The SNES boasts an incredible library. There’s no denying that. Everyone knows about the classics, but there are tons of solid titles lurking below the surface. These games aren’t nearly as well known but you could easily waste a weekend or two playing. Brain Lord definitely qualifies as such an example. Released over 23 years ago, it largely flew under the radar as more popular games basked in the spotlight. It’s funny — as a kid I couldn’t care less for (action) RPGs but Brain Lord captivated my imagination when I saw it featured in EGM and GameFan. There was something about it that spoke to my soul. Sadly, like so many other SNES games, I was never able to play it until my SNES resurrection in 2006. Though not quite a hidden gem, Brain Lord is plenty solid and well worth checking out if the like the action RPG genre.
I remember seeing the ad in an EGM issue and being absolutely intrigued.
I was fascinated by the screenshots — the captions really resonated with me.
The Brain Lord strategy guide, written by Tim Rooney, was released with two different covers. The one you see above is less common and reflects the Japanese Super Famicom box art. The second version, as seen below, mimics the less than stellar Americanized box art.
I bought the guide back in 2006 and it’s a neat companion piece to the game. Brain Lord has its share of puzzles but it’s a straight forward game. You won’t really need a guide to beat it, but it’s nice to have to look at or if you’re simply a completionist like I am. Plus it’s a really nice guide to boot, in spite of being in black and white. I really like the look and style of it. Here’s a small sample below.
MEET THE CAST
THE STORY GOES…
The plot had me right away.
I was sold.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
Developed by the same folks that made The 7th Saga.
Remeer, er, STEVE, finds himself reminiscing of days gone by. His mind takes him back 10 years to when his father was still alive…
Steve is snapped back to reality by a stern bartender who can’t afford to let his business suffer on account of whimsical daydreamers. But Steve is far from that. He finds a job listing nearby and takes it on with gusto.
Before heading out though, Steve takes time to stock up and visit with the locals. He’s a bit of a cheeky deviant, that Steve. Kashian finds that out right away…
Fairies are your friends. They aid you in battle and even level up.
Toronto, you say? So much for made up city names! I like how you can jump. Not too many Action RPGs allow you to jump. Clearing fences feels satisfying. Screw walking around!
Doesn’t sound one bit ominous in the least…
Dragons are a recurring theme throughout Brain Lord. But are they really extinct? Later on, you can help a lady clear out her mice-infested attic and earn a couple handy prizes.
Playing Brain Lord is probably the closest you’ll get to experiencing a Super Rygar on your 16-bit SNES.
Remember Rygar on the NES? I was always sad we never got a sequel on the Super Nintendo. Certain parts of Brain Lord remind me of Rygar, though.
Nothing fancy here. It’s straight forward and fairly fun. Jump, solve puzzles and hack away at the monsters. It’s good enough to entertain you for a weekend or two.
Fairies assist you in battle. You can even name them after your failed crushes over the years. I mean, doesn’t everyone do that in these type of games? Um, moving on, then…
JENNIFER the Crimson Jade (and my personal childhood version of Winnie Cooper but that’s neither here nor there) launches a singular fireball at nearby enemies. Think of the Fairies as those “option helpers” in SHMUPS.
Along the way you’ll even gain magic skills. The first being this simple magic shot. Simply hold the attack button until the bar can fill. Stronger magic attacks have a longer bar naturally. Once you acquire multiple magic spells, you can press L or R to toggle between them on the fly as opposed to selecting them through a menu. NICE!
Puzzles abound, hence the title of the game “Brain Lord.” They usually involve pushing objects onto plates to activate locked doors. Puzzles start out simple but gradually get trickier and trickier.
Blasting the monsters from a safe distance feels so damn sweet. Plaques give you tips and clues to heed.
Watch out for deadly traps like sensor spikes! And since you can jump, there are some sections where you’ll need to jump from platform to platform. It definitely adds some variety and increases your evasive and strategic choices.
Misjudge a leap though and it’s back to the beginning you go. Thankfully, the game only deducts one health bar whenever you fall.
Puzzles start getting tougher and require some thinking. If you mess up, simply leave the room for a reset. Brain Lord works the, er, brain a bit.
Disappearing floors all part of the menu.
Puzzles never get too hard to solve, but some will take some time to suss out. Be on the lookout for those Springs of Life. They rejuvenate weary warriors.
Access new weapons and spells as you progress. The Bow is good for long distance attacks while the second magic skill you gain launches a triple shot.
Instead of finding a dragon at the top of the Light Tower, you find a terrible mutant cockroach! It sends its little babies scurrying after you as the creature scampers about the top Tower floor. It changes to a red shade as you weaken this abomination. And you thought your college dormitory was bad!
Upgrade to the Ax after heading back into town. I love how you can chop up just about anything with the Ax! Counter tops, boxes, jars and so forth! One NPC even asks you to please not break his jars. Which, of course, only makes me want to break them even more. I love it when games allow you to do these silly little things. There’s just something really satisfying about it.
Graphics are a bit subpar overall, but I really like the visuals here. Only the Ax can break those rocks, which opens up the next area.
Boomerang spins around and attacks much faster than the Bow. Finding a treasure chest is always a blessing.
Scorpions lurk everywhere in this dank cave.
Maybe it’s just me but the conveyor belts remind me of Super Bomberman and those towering blue demons remind me of the Barons of Hell from Doom.
Virtual Boy on my SNES?! Find the light switch and beware the voltage spots.
Uhhhh, OK then… *slowly backs away*
These robotic Cyclops are a tough out.
You’ll be wise to find the second Fairy, a Light Jewel, that helps light your path. By the way, Brain Lord has more keys than the Bellagio in Vegas.
This handy pack-in sheet came with the strategy guide. Nice of Tim Rooney.
Remeer’s best weapon is the Morning Star. It’s a spiked yoyo that packs a mighty punch.
Morning Star makes Brain Lord feel even more like a Super Rygar.
Disappointed still after all these years we never got a Rygar sequel on the SNES.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
Though Brain Lord didn’t arrive with a great deal of fanfare, it received its fair share of previews and positive reviews. EGM gave it scores of 7, 7, 8 and 8. GameFan scored it 80, 80 and 82%. Super Play rated it 81%. It was viewed as a very competent Zelda clone.
Brain Lord is a competent and solid action adventure worth playing through at least once. It doesn’t do any one thing in particular extremely well, but it does most everything adequately enough to entertain you for a weekend or two. I wouldn’t quite classify it as a bonafide hidden gem, but I definitely recommend it as a lesser known SNES game that you might have overlooked. The different weapons and magic spells are fun to implement and the puzzles help differentiate it somewhat from your typical Zelda clone. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll be doing plenty of hacking and slashing, but be ready to exercise your brain a bit as well. There is some slowdown here and there when the screen gets a bit hectic but overall, the game plays fine and should run you between 12-18 hours.
Graphically, Brain Lord is a bit lacking. A lot of the colors seem a bit drab but there are some nice looking areas mixed in. It does have that 7th Saga look to it, but that’s not surprising considering how it was made by the same developer. Regardless, you expect a bit more from a Super Nintendo game released in mid-late 1994. The sound is a mixed bag as well. Some of the music sounds great but other tracks are forgettable. The sound effects are downright comical. They either don’t match the enemy or one breed in particular seems to say “F*CK!” whenever hit. I guess it’s good for a laugh, though. On the bright side, Brain Lord is pretty tough and not a complete cake walk. I like the variety of weapons and I love how you can switch spells on the fly by using the shoulder buttons rather than accessing them through a cumbersome menu (although you can do that too if it tickles your fancy). Some of the puzzles are really fun to solve and I like the ability to jump. I wish there were more enemy types but at least the enemy AI is pretty legit — they’ll even chase you! Brain Lord isn’t the kind of game you need to rush out and play, but chances are, you probably won’t regret it if you gave it the time of day.