Written: 10.10.14 Acquired: 12.12.12 Status: Cart only Price: $45
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
THE STORY GOES...
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...
WHAT IS THE PLANET BUSTER?
"Wait, is that THE Planet Buster? Oh f*ck the INFINITY STONES"
THE JOURNEY BEGINS...
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
ENDING SPOILERS *SKIP IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED*
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!?!
GET BACK HERE ARES! ALWAYS KNEW YOU WERE AN ASS!
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
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
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
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