Brandish (SNES)

Pub: Koei | Dev: Falcom | February 1995 | 12 MEGS
Pub: Koei | Dev: Falcom | February 1995 | 12 MEGS

As a kid, I was all about action games. Whether it was a platformer, a beat ‘em up or a fighting game, I was a happy camper as long as I could exert my malignant desires at will. My gaming diet mainly consisted purely of hopping on platforms and bad guys, shooting foul entities to Kingdom Come, beating up gang members and blowing stuff up. My brother on the other hand grew up loving RPGs. I couldn’t stand them. Granted, I never gave one the time of day. But over the years I guess you could say my gaming taste has gone through a process of maturation. And no one was more shocked about it than me. As a kid, I simply didn’t understand how someone could derive any pleasure from a slow-paced, text-filled, turn-based game. But of course, I was ignorant to the simple pleasures that only this genre can deliver. The Action RPG, or more conveniently the ARPG, is sort of like a cousin to the role playing game. Although I never got around to playing any of them back in the day, there were actually several ARPGs that caught my eye as a kid.

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Soul Blazer
Soul Blazer
Illusion of Gaia
Illusion of Gaia
Young Merlin
Young Merlin
Brain Lord
Brain Lord
Shadow Run
Addams Family Values
Addams Family Values
The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang
The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang

OK not all of the games featured above are ARPGs but you get the picture. I did have an interest in playing these genre blending games, but Brandish wasn’t one of them.

Not that it didn’t strike my fancy you understand — it’s more a case of I never even heard of it back in the day.

I was immediately intrigued upon seeing this in 2006
I was immediately intrigued upon seeing this in 2006

During the early days of my SNES resurrection (January 2006), I dug out my old EGM and GameFan magazines to find games I had either forgotten about or never heard of. One night I came across this, and right away the ad had me captivated.



55 different monster types?

Take my money!

The game seemed as though it was right up my alley. I immediately went on eBay and bought a copy along with Out of This World from the same seller on January 29, 2006. At just a measly $2.25, one can say that it was a bargain “out of this world!” *rimshot* [Oh Lord -Ed.]

Brandish actually turned out to be my VERY FIRST taste of an action RPG and I’ll always remember it fondly as such. On a late Wednesday night of February 8, 2006… 3 AM… with my alarm set to 7:35 AM for University, I had the strangest urge to play this game. And so, I shifted my way through the darkness to do just that. It’s one of those weird random gaming memories that you recall even to this day.

This atmosphere intro haunts me still...
This atmospheric intro haunts me still…

As soon as the calm intro began, with its soothing music playing softly in the background, I was sold. Seeing that tower lit under the soft glow of the moonlight was the perfect image to go alongside my 3 AM session, and the story of Varik being swallowed underground having to fend off 55 different breeds of monsters immediately had me hook, line and sinker.

I played for half an hour before saving and quitting. First impressions were favorable. That night I went to sleep with sweet visions of blue blobs and red-eyed goblins dancing in my dreams. I couldn’t wait to explore more.

Below you’ll find a journal entry I wrote following my initial playthrough of Brandish back in early 2006. Man, those were the days. Glad I kept a journal because these things are like a gawd damn time machine! :)






Many years ago, in a far away land, stood a tower in the middle of a small kingdom called Berimya. The tower was so magnificent, it seemed to symbolize all the peace in the world. The people were happy bustling in Berimya, but this land was ruled by an evil king named Berebus.

As kingdoms prosper though, it’s not uncommon for the people to grow increasingly greedy. Berimya was no exception to the rule. Not content with his country’s prosperity, King Berebus began to dream of how he could strengthen his power. In time he caught wind of an old urban legend that the tower held the key to satisfying his insatiable greed.

The Berimyan legend went like this: There is a towering source of ultimate power that controls everything in the world. It is said that the secret of the source was kept at the top of this sacred tower, and not even the king was allowed to enter this area. The secrets were only passed down to those of pure intent by Baltus, the king’s archbishop.

The king tried very hard to suss out the secrets from the archbishop, but his vow of secrecy restricted him from doing so. King Berebus became so desperate that he sent a spy in the guise of a priest inside the tower.


Several days later, the spy returned with an ancient book he had found hidden in the tower. This scripture revealed information about the Secret Power that King Berebus desired. It was written, “A dragon, the protector of Berimya, resides at the top of the tower and controls all of the world’s power.”

Under the command of the king, the Imperial Army forced their way into the sacred tower. Baltus tried to restrict the soldiers from entering but evil King Berebus sentenced him to death for obstruction and defiance.

When the soldiers finally reached the top of the tower, an enormous dragon statue stood before them. The very moment that King Berebus spoke, the statue lit up in a pale blue light and the dragon sprung to life.


The fearless king stood in front of the dragon and declared, “I am Berebus, King of the land Berimya. Give me the source of your power or DIE!



Suddenly, the dragon opened up its wings and curled its long neck and body into a ball. An intense, vibrant light radiated from between its wings. Fearing for his life, King Berebus ordered for the soldiers to kill the dragon. The dragon did not resist the attack, continuing to radiate light.



It also affected the people of Berimya. From that day forward, the city was thrown into isolation. In one night, the sacred tower, kingdom, and all of the people of Berimya sunk deep into the ground.


One thousand years later, the forgotten past of Berimya would be unveiled in the land of Bavalya.


Bavalya was a small country that showed no signs of having a horrible past. From the outside it appeared to be a peaceful place to live. But in reality, Bavalya was in turmoil. Beryx, the King of Bavalya, had devised a plan to make the country a richer place. In order for the small country to become more prosperous, he placed large bounties on criminals and collected money by taxing these rewards. This system stabilized the wealth of the country, but invited criminals to stalk each other. Bavalya had turned into a corrupt and violent place to live.

Due to these circumstances, there were few visitors who dared to enter Bavalya. The country was on the road to pure self-destruction.


One day, a curious man came to Bavalya. At first glance, he looked like a filthy beggar. The long, intimidating sword by his side, however, revealed he was a powerful swordsman with a dark, secret past. His name was Varik. He earned his living collecting bounties.

Varik walked into the local bar and noticed some men staring at him as he continued to the other side of the room. Sketches of wanted criminals adorned the walls. A loud voice boomed from a table far away.


“I heard there are hidden treasures in the large hole!”

“But have you also heard that there are demons crawling all over the place down there? And God only know what else…”

“Which one of you criminals has the most on your head?”

“It’s got to be that guy over there! He must be worth a million gold pieces,” a man in high spirits declared, pointing to Varik.

“Aye, he’s a strong one. For your own sake don’t bother with him. It’s best not to concern ourselves with that kind of vermin…”

“The reward money we could collect from that guy would allow us to live the rest of our lives in luxury, but it’s simply not worth the risk.”

Varik decided to ignore what they were saying and instead went to find out more about this mysterious hole from the bartender.

“Since the day the hole appeared, people suddenly began disappearing. Some say they hear strange groans and growls coming from the terrible hole. There are even people who say they’ve seen monsters in Bavalya! There were rumors about how, some way or another, one of the monsters crawled out of the giant hole and fatally wounded some of the locals. One person after another has been lured into this hole and they’re never seen again. You may think you’re tough enough to battle men here, but down there, it’s a different story. I’d stay away from that cursed hole if I were you! Even if you are who you are…”



Moments later, Varik found himself standing on the edge of the huge crater. He noticed a small opening at the bottom. He began to climb down towards it when a woman’s voice suddenly rung out. “Varik!” He immediately recognized the voice. He looked back to see the sorceress Alexis standing on the edge of the crater with a stern expression carved on her face. She twirled her magical wand.


Five years ago, Varik was falsely accused of murdering Alexis’ master, Balkan, and she has been persistently following Varik ever since to exact vengeance.


Then Alexis stretched out her arm, effortlessly throwing a fireball at Varik. With enormous speed, the ground beneath Varik exploded as he dodged her fireball. Horrified that her shot had missed him, Alexis fired a second shot which fell into the hole.





You control the bounty hunter, Varik. Your goal is to somehow return to the surface. But standing in your way lies thousands of monsters, booby traps, puzzles and oh… Alexis hot on your trail! Advice? Keep moving and don’t trust goblins!

Will Varik ever see the light of day again?

Will he ever again bask in the glow of the moonlight?

Most importantly, will he ever enjoy another Bavalya Cheesesteak?

All this and more will be answered once you’ve entered the sordid world that is BRANDISH.


1. Ruins Area 1-10

2. Tower 1-9

3. Cave B10-B1

4. Dark Zone 1 & 2

5. Fortress 1-7

6. ??????  (I’m not telling…)

Good luck!


Thanks DDCecil !
Thanks DDCecil! A toast to you, good sir

I started playing Brandish on February 8, 2006. Buying games at an insane pace however, my Brandish playthrough got lost in the shuffle. It wasn’t until July 2006 that I picked it up again. I collected two gold bars but they took up two slots in my limited inventory box. Can I combine them somehow? I checked a FAQ but it only said “Mega Tip: Consolidate your items” and didn’t tell me how. So I asked my good fellow gamers over at DigitPress if anyone knew. DDCecil sent me a PM that he had a Brandish manual lying around in his game shop. He offered to send it to me for free. What a guy! I was so excited the day the manual arrived that I read the 40+ pages like it was the best novel in the world. And now I knew how to consolidate items. First, you needed to have a Dimensional Box. To pay it forward, here’s a picture that explains it in full for all the manual-less Brandish players out there who may be wondering what the flipping heck.



55 varying breeds of monsters, demons and ghouls await. They range from very small to very big and from low to extremely high health points. Some prefer to hack alone while others work in packs. Here’s a small sample of some of the enemies you’ll meet in your lengthy quest…










Plus many more! There are also over a dozen boss monsters that want to rip your face off.






Quite a fall!
Quite a fall!
But like a zombie...
But like a zombie
Varik rises!
Varik rises!

I like how Brandish incorporates jumping into its gameplay. It lends for some extra puzzle possibilities. Not many ARPGs let you jump, so this was very cool. On a side note, Brain Lord also lets you honor Van Halen.













Brandish is fairly infamous for its awkward “camera system.” It has turned off many players. Rather than controlling like the typical ARPG, Brandish shifts the entire maze 90 degrees around the player on each turn. This style has frustrated many due to its jerky nature. It definitely takes time to get used to. It wasn’t long before it became second nature for me, however. There are two different command settings (more on that later). You’ll always see Varik’s backside regardless of which setting you use. Strafing will be your best friend as well as the on-screen compass. It’s really not that bad once you get accustomed to it. Needless to say, gameplay here is much more methodical than your traditional ARPG due to its unique control scheme.







Inconveniently annoying as the camera system may be to some folks, there’s no doubt that the map system comes in very handy. As you progress through a floor, the map will chart your steps accordingly. Any areas that have gone uncharted is displayed for your convenience.



1. Current shield
2. Current armor
3. Current weapon
4. Evil bloke
5. Marker
6. Compass
7. Current region and floor
8. That would be you
9. Secondary item
10. Health bar
11. Magic bar

The marker allows you to open doors, pick up items, toggle switches, etc. The secondary item can be switched to on the fly by simply pressing X. See the “30” by the secondary sword in the picture and see how the current weapon is broken? Yup, swords wear down with usage. The sword shatters once the counter reaches zero. It may still be used in broken form, but it’ll be far weaker. For those already thinking “That’s kind of lame” — fret not. You’ll soon discover indestructible swords as you progress.

As for the secondary items, they can be anything from your inventory. Keys, potions, magic spells and so on. Be careful when selecting from your items, however. It takes place all in real time…



Your luck fluctuates constantly. It affects the damage you can inflict when attacking monsters. Gold can only be found in treasure chests or by selling items to shopkeepers. Monsters don’t drop gold when killed, so early on it may seem very hard to accumulate money. But as long as you save and spend wisely, you should be good.

Arm Strength indicates your ability to defend yourself whenever you’re not equipped with a weapon. Knowledge influences the effectiveness of your magic. Magic Endurance indicates your power to resist magic-based attacks from the enemy.



Some people complain about the plodding nature of Brandish. Thankfully, the game speed can be adjusted on a whim. This is great for a number of reasons. Wish to backtrack? Crank it to high speed. Fighting a super nasty boss? The lowest speed slows everything down and allows you to evade most effectively in slow motion. I played at normal speed mostly, switching to low or high whenever warranted.

Message speed is self-explanatory. Ditto the buttons. Hate the default blue color? You get to select from nine different color choices just for the hell of it!

Lateral shifts the screen 90 degrees when you press the D-Pad. L/R strafes. Rotate uses the D-Pad to strafing while L/R shifts the screen. I prefer Lateral by a country mile. It’s the only way to enjoy Brandish to the max and it really works after you get used to this unique style. Your mileage may vary, of course. But for me, it’s Lateral all day and twice on Sundays!



Ah, bless the marker. Not only does it toggle levers but it allows you to see an item’s description, make out what’s inside a mystery bag, warn you of hazardous spots on the ground and of course, read the many plaques scattered throughout the monster-infested labyrinths.

The plaques range from highly helpful to downright strange. Take a peek:








Falling down is the pits!
Falling down is the pits!

It truly is. Some falls sap you of precious health while others drop you to lower floors. Some pitfalls are given away by a pebble or mark but others, to the naked eye, are impossible to discern. You could drop a steel ball if you have that in your inventory, sure, but better yet, bust out that marker!

That was convenient
That was convenient



Items left lying around are marked by the green “mystery” bag. Don’t just pick it up right away. Use your marker!


Speaking of keys, if you love adventure games that feature hundreds of locked doors and, thereby, hundreds of keys to find, you’ll love Brandish. The Skull Key, the Dragon Key, the Ruby Key, the Asshole Key — they’re all here! (OK, not that last one). There are more keys in this sucker than you’ll find at the Plaza Hotel in New York City!


In the first area of the game, the Ruins, there are fountain springs scattered about the subterranean floors. A quick sip or two will restore your health completely. Once out of the Ruins however, you’re on your own. But don’t worry, you have health potions as well as the greatest yet cheapest thing ever…


L+R to recover? Say wha? Yes, it’s called “resting” and allows Varik to regain full vitality. It’s not a cheat — it’s even promoted and encouraged in the manual! Whenever you’re at less than 100% health, press L and R. The screen will pause and darken as your health bar recovers until you let go of L and R. The catch? There isn’t much of one. You might guess the recuperation rate to be slow, but actually it’s pretty fast. The only small thing to be concerned about? Should an enemy attack you while you’re resting, you take double the damage. But you can usually find a safe spot to recover. Therefore, there’s really no catch as long as you rest wisely! I hardly had to use the potions I found throughout the game because I would just end up using the rest option instead.



Be on the lookout for deteriorating walls. Use your sledgehammer to bash in these weak walls to discover new playing areas. This is sometimes necessary in order to advance, while other times it serves as a tasty reward for eagle-eyed explorers. Note that sledgehammers have a limited usage rate, though. The game does a great job however of balancing the number of hammer bashes to that of breakable walls. Excellent programming!




Who knows what invaluable treasures, dark secrets or foul creatures lie beyond these crumbling walls…


Magic Shop
Weapons Shop
Items Shop
Items Shop

Along the way you’ll find these shops tucked away at the oddest corners of the underground maze. You’ll never meet the same person twice! You can sell, buy or talk. ALWAYS talk to the shopkeepers. They’ll give either useful information or provide odd dialogue bits that add to the atmosphere of the game. And thankfully, the translation came out GREAT. To further enhance my point, here’s a look at some, ahem, interesting conversations…














And then you have this…

Some (unintentional?) humor to be found as well!
Some (unintentional?) humor to be found as well!
But is every shopkeeper friendly? Find out yourself...
But is every shopkeeper friendly? Find out yourself…


“Yeah, this whole exploring and dialogue business is fine and dandy but where’s the A in the ARPG, a?”

Don’t worry, there are plenty of bad guys to kill…







I can’t say enough how much I love the monsters found underground in Brandish. You never know which of the 55 varieties is lurking just around the corner…







The more I played Brandish, the more I couldn’t help but notice it! The hierarchy of the enemies, the twisting and dark passages of the underground mazes… in fact, one maze in particular reminded me of the classic Doom II map TRICKS AND TRAPS!

But maybe I’m just being crazy here. Then again, maybe not. 42 floors must be cleared in all. Each one is inhabited by bloodthirsty fiends. Locked doors and keys are plentiful. Each maze has its own “personality” and even boss monsters! Brandish kind of feels like an overhead version of Doom



The corridors beneath Bavalya conceal tricks and traps to snare all but the most cunning players. Even the best equipped warriors must rely on their wits and savvy to survive. Certain pressure plates open doors but others may close off escape routes. Jump over pits and plates that hinder your progress, but remember that a select few holes offer refuge from a fate that’s far worse…



This game works your thumbs as well as your brains. Teleporting rooms and warping tiles add to the madness. The unique features and challenges tucked inside each floor keep dedicated players coming back.


They only get bigger and uglier from here on out!
Bosses only get bigger and uglier from here on out!





As you see, the graphics leave a lot to be desired, especially by 1995 standards. The still shots and cutscenes however are quite lovely, and the Tower on the whole is the game’s best looking stage. New monsters begin appearing in the Tower…




[WILL YOU STOP! -Gorilla Monsoon]
[WILL YOU STOP! -Gorilla Monsoon]
Firebrand from Demon's Crest
Firebrand from Demon’s Crest


The Tower is ransack with cockroaches, puzzles and NPCs. I won’t spoil what you have to do or who you meet, but let’s just say the game really picks up momentum here. No two floors are alike, and some of the best level designs are found here in the Tower. Oh and just wait until you see the… [SNIP! -Ed.]




Welcome to the Caves, a strange and fascinating place. Although a slight step down from the Tower, it has its surprises and moments as well. Some of the puzzles are tough. My advice? Keep your eyes on your compass…











Shit was creepy as hell!
Shit was creepy as hell!


1981 original >>> 2010 remake
Still gives me the creeps…
Stick with the 1981 original. 2010 remake is no good
Stick with the 1981 original. 2010 remake is no good


Im no doctor, but this cant be good
I’m no doctor, but this can’t be good…
Brandish is soaked with atmosphere!
Brandish is soaked with atmosphere!


Top secret stuff. So let us move on…



UGH! You smell that? The fortress is a breeding ground for death and decay. Its pungent stench permeates the thick air, leaving you short of breath and feeling nauseous. But before you can cover your nose, you hear an inhuman growl not too far away…


The fortress is home to some fiendish mazes. Wait until you see Floor X. It’s pretty clever. On another floor, all the doors are locked with no keys in sight. You have to find the “Green-Eyed Monster” wall, and I’m not talking about envy syndrome! Then all the doors will be unlocked, freeing up all the monsters dwelling within!


Your Magic Endurance increases when taking magic attacks. Early in the game you’ll meet Black Magic. Intentionally let him zap you and then rest when appropriate. Rinse and repeat. Do this and you’ll reap the rewards of taking less damage from magic-based attacks as your Magic Endurance gradually increases.

The enemies start to get really tough
The enemies start to get really tough



That witch Alexis finds herself in a tough predicament and will ask for your help. I can tell you this — your decision affects the outcome of the game…



Do you save the girl (whose been trying to kill you) or do you let her die? Choices, choices.


Believe it or not, this isnt the final boss...
Believe it or not, this isn’t the final boss…








Brandish is not impossible to beat, but it’ll required much wit and perseverance. Here are some handy tips to help you.

  • This game auto-saves. Anytime you enter a new floor the game will automatically save. It’s not as bad as it may sound, though. I never had a problem with it. Of course, you can also manually save anytime you like. And I highly advise saving often! Before you open and enter that locked door, save! When you sense a funky puzzle up ahead, save! You can never save enough
  • Enemies attacked from behind inflicts more damage than when attacked in front
  • Don’t throw away items — sell them! Even 200 gold pieces here and there adds up
  • Look for hidden walls you can walk through. The section of these hidden walls will differ from the rest EVER SO slightly, so keep your eyes peeled
  • Explore! Use the Auto-Map to see where you haven’t been. Heading straight for the exit can prove costly


You’ll meet this bony bald-headed demon early in the game. Like the red skeletons from Castlevania, he cannot be killed permanently. It’s not a bad idea to take 15-20 minutes to kill him repeatedly to increase your offensive stats.


Don’t waste money on swords as they can be picked up as you go along. Also, you don’t need some spells. Spend wisely and save for something you’ll really need.


You can hold up to 99 gold bars. Stock up on them and try not to sell until you’ve got at least several gold bars. Reason being accrued interest! Selling one gold bar is worth 1,000 gold pieces but selling two is worth slightly more than 2,000. And so on.

  • Fire Magic is the first spell you can afford. I highly recommend buying it. It shoots a blast straight ahead. For each use, your magic meter depletes slightly. But it automatically refills when not used. Attack foes from far away! Good stuff
  • When ailing, rest. Make sure no monsters are in the vicinity. You may cease resting on a dime, meaning you can cancel after a split second. Keep this in mind when dealing with tougher monsters in close quarters
  • Adjust the speed accordingly. At times it’d behoove you to set it on low (there’s one monster in particular). High is a must when backtracking through a previous maze to grab the item that you didn’t, or couldn’t, before
  • Don’t expend your numbered swords on the regular baddies. A broken sword will suffice. Save your big guns for the bosses. Use the broken sword until you can find the indestructible short sword, then the indestructible Rapier, and so on
  • Saved in a nasty spot? Use the Emergency Escape. At the load screen, while holding L and R, press A on the save file you wish to employ Emergency Escape. You can then reposition yourself anywhere on the map. However, your status level will drop down by one
  • Stuck with absolutely no clue what to do next? Look up Jax Aagar’s excellent walkthrough on GameFAQs. Cheers, Jax. I used your guide two or three times. Please don’t rip my arms off — cookie for anyone who got the Mortal Kombat II reference
  • If you find the dark shield/armor/sword, do NOT equip them unless it’s in the Dark Zone…
  • Better have Warp Magic in the Fortress… or else
  • Have Heal Magic before fighting the final boss



This is where the game’s most infamous panic-inducing moment can occur. Those plaques don’t lie, folks…











You’re given a rundown of your performance once you finish the game. Here are my final stats:

Level 86
HP: 216
MP: 194
Luck: 121
Gold: 243,390
Attack Strength: 149
Defense Strength: 65
Arm Strength: 99.99
Knowledge: 95.43
Magic Endurance: 99.99

Escape Time: 31 hours, 56 minutes
Steps Taken: 77,327
Monsters Defeated: 5,154 (!!!)
Lives Lost: 78
Swords Broken: 5
% of Map Completed: 85%


You seem to either love or hate Brandish

Both EGM and GameFan didn’t preview or review Brandish. Super Play slagged the game off with a 53% rating. This seems to be the ultimate “Love it or hate it” game. There is definitely an audience that swears by Brandish, but you also have just as many people (if not more) who have cast it off as being unplayable and terrible.


Though, Nintendo Power wasn’t shy to support it. They devoted eight pages spanning two issues (#71 and #72) and had this to say:

“Great RPG fun isn’t always pretty. While you won’t be dazzled by its graphics, this cart offers tons of intellectual challenge and hours of gameplay. The numerous mysteries, bewildering mazes and bloodthirsty traps will keep hardcore role-playing fans exploring for hours. If you’re looking for Mode 7 rotation or flashy graphics, this probably isn’t your game. But if you’re seeking a thought-provoking intellectual challenge, Brandish might have exactly what you’re looking for. This ugly duckling has the potential of being a grand swan in the growing pond of great RPGs. Brandish couples the great role-playing elements of Wizardy V, Dungeon Master and Soul Blazer in one huge maze.”


"Come here, lad, and sit on my lap for a minute..."
“Come here, lad, and sit on my lap for a minute…”

To say that I feel this game is sadly and sorely misunderstood would be like calling the Super Nintendo “just another video game system.” I’m not sure how many of these detractors have gone past the Ruins (the point where I feel the game really starts coming into its own). Brandish rewards the patient and dedicated gamer. Though quite a few of the mazes may appear somewhat repetitive, there are some excellent layouts peppered throughout. These levels, coupled with the puzzles and an incredibly diverse monster role call, will keep you coming back for more. It’s easy to be turned off by the camera and walk away after 20 minutes convinced that Brandish is a dud. It didn’t take me long to adjust and it became second nature after a while. It’s worth making the effort. I’m glad I did, anyhow. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Gameplay is not innovative but it’s good ol’ fashion fun to walk around a maze hacking away at a Tyrannosaurus Rex with your Sword of Majesty. The next second you find yourself zapping Death itself with your Fire Magic. Uncovering secret rooms and solving puzzles is also all part of the fun. Oddly enjoyable!

The Tower is where it picks up
The Tower is where it picks up

The sound is lackluster, consisting of forgettable bleeps and bloops. But the music itself is really effective. The Ruins theme does a convincing job of making me believe that I’m really 40 stories deep underground. The Tower theme is a Zelda rip-off! That’s a good thing. My brother walked by the TV set one night, heard it and said, “What the hell! That’s the damn Zelda theme!”


The shopkeeper theme is perfect. It really sets the mood proper and enforces the feeling that everyone is dwelling deep underground. Speaking of the shopkeepers, they are a hoot to talk to. The translation job was handled well — this game’s dialogue is among the most entertaining I’ve read for any SNES (A)RPG. For example, the weird looking old lady coughing and apologizing for looking like Death itself. And she really does. It lends the game a very unique atmosphere that does a great job of sucking you in…


The various NPCs you run into throughout is another thing that Brandish has going for it. Will you dare to help that one female find her long missing boyfriend? What about the ghost girl — what the hell does she want anyway? And why is her spirit still lingering around? Can you trust the goblin? Playing Brandish was like getting caught up in a really good book.


The gameplay takes some getting used to due to the way movement is handled. As a result, combat is not as smooth as other ARPGs. It’s very methodical and you have to approach it with the right mindset in order to appreciate it. Once you get over the somewhat awkward movement, it actually opens up and plays rather well for what it is. However, enemy AI is pretty terrible. Remember how the guards would chase after you upon sight in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past? The monsters in Brandish do no such thing. They just sort of loiter around until close contact is established. It’s too bad they don’t actively hunt you down as it would have made for a more tense adventure.

Monster lovers rejoice
Monster lovers rejoice

Speaking of the monsters, the ad cited 55 different monster types crawling deep underground. That instantly appealed to me and it did not disappoint. From tiny cockroaches scampering about to towering T-Rex’s roaming the mazes, Brandish has got monster lovers covered. Octopus-like creatures, minotaurs, Medusa, hell, even the Grim Reaper is seen milling about the hell hole! It all adds up to one delightful adventure for the gamer willing to make the effort.

Brandish certainly is not for everyone. But if the plot, puzzle solving, monster slaying and a more methodical style of game playing appeals to you, chances are you’ll be glad you gave this the time of day.

Beat the best? Played the rest? Give Brandish a test!
Beat the best? Played the rest? Give Brandish a test!

Graphics: 4.5
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Longevity: 8

AwardsOverall: 8.0
Silver Award


Check out the sequel, Brandish 2, here!

4 thoughts on “Brandish (SNES)”

  1. I love Brandish, it’s number three for my personal favorite Nintendo 16-bit Nihon Falcom properties list! =)
    3. Koei’s port of Brandish
    2. Nihon Falcom’s own SFC port of their sidescroller Popful Mail
    1. Tonkin House’s (then SFC-exclusive) Ys IV: Mask of the Sun

    When I stumbled upon your old site and read your positive review for this game many years ago it had intrigued me and inspired me to give it a go (your Brandish review, RVGSteve, is my favorite review from your site)… which wouldn’t happen until Christmas 2015 when I caught up with it and Red Company’s The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang; of the two I enjoyed Brandish the most. =)

    I love how replete with atmosphere this action-oriented adventure game is and how it refuses to let go until the very end, the soundtrack is very engaging and fantastic (the castle and cave themes are atmospheric, I like that each boss has their own theme dedicated to them, and the opener for the intro of the American version is absolutely gripping; a shame that Koei didn’t include any in-game credits so we don’t who worked on what in this Nintendo 16-bit version of the game, I hate when that happens), and while the gameplay took a bit to get used to at first what with only being able to see Ares’/Varik’s back it grew to become intuitive and second nature before long–not to mention fun! =D And as a Nihon Falcom enthusiast, I approve.

    Considering that this top-down game was originally made in 1991, the fact that the angles change when you’re not strafing kinda make this game feel ahead of its time because the only RPGs that really did that at the time were of the first-person variety; just picturing the developers maintaining the same coordinates and continuity with enemy and chest and occasional NPC and wall and hole placement despite facing any of four different directions… that’s mindblowing considering it came out at a time when top-down RPGs preserved the same unaltered camera angle.

    Admittedly it did leave a bit to be desired in the visual department (excepting the cutscenes which are typically great-looking coming from Nihon Falcom) although having said that, I didn’t mind the simplistic-looking floor and wall designs (Nihon Falcom’s strengths when it comes to their were always music, great gameplay, and story) but I do concede that it could’ve benefited from more area variety (something they did with Brandish 2: The Planet Buster). I do understand why this aspect is getting flak though even if I don’t find Brandish to be the worst-looking of the Nihon Falcom properties on the Nintendo 16-bit (that would be Epoch’s port for Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes, which did not look anything at all like it belonged in the system).

    The idea of controlling a wanted bounty hunter whom you knew practically nothing about except that he may or may not have killed Dela’s/Alexis’ father and master Balkan was the most fascinating detail about it, and even by the time you finish (regardless of what choice you made) you still don’t learn anything more about him and yet he still maintains that sense of mystique about him.

    I love the sense of replay value this game has got going for it, for if you didn’t find certain treasures or filled out certain parts of the map the first time through then there’s always a chance to do exactly that the next time around. =) Not to mention increasing arm strength and magic endurance is exciting. It is a bit challenging at points but not impossible, and the atmosphere is what this game incredibly compelling for me.

    One final thing more to add to my rambling comment (sorry) is the cover art: I LOVE this game’s cover art, the warm and bright color scheme and dynamic poses make it one of my favorite box covers ever (on the Nintendo 16-bit or otherwise); and I like how the back of said box recommended this game if you enjoyed Breath of Fire and Brain Lord almost as if all three games were connected by the fact that all three titles begin with the first two letters “Br” and that they all have dragons serving as an integral part of the plot–and yes, I DO love Breath of Fire (the first one, I could never get into the second one whenever I tried giving it a chance, but that’s neither here nor there) and I DO love Brain Lord (the original Super Famicom version is better, but the American version is still decent enough), thank you for asking Koei.

    Okay, I’m done! Keep up the great work, RVGSteve, thank you for your review of Brandish otherwise I don’t know if I would’ve tried it. Take care! =)

    1. Hey StarBoy! You never have to apologize for rambling. It was interesting to read through your lengthy comment. I’m glad I was able to introduce you to Brandish and thank you for the kind words regarding it being your favorite review that I’ve written. I remember when I first originally wrote the Brandish review over 10 years ago now! It was definitely something I was mighty proud of. The game as you said has a very compelling atmosphere, some solid tunes and an intriguing character that you’re not really sure if he’s truly bad or simply has shades of gray. What did you think of Brandish 2: The Planet Buster, by the way? I liked it too but despite the expanded variety in locales, I actually prefer the first Brandish by a comfortable margin. I also enjoyed Breath of Fire and Brain Lord, too. You mentioned the Japanese version of Brain Lord being better than the US version. Why do you think so? I’ve never played the Japanese version so now you’ve got me curious!

  2. The differences between Brain Lord’s original SFC and SNES versions are thusly:
    – Remeer has blue hair as opposed to brown (although in the SFC cover and concept art it’s brown with the only blue thing being his cap)
    – Weapon potency is doubled while in the American version it was halved (this is the main reason I prefer the Japanese original)
    – The three sorceress’ home has a Judaism symbol that was removed in the American version
    – The room where you fight against Ramus’ ghouls is comprised of one solid straight line with both halves being formed of ice with zero holes, whereas in the localized version the whole floor was icy with four holes you had to be careful not to fall in
    – There is a third option in the Config menu that was removed for the American version (I’m not sure exactly what it was supposed to accomplish though as I tried it two times and nothing happened)

    Aside from that though there isn’t much in terms of difference (unfortunately there are still moments of slowdown), but I’ve played Brain Lord (mostly the American version whereas the Japanese version I beat twice as of writing this comment as I only caught up with the SFC original a year and a half ago) so many times in the past eight-plus years that I’ve gotten it memorized and can master in one life. Definitely a one-time a year game for me that I enjoy revisiting. =) My only wish was that it was a little longer, but maybe that’s just me; to each their own.

    After having been surprised at how much I enjoyed Brandish when I went through it the first time I just had to know what more was in store, I wanted to explore more right away… which I wouldn’t find out until September 2016 when I imported Brandish 2: The Planet Buster for the Super Famicom (the original, not the Expert version). Truth be told I didn’t quite finish the sequel as I had sorta stopped during the middle of it (I have SO many SFC and SNES games), but from what I had played I liked it enough but I didn’t feel it to be AS compelling as the original Brandish (I can’t quite pinpoint why, but it’s how I felt), in my opinion; with the first game, once I started it I didn’t want to stop until I finished it (that’s how gripping it was for me). I have been contemplating starting the second iteration over from scratch and give it another chance and I hope to play it to the end when I do as that way I think I’ll have formed a proper opinion on it.

    Thanks for the reply, my RVG buddy, and I hope you have a great one =)

    1. Hey Star Boy! Sorry for the late reply — been meaning to reply a lot earlier. You should definitely finish Brandish 2 at some point but I hear ya on the “way too many SNES/SFC games to play” thing, lol. I try to keep one game in my system at a time until I beat it or can’t advance any further but sometimes I do lose interest and want to try something new. Anyway, I agree with you that the original Brandish has something on its sequel that I too can’t seem to quite pinpoint. I just know the first one is a little more addicting, charming and atmospheric. I still like Brandish 2 but the first game is definitely my favorite of the two!

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