~ BRANDISH ~
Falcom / NEC Home Electronics
Super CD-ROM / Arcade CD-ROM
Brandish is an excellent overhead-view dungeon crawler, an absolute must-play if you're at all into games that ask you to explore mazes, collect items, and solve puzzles. I wept streams of tears as I neared its conclusion, as I really didn't want the experience to end.
The game actually might not seem all that wonderful right off the bat. It plays a lot like a typical first-person title even though it isn't one (the simple action of turning causes the playfield to rotate ninety degrees), so the control scheme takes some getting used to. Also, the graphics aren't so hot. But I was surprised at how natural the controls felt after just a short while, and the quality tunes (the Tower theme in particular is excellent) make up for the mediocre visuals.
Exploration is the name of the game, so you needn't do much cryptic-clue deciphering. Inability to read Japanese will make one or two puzzles difficult to solve, but for those, you can simply check out a walkthrough for the SNES version of the game, as the solutions to the conundrums in question are basically the same in that rendition.
Brandish's levels are laden with items, secrets, and interesting enemies. They remind me of the labyrinthine floors of Legend of Xanadu's gigantic tower, though they aren't nearly as challenging as those fiendish areas (and they're actually more enjoyable to explore). So if you made it through LoX's devilish final dungeon and enjoyed the experience, this disc is a safe bet.
Another great thing about the game is that it gives you lots of options in regard to how you'll proceed. For instance, I chose to smash up most of my enemies with the protagonist's fists rather than with weaponry; and as I administered one pummeling after another, my character gradually became stronger, so I was able to sell off weapons to earn cash for acquiring other useful items.
Also noteworthy is the final boss, a hardy cyclopean turtle-like thing protected by energy cannons and gates of laser fire.
There's so much to look forward to with every step you take in Brandish. It's always fun to find out what's around the next bend.