Musashi no Ken – Tadaima Shugyō Chū (The story of a boy and his dog…and monsters…)

Name: Musashi No Ken – Tadaima Shugyō Chū!

Translation: Sword of Musashi – Now in the Middle of Training!

System: Famicom (Japan Release Only)

Release Date: August 8, 1986

Status: DEFEATED!

I’m the proud owner of a 110 in 1 game cartridge for my NES, which is chalk full of untranslated Japanese Nintendo games! As a kid, I had an odd delight in trying to figure out what the heck was going on, and this game was one of my favourites!

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Ultimate Dog Walker: Fist of Furry! Bark! Bark!

It wasn’t until recently that I decided to do some digging and see if I can find out exactly what this game was. As it turns out, it’s based on a popular Japanese Sports Magna (and later a cartoon series) that debuted in the 80’s called “Musashi no Ken”. The Sport? KENDO.

musashi1

“Foolish! Now we sea who are gooder!!”

 Fun Fact: Kendo is a martial arts sport similar to fencing, though in my opinion it looks way cooler! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kendo)

Musashi no Ken follows the adventures of Musashi, the son of two Kendo Champions, who you control in the game. The game is fairly straight forward; head right till you reach the goal, killing monsters and dodging obstacles along the way. I have never read the magna, but based on images I’ve seen, I’m not sure how monsters fit into the story of training for Kendo tournaments, or why his parents would allow him to train in such a deadly place…

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Only a True Kendo Master can Defeat the Snot Monsters!

The controls are very simple, “B” is jump and “A” to attack with your sword; you can strike up, down or straight in front. Throughout each stage, there are sword items you collect which appear in different angles: up, down or straight; these can be found floating in the air or hidden in various objects like poles or tree branches. Collecting 50 allows you to perform faster/continuous strikes of whatever angle you collected. But these swords serve a much greater purpose later on in the game, which I shall touch on in just a moment.

Other items you can collect are Rice Patties and Egg Rolls which restore health, a Frog Face which makes you jump higher; a Shoe which makes you run faster, a Ball which gives you an extra life (these are very rare, I was only able to find one!), a Key which allows you to skip ahead in the level, and a Kendo Mask which makes you invincible for a short period of time. My issue with these items is that they are incredibly difficult to find! Some are hidden in clouds, others just in a random space on the screen which I discovered by just constantly swinging my sword around. It would have been great if they had enemies drop items or had “Question Block” like objects that you could get them from.

The running power up is very hard to control; the slightest touch will send you flying, often into a bottomless pit (Why is he training here?!?!) It takes some practise to get used to, but pairing it with the Frog jump allows for better control on where you land.

In place of a your typical countdown time limit, Musashi’s dog runs at the bottom of the screen towards the Goal; if he gets there before you do, then you lose a life! (Man’s best friend indeed!) At the levels end, there is a “G” floating in the air. It took me a couple of tries to realize that I needed to grab it in order to exit the stage, which was kind of annoying.

There are 3 levels: Forrest, Mountain and Dojo, after which you face off against 5 fighters in an impressive side view Kendo match!

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It’s hard to tell, but I’m winning!

Remember those swords you pick up throughout the game? This is where they pay off big time. There is no jumping in these fights, so while “A” is still your regular attack, “B” becomes a Power Strike, which is much faster than your usual attacks. Also, if you still have the Shoe Power Up, then you move quicker. When combined with Power Strikes, I was able to finish my opponents in under 10 seconds! To win a match you need to score 2 points; if you lose, you not only lose a life but have to start the tournament over again. And your swords don’t replenish themselves, so strike quickly and strike true! The upper and lower strikes are the easiest to score points, so aim to collect as many of those as you can throughout the game!

Once you defeat the final opponent you get a huge trophy!!!

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…and then you start from the beginning of the game; but THIS TIME, the enemies are faster and the environments are a different colour.

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Again…WHERE THE HELL IS HE TRAINING!?!?

To officially beat the game, you need to pass all three levels again and win the tournament, thereby becoming THE TIGER OF IWATE!

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Thanks?

Overall this game is a solid platformer. Though lacking in story, the environments are detailed for a 30 year old Famicom exclusive. The enemy sprites aren’t too exciting, and I couldn’t figure out what some of them were…I think one was a bucket???…but they get the job done. The music is catchy, but there is only one song for all the platform levels, and one song for the tournament level, so more variety would have been nice.

By far the best part of the game is the Kendo Tournament, which has fluid animation and more importantly is easy to control. I only wish you didn’t have to collect 99 swords in order to perform 9 Power Moves! The impossible to find items hold this game back, and the Shoe Power Up is far to fidgety to be useful unless you’ve memorized where the platforms are in the level, so you can just zip past everything.

In 2-Player mode, you can face off against a friend in a Kendo tournament, pitting 5 randomly selected fighters against one another, which is surprisingly a lot of fun!

If you are somehow able to find this game, I would definitely pick it up, though prepare to get frustrated with the 3rd level, as the rapid enemy spawning rate is one of the most ridiculous I’ve ever seen.

And it’s got a dog! A DOG!!

Prime Time Rating: 7/10

Prime Thumbs up

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