.
Not only is Musashi a hack and slash adventure with RPG elements, the game moves around the style of real-time day to night. This also has an importance of events of certain parts of the game, and as far as day-passing goes, Musashi also gets tired over time and you need to have him get sleep after a while. Speaking of RPG elements, you can also level up both your Fusion sword AND Lumina. Body and Mind are also important parts as they increase defense. However all four of these elements only level up to level 30 in the game. You'll meet different people whom you'll befriend, and will also face later in the game. Throughout some parts of the game, you'll find pieces of an armor, known at the L-Armor, which each piece grants different abilities, such as double jumping and climbing. You won't get to use them right off the bat, as you'll need to get the items appraised so they're usable. These are necessary for getting around to some hard to reach places in the game. What you'll be doing most though is rescuing the people of Allucaneet Palace, which are prior to also prior to increasing your magic (known as Bincho Points or "BP"). There are no levels, as the game is a completely interactive world with different places to traverse. Grillin' Village is the main hub and the place where a number of the environments connect. During some parts of the game, you won't just be platforming, but puzzles and mind-twisters will await you. There's only one slight downside I have to this, and it's the small problem of hit detection when facing bosses, but it's still fine with me.
A nice little sidequest to this game is collecting the action figures. Some you can find in the toy store of Grillin' Village, others you will have to find by a certain way of obtaining. By collecting every toy, you'll get a "thanks for playing" picture when you beat the game.
Fun Factor: 5/5
BFM is hard to put down. Traversing each environment, collecting items, leveling up, beating bosses, and just hearing the voice cast as a whole is pure entertainment and a sight to behold. Musashi's use of platforming, puzzles, and unique gameplay will keep your head spinning for days.
In mid-year of 2005, a sequel had been made by the name of Musashi: Samurai Legend. Fans debate that this was both a prequel AND a sequel. The Musashi that's featured in this isn't the same one from Brave Fencer Musashi, though in Brave Fencer Musashi, to some of the townspeople and the history books of the library, the "Legendary Brave Fencer Musashi" is mentioned, so the debate was that the Musashi of Samurai Legend was the "Legendary Brave Fencer", causing the debate that this was a prequel or a sequel. I however don't have anything to say, as the story and environments don't even take place around the world of Allucaneet. The game is alright, but I felt it just didn't have the magic of Brave Fencer Musashi.
Musashi's control scheme may take a little time to get used to, but moving around and button pressing is spot-on with the game, and it fits like a glove. You'll run, jump, and slash your way through each of the game's captivating environments.
RPG elements aside, your HP won't increase by leveling up. rather, you have to find these white floppy eared creatures who inhabit the world called Minkus, and steal a Longevity Berry from them in order to increase maximum HP. In order to increase your BP however, you'll need to rescue the 40 people trapped in little green diamonds called "Bincho Fields". Minku's only appear late at night, so you'll have to wait for time to pass.
For those who haven't played or heard of this title, I definitely recommend it. BFM is a lost gem that just begs to be found by gamers, and is a nice treat to Kingdom Hearts owners, as it's a hack and slash RPG fun, just as it bears the same resemblance.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my review and summary of this hard to find classic. See you next time folks!