I remember this game. Or I thought I did. I remember renting it from Blockbuster, and keeping my Playstation on all night because I didn't own a memory card. I never got past the first boss. I had no idea what I was doing. But I remember it being epic, broad. A mighty swordsman slicing his way through a swatch of soldiers and fire, finding a magical sword and battling great monsters.
I was... mistaken. That tiny lens of nostalgia has come up a few times in this list already, such as with A Link to the Past. All I remembered about that game was that magnificent opening screen. A mystical golden triforce, a magical land, and a sacred blade of power and truth.
Brave Fencer Musashi is goofy. As the Allucaneet Kingdom battles the Thirstquencher Empire, the mighty swordsman and little kid Musashi is summoned to defeat the Thirstquenchers, and hijinks ensue. The game is honestly pretty funny, or at least the dialogue is. Every character has a comedic tick of some kind (although it occasionally relies on sadly reductive stereotypes), which range from just strange to very funny. The translation must have been quite the task, but it's one of the best in a time where it just wasn't that great.
But the game. It's frustrating. It's the Playstation doing everything it can to have a grand and varied story and environments, but it just doesn't succeed. There are portions of the game I found profoundly frustrating, and the amount of complexity they add in the form of night-day cycles, day-specific events, and hunger and sleep stats. It's one of those games that reminds me of the importance of manuals in that day, and the present day necessity of thorough tutorials.
In fact, Brave Fencer Musashi is a game that seems to be trying too many things with little regard for the more established and understandable kind of design. There's a mechanic where you can steal powers from your enemies in order to solve puzzles, but it's not like there's a tutorial for each one. And while experimentation can be fun, it's really easy to get overwhelmed by constantly respawning enemies and the lethal environment.
Brave Fencer is trying to work too many angles at once. It's not able to achieve the Game Loaf style of Yakuza 3, but still good benefit from focusing its gameplay a lot more. I mean, a power stealing mechanic sounds awesome. And it could have been something as awesome as Kirby crossed with Gauntlet Legends, but it can't stop wanting to be so much more.
It's not the kind of game I really recommend seeking out. It's worth watching a let's play to see the best scenes and see what I mean about the potential, but there's not anything that transcendental. Again, the translation manages to be really funny and clever, even with the heavy censoring I understood it had. Brave Fencer Musashi was I game not recommended to me, but one I put on this list for myself, and it seems like my nostalgia let me down. We'll see how often it does over the year.