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Written: 10.10.14
Acquired: 12.12.12
Status: Cart only
Price: $45

Pub: KoeiAugust '95
Dev: Falcom24 MEGS

When asked about SNES games which left a lasting impression, titles such as Super Mario World, Super Metroid and Contra III are often quoted. And for good reason as they're bonafide classics. Then there's the less than stellar games of the system's catalog that somehow still manages to carve out a spot on your gaming heart. One such game for me is Brandish. It's by no means great, but the experience was one of the best I can remember. I was hoping for lightning to strike twice in Brandish 2
Can lightning strike twice?  You know what they say about that...

                                      A CASTLE DIPPED IN MOONLIGHT. A LABYRINTH LOST TO TIME

The first BRANDISH came out on the Super Nintendo February of 1995. It came and went with little fanfare. In fact, it's one of the few SNES games that I didn't know existed when I got back into all things SNES January of 2006. But right away, upon discovery of the game via a magazine ad, it sucked me right in. The idea of controlling a "bad" guy, named Varik, who's been tossed deep below the surface and has to kick, scratch and crawl his way back up instantly intrigued me. After buying a copy, one late night in February 2006, I had this overwhelming urge to play Brandish. So... at 3 in the morning, I flung myself out of bed. Then, I shuffled my way through the darkness to turn the game on. Right away I was greeted with a soothing tune as a castle dipped in moonlight came into view with atmosphere oozing out its seams. The intro still haunts me to this day, and it was the perfect way to set up Varik's adventure. Next thing I know, I find myself deep underground in some God forsaken labyrinth lost to time. The visuals were a little crude, but man, DAT MUSIC. It perfectly captured the feeling that you were indeed 40 floors below the surface. Along the way you'll meet eccentric cats, a menagerie of menacing monsters and some decent puzzles to work through. I eventually beat the game the summer of 2007, and it was one of the most captivating one player gaming experiences I ever had. It was far from flawless, but I genuinely and thoroughly enjoyed it

I was hooked from the moment I first saw this ad in January 2006

I have fond memories of the very first time I played Brandish. February 2006. A school night, I had class in like 5 hours. Unable to fall asleep, I stared up at the ceiling. And I had the strangest urge to fire up Brandish. So like a nut, I shuffled my way through the darkness and popped in the game. It was 3 in the morning... my alarm was set to 7. Now, most would say that this was an unwise decision. But in my youth, I figured a general ed course and being so young at the time that it was worth it. As soon as the game intro came on my TV, with a full moon cast overhead giving off an eerie glow, and a hauntingly soothing melody, the game had me completely hooked. I played for about half an hour before saving it and crawling back into bed with a huge grin on my kisser. I had never heard of Brandish back in the day, and this was one of the key reasons why I got back into the SNES scene: to play all those games I had missed out on so many years ago


                                       I know I was not the only kid that MUMM-RA scared half to death

Karl didn't appreciate the king's decree, but she sure did. Call it schadenfreude...


                                       "Wait, is that THE Planet Buster?  Oh f*ck the INFINITY STONES"


                                       They will regret that they didn't kill him when they had a chance

Some give helpful clues. Others don't. Gotta weed out the riffraff

                                       Upping the NPC list, the dialogue adds to the game's atmosphere

I know. You don't have to say it. It's hard being this good looking

                                       There are few things as satisfying in Brandish 2 as finding the exit

Love the game's atmosphere: it's a clandestine furtive underworld

                                       The prison is crawling with seriously shady and surreptitious cats

The art style is simple yet AWESOME. It's loaded with personality

                                       Is that so?  Well, I've heard some bad things about you too Santa

Dialogue like this helps to create an atmosphere of hopelessness

                                       Um.. uh... no thanks. Hey pal, something wrong with your eyes...

Don't miss any breakable walls. Look for any strange markings...

                                       Really?  Damnit. Because I was just about to hit the Vegas Strip...

Are you kidding me bro?  I never disappoint. Hell, ask your mom

                                       Your half-nemesis, Dela (AKA Alexis in the first Brandish) returns

Cinematic-esque sequences provide a tasty preview of what's next

                                       Hold on tight -- you're about to hit the creepy small island of Islet

[Ah... now I get it. I see Dela wants your sword. Like really... -Ed.]

                                       Some NPCs are NLC: Non-Living Characters. What an awful place

It is little details like this that makes video gaming so much fun :)

                                       Makes ya wonder what did him in and is the source still around...

By his decrepit side you find a note written in his dying moments

                                       What exactly the hell is the Supreme Dominion?  Sounds nasty...

Brandish 2 does well at permeating a feeling of despair in the air

                                       I guess the Arcane Lexicon follows right to left reading á la Japan

Seeing a flight of stairs never fails to quicken my pulse just a bit

                                       Going down, it's deep, dark and dank. You hear growls of unrest

Ha, don't compare me to those common petty ham-n-eggers, kid!

                                       Just who IN THE BLUE HELL is this creepy looking kid, anyway?

The best kind of exit takes you from one themed area to the next

                                       Welcome to the Wharf. Rumor has it a nasty creature lives here...

No I mean it as "what's kraken?"  Of course I mean Liam Neeson!

                                       Oh I see PLENTY that I like. Do you like my Planet Buster sword?

I love the artwork of the characters in this game. They're beautiful

                                       Like a FaceBook add request from an old high school classmate!

I like this boss. The waters added a sense of mystery and intrigue

                                      Gazing up at the imposing structure, a chill runs down your spine

Beware of shady and underhanded scoundrels that litter the joint

                                       I like Brandish more than Zelda [Blasphemy! -Ed.]. Oh I kid, I kid

NO!  For the last STINKIN' time... I DO NOT HAVE GREY POUPON

                                       You gawd damn right. I am the danger. I am the one who knocks

He gets a bad rep as being a bad guy. Maybe 'anti-hero' fits better

                                       Man, where's Chris Hansen when you need him?  "Take a seat..."

See, Ares isn't such a "bad guy." He has a certain code of honor

                                       Helpful tips as this point you toward the next step of your journey

Talking to all the NPCs is key to your success and part of the fun!

                                       Don't say I didn't warn you: this ninja boss can kick SERIOUS ass

Finding all 3 Dimension Boxes is paramount. Don't miss even one

                                       But is this creeper to be trusted?  He sure looks perfidious as hell

Who knows what horrors may lurk deep within?  Press on, Ares...

                                       You don't need college with philosophers like this geezer around

"Wise men talk because we have something to say... fools on the
other hand talk because they have to say something. #OHSNAP!"

                                       Whoa whoa whoa. Not in public, my dear. Yer makin' me blush...

Hey, I tried to warn you how big it is. And now, you're choking...

                                       The Soul Master's a badass but he's got nothing on Shang Tsung

Use the pillars for defense. Rest strategically, and then hack away

                                       Oh it's just a dark cave. Hey, what's the worst that could happen?

Miss this late in the game and you'll be kicking yourself real bad

                                       A wicked grin crosses your face; now you know what's for dinner

Plaques are scattered throughout. Words of wisdom and warning

                                       Yeah, like his name is really Fred. Love the crazy face door there

I laugh everytime I talk to Fred. He's a hip and cool guy, that Fred

                                       Hey hey HEY!  Well I gotta find SOME use for my Planet Buster...

Not a horn and pointed ears man... but beggars can't be choosers

                                       Ah, I knew your true colors would come out sooner or later, BRO

Even though it reminds me a lot more of a misplaced LEGO arm

                                       Um, well... not really, I guess?  So OK, there was this ONE time...

And I see how bad you want my Planet Buster. Since you asked...

                                       Karma's a BITCH, Dela. WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND

Indeed, part of the joy of playing these kind of games is the story.
Wait a damn minute here... did you say MONSTER?!  Screw Karl!

                                       Follow these steps precisely if you wish to wield the Planet Buster

A strange twinkle in his eye throws you off. Is he friend... or foe...

                                       What a smug ass. Someone's gotta knock 'im down a peg or two

Strike, run, hide, heal, rinse and repeat. You can even block, too

                                       See... that's what happens to your ass. SNITCHES GET STITCHES

Oh, great, that kid from the Sixth Sense again... but dead. Ironic!

                                       You mean to tell me the hell I just went through is all your fault?!

I know a fantastic anger management class down the road here...

                                       I was working on my tan. And hun... I've been called much worse

Absolute evil corrupts, absolutely. The final showdown is at hand

                                       In classic (A)RPG fashion, his human form was merely a warm-up


Bytohl, Bundevia... they both suffered the same fate did they not?
You always bring misery wherever you go, Ares. I'm not shocked

                                       HEY NOT SO FAST. Ya already forget the terms of our ceasefire?

We had a deal. Planet Buster's now mine. I let you keep it til now

                                       Huh, aren't you awfully obedient?  It must be my womanly charm

Ah, Ares. Always knew deep down what a nice guy you really are

                                                     WHAT IN THE HELL?!?!  THE F*CK IS THIS!?!



Hit any button at any time to cancel your resting. Pretty awesome

                                       They are indeed... as resting during boss fights can be ill-advised

Most swords have a use limit before breaking. You got to be wise.
Save the big breakable swords for bosses and use the weaker and
unbreakable swords you pick up along the way on cannon fodder

                                       If there were a sword equivalent of the BFG 9000, yer lookin' at it

Having the proper magic spells, such as heal magic, help greatly

                                       Adios backtracking!  Have warp magic, will travel [Oh my... -Ed.]

Absorbing the enemy's magic attacks will up your magic defense

                                       Auto map is awesome; it allows you to completely explore a level

If you see any white spaces, then ya know you haven't been there

                                       For the most part, it's easy. But a few puzzles can be maddening.
                                       This bit gave me fits, until I realized I needed to bust down a wall


The original Brandish is one of those love or hate games. Mostly, for those who hated it, the number one reason cited why has to do with the turning. No matter which direction you turn, you always see your back. This means turning left or right forces a quick shift in scenery. This can be jarring and off-putting to many. But I found the key is to strafe, and only turn when you have to. And it works quite well. After a while, I didn't even notice it. Sure, it would be swell if it controlled like Link to the Past with smooth and normal turning, but it soon became second nature. It is one you either embrace or curse. I for one loved it. This was one of the most immersive SNES games I've ever played. I truly felt like I was trapped 40 floors deep underground and that around each corner lurked more ghouls, demons and t-rexes than I could count. One guy said it best when he said once upon a time:
"Brandish is the best worst game ever." Hell, that it just might be

                                       Super Play, along with most others, were not kind to the original

The admittedly somewhat awkward 90° turns didn't help it greatly

                                       However, by using strafe to move around, it somehow works out

Ya never saw Wilson's face. They found funny ways to cover him

                                       Rest in Peace Earl Hindman. You were one of sitcom's very finest


There are certain games that we click with, and it clicks with us. It might be for a game that few others appreciate, but that's part of the thrill of this hobby. You never know when any given title just might take you by complete surprise. Brandish is one of those games for me. It captured my imagination in a way like few other titles have. Discovering there was a sequel released only in Japan was like finding a $20 bill hidden in an old jacket. On the surface, Brandish 2 looks like an improvement. The visuals are much better, and now instead of being confined strictly underground, you are out and about in the wide open. It seems as if it has the makings to be a superior game, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I did the original. Brandish 2 just lacks the simplistic charm of the first one, plus the puzzles and monsters
An acquired taste, Brandish 2 puts ya back through creepy caves

It's nice to see the added diversity for sure but oddly I rather prefer the original. The idea of being trapped some 40 floors below the surface made the original have sort of this... horrific unholy feel to it. That's not to say Brandish 2 is crap. The graphics are markedly improved and the addition of more NPCs was much welcomed, but there was just something about the original that really hooked me and didn't let go. I felt like I was really flung deep underground and right into Varik's shoes. Scratching and crawling every inch of the way, I fought demons, t-rexes, goblins and even Death itself all in the name of survival. There was a feeling of desperation in the air, and it was accompanied by a haunting soundtrack. The original had over 55 different types of monsters roaming the labyrinths. As a monster lover, it appealed to me greatly. I was a little bit disappointed then to find a glaring lack of variety in the enemy roster in Brandish 2. There's only maybe 25 types, and too many of them repeated themselves based on which level you were on. There were also too many human enemies for my liking. This all might sound like nit-picking, but even after 7 years of beating the original, I remember it fondly. I beat Brandish 2 about 7 months ago and enjoyed it, but it wasn't nearly as enthralling. Still, I am glad I went through it, and if you liked Brandish, you should, too

Graphics: 6
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 7
Longevity: 6

Overall: 7.5

Bronze Award

Level: 88
HP: 222
MP: 200
Strength: 99
Intelligence: 83
Magic Resistance: 99
Attack: 249
Defense: 243

Time:  26 hours, 13 minutes  (compared to 31 hours, 56 minutes for the first Brandish)
Steps:  11,214  (compared to 77,327 [!] for the first Brandish)
Kills:  2,243  (compared to 5,154 [!] for the first Brandish)
Map:  90%  (compared to 85% for the first Brandish)
Died:  91  (compared to 78 for the first Brandish)

And now, an exclusive debut on the internet. Nearly 20 years after its release, I'm proud to share with you the mega obscure never-before-seen BRANDISH 2 MUSIC VIDEO!  It's a perfect match


Kick-ass one minute instrumental... enjoy by scanning these accompanying shots...