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Musashi: Samurai Legend

GameCore is a weekly column by CBSNews.com's William Vitka, Chad Chamberlain and Joey Arak that focuses on gamers and gaming.

I think it's safe to say that Square Enix is one of the world's most innovative game companies to date. Secret of Mana, Parasite Eve (I&II), Grandia Xtreme, Kingdom Hearts, Bushido Blade (I&II), Bust A Groove 2 and the Final Fantasy Series are just a few of Square Enix's (formerly known as Squaresoft) top ranked titles. Musashi® Samurai Legend™ (MSL) will lend itself to this great lineup of successful games.

From the instant you pop the game into your PlayStation 2, you're automatically warped into a great story, fantastic environments, innovative action and dynamic character development. Unlike some other titles, MSL leaves the long, theatrical intros behind, skips straight to the point and -- within 3 minutes -- you're already playing the game.

One of the first things I noticed as I began to play the game is Musashi's outfit. Now, I'm all for innovation and newly created concepts for character development, but I'm a bit tired of seeing midriff shirts on characters -- especially on a proud samurai warrior. Come on Square, I was really excited about this game and was very disappointed that Musashi -- adorned in a traditional samurai outfit in his last game -- has been stuck in some "fashion forward" midriff shirt now. I think I have to deduct some brownie points from Square for this. I mean, can you imagine seeing Cloud from Final Fantasy VII wearing black-rimmed glasses and sporting Capri pants? I should think not. Anyhow, enough of my tirade, here's a little background info on the game.

In a distant world, a corporation owned by a man called Gandrake creates a revolutionary technology that changes the lives of people everywhere. However, like most power hungry egotists, the desire for total power is never far behind. Through the control of the precious fuel known as nebulite, Gandrake plans on using the power of a group called the Mystics to help take over the world. In an effort to prevent this from happening, the princess of the Mystics, Princess Mycella, invokes a powerful ancient spell that will summon a hero. That's you! Summoned across space and time, you -- as Musashi -- must rescue the princess and save the land from Gandrake in order to return home. Subsequently, Musashi strives to become the greatest samurai that ever lived.

One of the coolest things about this game is the new battle system. Musashi can engage multiple enemies at once while focusing his attack on one particular enemy. You can lock onto any enemy you want, a neat feature because no matter which way you move you remain constantly locked onto that enemy. It makes things a lot easier when you have to do battle with three or four enemies at time. Your attacks become stronger when you focus or lock onto a particular enemy, however you can choose to run amuck and hit whomever or whatever gets in your way for slightly less damage.

While locked on to an enemy Musashi can pick up new attacks by focusing on his adversaries. When you notice you're getting your butt whooped something bad, check out what your enemy is doing, copy it and do it back to them. Talk about effective. Like a true samurai, Musashi's powers of observation pay off in the heat of battle as he channels this energy to learn his opponents techniques, along with a targeting system that allows him to focus his attacks on a single enemy when surrounded by many, ala Metroid Prime.

Now if you think that's something, you can also pick someone up, carry him or her on your back, and still be able to fight. In one move he can toss someone into the air, perform an attack that can hit multiple enemies and then catch him or her before hitting the ground. He can do all that without a single drop in frame rate and the action is extremely smooth. There are also certain parts in the game where Musashi will have to rescue people by carrying them off to safety. And just in case you thought that was all, Musashi can also pick up enemies. This is certainly a cool new way of humiliating your enemy. The kid must be strong.

In a nutshell, the second release of the Musashi series makes its debut on the PS2 with exhilarating, fast-paced and action-packed game play that utilizes cell-shaded graphics. There are also some great animated sequences courtesy of Gainax, a highly respected Japanese animation studio renowned for their masterpiece, Neon Genesis Evangelion (If you don't know about Evangelion, you need to get your hands on a copy ASAP). Looking past Square Enix's fashion flop on our titular hero, Musashi Samurai Legend is certainly a must have sequel.

Genre- Action Role-Playing Game
ESRB: T (Teen)
By Chad Chamberlain