Title :Brave Fencer Musashi
Platforms :Sony PlayStation
Publisher :Square Electronic Arts L.L.C.
Game Rating :7.9
Review by :Ken Gagne

Long ago, the mysterious Wizard of Darkness destroyed the Thirstquencher Empire on his way to obtain Lumina, the Sword of Luminescence. Only Musashi, a hero magically summoned by the neighboring Allucaneet kingdom's royalty, could seal away this evil and scatter his power. 

Now, 150 years later, the Thirstquencher Empire has adopted the goals of the Wizard of Darkness and declared war on Allucaneet. Can the Wizard of Darkness be far off? It is time for Musashi to rise again! 

Brave Fencer Musashi is a humorous action-RPG from Squaresoft, makers of the Final Fantasy series, and is in a vein similar to their Secret of Mana games. Players guide the diminutive swordsman through the world in an effort to restore peace. 

Determining how best to do so is not always easy. The goals range from the heroic (climb a tower to acquire a sacred sword) to the mundane (rescue the town dog), and often cannot be pursued until certain tasks are accomplished or people spoken to. 

Unlike many games in which time freezes in towns, Musashi's clock is always ticking, requiring proper timing to find certain people or items. Also, Musashi requires constant rest, or else he may fall asleep in mid-battle! 

Control is varied and takes practice. For once, gamers really should take a moment to read the manual before playing, as performing essential techniques takes more than just a single button, though it is easy to disable Musashi's arsenal by switching to Sleep mode. 

The graphics are cute and colorful, though not always extraordinary. Neither friend nor foe is terribly varied in appearance. The camera can be rotated in village locations only, not in the midst of journey or battle. Yet the towns are drawn so large that only one building at a time may fit on the screen, making it easy to get lost. 

Subtle, creative music fills the environment, adding to the often silly tones of Musashi's exploits. A good dosage of digitized speech gives personality to a variety of both people and dialects. 

Boss encounters take some thinking to exploit their weak points, and many tries to learn from one's errors. General exploration can be hindered by the camera or constant loss of hit points simply due to experimenting. It may take several jumps before Musashi gets across the river, but meanwhile he may die of drowning. 

Brave Fencer Musashi is bundled with a demo disc of Square's 1999 release Final Fantasy VIII, but unlike the self-running demo included with Parasite Eve, this one is fully playable. 

Musashi is Square's first action-RPG in ages, but they didn't take back the reins without a few stumbles. A few control and gameplay issues make the game more frustrating than it need be, though some sequences are pure, unadulterated fun. It takes a brave man to play a brave fencer.

This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 21-Dec-98