Title : Brandish
Publisher : Koei
Developer : Koei
Genre : Action RPG
Players : 1 Player
Release Date : 1995
Estimated Value (as of today's date) : $40-$50
Give me a top-down dungeon-crawler any day. No joke, any day of the week. These games were easily one of my favorite games to play when I was a kid. There's also no doubt in my mind that it's all thanks to the epic classic LEGEND OF ZELDA, but you have to admit, there were some pretty damn good knock offs.
It all came down to originality with the top down dungeon crawler formula, and that usually involved creating new combat / magic mechanics as well as developing a story that pulls you in. You know when you played Zelda, you were always craving to get to that next dungeon and unlock the newest item to your arsenal.
Then, along comes BRANDISH. This somewhat not-so-well known action RPG came out in 1995 for the NES, but for some reason did not get the advertising it was deserving off. Some say it's because of the later years of the SNES era (to think 1995 was late for the SNES), while others say that the market was just waning in general for games of this type. It's a damn shame too, because this game should have garnered at least SOME attention.
BRANDISH may seem familiar to you, because the game series is still going on today. In fact, there was supposed to be one coming out this year sometime, but I really have no idea. Hell, this game was even re-released for the PSP. But we're not worrying about the sequels (yet), we're talking about the original. And no, I'm not talking about the one that came out for the NEC.
So, "BRANDISH" your weapon folks. Oh man, see what I did there? Let's go kill some baddies.
In Brandish, you control Varik..or Alexis in the English version on a quest to escape from the confines of a dungeon while being tailed by the sorceress Dela. Now, the OVERALL plot is a lot more involved than that, but this is the basic premise. I'm talking about a hell of a lot of back story, that is waaaaaay too much to get into. Trust me, it involves more giant towers, massive cities protected by dragons, corrupt rulers, and kidnapped princesses. I'm kidding about the last part.
But this is what makes Brandish somewhat unique. There is none of the typical RPG junk. You aren't tasked with saving the world. You aren't sent to rescue some princess. In fact, there is very little story exposed throughout the gameplay. You're left with the gist when you start the game, but that's about it. And for some reason, it works. If you really want to know what the real story is about, play the game.
As I said, BRANDISH is a top down dungeon crawler, but since this is the SNES, 3D doesn't always work as it's supposed to. In fact, the view is the one thing that takes the most getting used to with this game. The screen is constantly rotating, and if you battle persistent motion-sickness, it may wear heavy on your tummy. I admit, it was annoying the hell out of me at first, but I got used to it. I have to say, this is the most annoying part of the game.
Listen, the game isn't that pretty either. But you really need to look past it and try to look at the innovation behind it. The game really does try to do a lot to stand out among the top down dungeon-crawler genre. I'm talking about a huge selection of weapons / spells to uncover. An overload of monsters that will kick your arse at every turn. No joke - this game does not mess around. It's difficult right off the bat and it just gets harder.
Oh, and be prepared to get lost. You'll be relying heavily on your map for most part of the game, and that's how I think a dungeon crawler should be. Too many times do I feel like dungeon crawlers end up being point A to point B. This is more like point A to Point D back to B then to F while trying to get by C, all while avoiding traps, pitfalls, monsters and eventually running into bosses that murder you.
UNFORGIVING is a keyword here.
You'll be relying heavily on what you find in this game, and it really turns into an item hoarding game pretty quickly. Your items don't last forever, so you'll need to constantly have back ups. The last thing you need is for your weapon to break while you're fighting a boss. Hoard what you can, and search every damn corner to find every item possible. You'll need 'em.
BRANDISH isn't for everyone. In fact, most people think this game is garbage. But I implore you to give it a chance that it deserves. Once you get past the somewhat weak graphics and annoying top down perspective, the game becomes quite the epic challenge for a top down action RPG. It's not perfect, but it's definitely highly entertaining and worth a playthrough.
This is REALLY a traditional dungeon-crawler. It's all about survival, and you'll need to give it everything you've got to make it out of this tower alive.