I don't think I've ever seen anything even remotely positive written about this into-the-screen dash-and-shoot game. After just a few minutes of playing it, I was ready to join the crowd and rip it for its many apparent flaws. The animation and Space Harrier-type field scrolling were choppy as hell, and huge doses of slowdown and flicker didn't help matters at all. The weaponry seemed inadequate, as I started off with nothing but a sword-swipe attack, and minor upgrades that allowed my blade to emit little projectiles didn't seem particularly helpful or impressive. Worst of all, the controls felt extremely shoddy.
But things turned around once I made adjustments to those unwieldy controls. Changing the "RUN" setting from "AUTO" to "KEY" on the title-screen menu (thus ensuring that the sprinting swordsman would hold still unless I was impelling him via the d-pad) made the game feel entirely different (and much better). On AUTO, my clumsy samurai fell from platforms, got stuck on poles, and bumped into bosses. KEY allowed me so much more control over the unfortunate hero. And following my discovery of manageable controls, other bright spots became evident.
The music holds up well throughout the game. I'm sure people have ripped on it and will continue to rip on it, but I'm convinced that if it were part of a different overall package, no one would have any issues with it. One effective boss tune actually reminds me of a fantastic Zelda II palace track. And the aesthetic pleasantness doesn't end there: while the graphics are indeed choppy, some of the distant backdrops are actually quite nice to look at, and the huge bosses are often impressive and compellingly bizarre in design.
You'll need those upgrades to contend with even the standard stage villains, whom you'll find yourself baiting into position before destroying or evading completely. The stages themselves are more than just flat pseudo-3D affairs. You'll have to make tricky speed runs and avoid numerous danger spots. Underworlds and warp zones provide alternative routes through some sections. Power-up locations are not always immediately evident. You'll need to get dialed in and learn the levels inside and out.