Nothing less than we can expect from the new Square -- ANOTHER lackluster RPG
A pretty bland storyline overall, it can't possibly hold the interest of seasoned RPG veterans, or anyone with a mind more mature than a 12 year old's. You play as the legendary swordsman Musashi (who has taken on a new 'surfer dude' look and attitude), who has been summoned into an unknown world by the classic 'princess who is trying to save the world, and then gets herself kidnapped' type. Basically, you're on a mission to rescue the princess, retrieve all the maidens and mystics (magic users), retrieve the 5 elemental swords, and bring an end to the evil Gandrake's grasp on the world. Long-winded? Yep. Interesting or original? Uh-uh. As I'm sure you'll realize, it's all very predictable and traditional RPG fare.
This game clearly isn't meant to be taken seriously. Even so, the writing is really poor, and all the jokes fall flat on their faces. Square tried to make a funny and interesting RPG, but it just didn't work out that way. However, not everything needs to have a great/interesting storyline, assuming the gameplay is there. Unfortunately...
Musashi: Samurai Legend is a pretty generic action-RPG, not really bringing anything new to the genre. The only thing I haven't seen before is the ability to learn your enemy's moves using the 'Focus' feature, but it's really nothing to be excited about. The abilities aren't required to complete the game, and they don't hold any value...you'll find it much easier, faster, and more convenient to slash through your enemies with a regular attack.
There isn't much of a variation between enemy designs...in each area you might find one or two new monsters, along with a smorgesbord of reused designs. Another frustrating thing about enemies - your virtual inability to dodge anything. Some attacks are fairly easy to avoid, but with most others, you'll take the hit no matter what. Luckily, they don't do too much damage, and they can be killed quite easily. The bosses in the game are, for the most part, very challenging. Taking the leap between the simple cronies and the big bad boss dudes can be a handful.
There are only a few areas you play through during the game, but they are all large and fairly well designed. Most of the time you're hacking and slashing, but there are some very light puzzle-ish elements to them. Even if it is repetitve and overdone, Samurai Legend isn't extremely boring. The camera can be a bit wonky at times, but that's fixable with the right analog stick...it's just annoying to constantly adjust it. On top of the bad camera, the auto-targeting system can be a bit of a nuisance too. Another one of my major complaints would be the feeling that some parts or areas are FAR too non-linear. Sometimes you're given no hints or clues as to what to do next or how to solve a puzzle, and you'll be walking around in circles for what seems like ages. Usually, the solutions are so simple-minded that you'll be banging your head against a wall for overestimating the ability of Square to make an intricate game.
Another thing I don't like is the very odd 'surfer dude' direction they took the game in. All the voice overs reflect this laughably bad style (which I'll get into later), and it's just downright annoying sometimes. There are some nice mini-games, as well as a card collection setup for anyone who would be interested by that (I sure wasn't). The RPG elements don't play a major role in the game. Once in awhile, you'll see "Level Up!!" appear above Musashi's head, and then you chose in which direction you'd like the character to progress (Stronger, more magic, etc). In the end, I was hoping for another game like Brave Fencer Musashi, and I was really let down by Samurai Legend. It's just another button mashing action-RPG.
Samurai Legend employs the cel-shaded technique (or 'manga-shaded', as they refer to it as), and does a nice job with it. The environments are nice, the animations for the special moves are great, and the character models are very well done too. The graphics aren't amazing or innovative, but they're not bad either.
This is where the 'surfer dude' style (along with Square's frugalness) bring the game to a whole new low. The voice overs in the game are terrible. I can't tell if they're supposed to be funny or taken seriously, even though they don't work well either way. The soundtrack is very plain and simple, with absolutely nothing that stands out or is even slightly memorable. The developers tried to market the distinct 'surf guitar' (??) style, but it's no good at all. However, the sound effects aren't bad, and they never get old or feel over-used.
Unless you want to go back through the game and collect all the Imagicards or something, I doubt you'll want to trek though Samurai Legend after beating it once. There's an unlockable hard mode, but it's not worth the extra play-through. It takes 10-15 hours to complete the entire game, and that's certainly enough for me for a single play through.
All in All
If you're going to have crap for a storyline, then at least make the gameplay worthwhile, Square. Even though it's bargain priced, it doesn't warrant a purchase unless you really have a desire to play it. To the average gamer or RPGer, it might be worth a rental. It feels very stale and is completely uninteresting from the moment you turn it on. In fact, the opening anime sequence is probably the best aspect of the entire game (besides the credits, of course). Try to stay away from this game, as supporting more of Square's sub-par efforts is not something we want to do. Oh, where have the golden days of Chrono Trigger, FFIV and FFVI gone?