Koei delivers a mid-nintees standard RPG-esque experience with Brandish. The intro story has the usual shallow depth that was common at the time. It gives a reasonable background for the beginning of gameplay, and sets the stage for what is to come.

Yay! Dragons!  Too bad the intro is really the best part of this game.
Yay! Dragons! Too bad the intro is really the best part of this game.

The music is fairly well done. It’s similar in style to the music of the early Might and Magic games, where it’s more of an era tune that accompanies you on your journey than a soundtrack.

The game is slow-paced, and obviously focuses on laborious exploring, similar to the Eye of the Beholder PC game series, only there’s no love, no passion. The game plays like a 40 year old married couple just going through the motions without a clear reason why.

The drab textures are kinda meh
The drab textures are kinda meh

The gameplay is a mix of gauntlet and a somewhat Zelda-like experience. It’s biggest failure is in the orientation mechanics. Some brilliant developer at Koei decided that it would be “kool” to keep your Character’s avatar always facing the same direction, which means each time you turn, your whole fucking screen rotates to accomodate your character’s new view perspective. It’s incredibly annoying, disorienting and dizzying, and completely unnecessary. Yes it’s cute that you can’t see a door until you’re looking at it face on, but nobody gives a shit. There are more interesting ways to create a “searching” experience than to make the player puke spinning in circles.

Verdict: All in all, Brandish doesn’t appear to be terrible. The graphics are average, at best, with lots of repeated textures, the music is pleasant enough. The controls are reasonably intuitive, although I’m not clear why blocking and attacking uses the same button. Maybe it makes sense to the same developper who thought that rotating the whole screen to turn makes sense. If you played Brandish back in the day, you may have spent a day or two just chilling, taking it in casually. If you missed it, there are bigger fish in the pond and you’ll have a better time casting your line in their direction.

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