Brain Lord
  • Genre:
    • Action RPG
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Produce
  • Publisher:
    • Enix
  • Released:
    • JP 01/29/1994
    • US 10/01/1994
Score: 75%

This review was published on 04/17/2014.

Brain Lord is an action role-playing game developed by Produce and published by Enix for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in Japan on January 29, 1994, and North America on October 1, 1994. Unsurprisingly, the game never got a European release. Brain Lord has similarities to other Produce games made around the same time period, such as 7th Saga and Mystic Ark, but they're not officially part of the same series. Produce primarily produced traditional RPGs for Enix back then, but Brain Lord was one of the few to deviate from the traditional RPG experience by incorporating a little bit of action into the mix. Brain Lord is a solid game for those who enjoy action RPGs, though it's a little on the mediocre side. It is, however, better than 7th Saga.

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Hundreds of years ago, in the world of Brain Lord, people rode through the sky atop dragons. During this time lived a group of people known as the Dragon Warriors. Yes, that's a reference to Enix's Dragon Warrior series. These Dragon Warriors would seek out dragons and train them to be their partners. It was a symbiotic relationship that led to great power. However, the Dragon Warriors were later engulfed in a great battle that cost many of them their lives. The world's last surviving Dragon Warrior was then sent on a quest to locate the world's last surviving dragon. Unfortunately, this warrior never returned from his dragon locating quest. Years later, the son of the lost Dragon Warrior goes on a journey of his own to carry on from where his dad left off. You control the Dragon Warrior's son, who is the protagonist of Brain Lord. It's a pretty standard premise for a medieval fantasy tale. The dialogue is quite bland and has the occasional typo, giving off the sensation that not much effort was put into Brain Lord's localization. Likewise, the plot starts off dull and never gets terribly interesting. Brain Lord's story merely acts as a launch pad for adventure. That's okay, though, because Brain Lord is more focused on providing a fun game play experience. If you're looking for a tale of intrigue, then you may want to look elsewhere. On a side note, I beat the game and still have no idea what the title means.

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Game play in Brain Lord is presented in a top-down perspective reminiscent of Zelda, but the RPG mechanics are much more pronounced. You can run around, talk to people, swing your sword, block attacks with a shield, and solve puzzles in typical Zelda fair. One big thing that separates this from Zelda is the ability to jump at any time. You can jump up and down slopes, over pits, and just for fun. The controls are pretty responsive and the game has a nice feel to it. Areas are divided into two basic parts; dungeons and towns. There are sometimes areas in between a town and dungeon, but there aren't many of these, and they're quite small. Also, there aren't many towns in this game. In fact, there are only two. The towns themselves are decent enough, but it would have been nice if there were more. Brain Lord's towns are more like hubs, since you return to the same ones repeatedly throughout your journey. One of the towns has a battle arena where you can place bets on fighters or take part in it yourself. It's pretty sweet. As far as the RPG mechanics go, your character's stats can be increased by finding better equipment or by locating stat boosting items. They're pretty simplistic, but they give a sense of character progression not found in the Zelda series. Mechanically, Brain Lord is your standard action RPG, and that's not bad at all. That's unless you hate action RPGs. Then you probably won't like this game.

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You'll be spending most of your time in Brain Lord inside of dungeons. Enemies lurk anywhere outside town, but dungeons are where they're most concentrated in. As one would expect, there are many locked doors in the dungeons, so a good bit of your dungeon exploration will revolve around locating keys. Unsurprisingly, dungeons are also home to a large majority of the game's puzzles. Puzzles involve the usual pushing of rocks onto pressure plates, jumping across precariously placed platforms, avoiding spike traps, and the like. The jumping puzzles can be frustrating due to the poor collision detection of the moving platforms. That same poor collision detection can result in your demise with speaks, as they have a tendency to chain damage you to death. The other puzzles are good, if a bit generic. If you ever mess up a puzzle badly enough to trap yourself, there is a handy dandy option in the menu to reset the room. That option gets used a lot in an infuriating dungeon later on. It's a giant maze that randomly changes its paths even as you're traversing it, making it an irritating affair of trial and error. Because the dungeons can be quite long and arduous, there are often save points scattered deep within them, which you can teleport to with an item. That's a good thing, but it doesn't solve the underlying issue that the dungeons in Brain Lord can be too long and arduous. The dungeons are still fun to do despite their issues, thanks to the multitudes of puzzles to solve and enemies to fight. They could be a lot better, though.

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Weapons are the primary means by which you will slay your foes in Brain Lord. That's a no brainer. Beyond the standard sword, there are a wide variety of weapons you can pick up to add to your arsenal. There are also bows, boomerangs, morning stars, and axes. In addition to having different offensive capabilities, each weapon has its own unique characteristics. Bows and boomerangs obviously allow for ranged attacks, axes can break rocks, and morning stars can be swung in a circular motion. Each type of weapon has its advantages and disadvantages during combat, which is cool. The variety in weaponry is much appreciated, especially since most games like this keep you with a sword all throughout. Strangely enough, your shield can also be used as a weapon. Shields have a durability rating as opposed to a defensive value, allowing you to block a certain amount of attacks before the shield breaks. For some reason, enemies will receive damage if they touch your shield. Better shields have higher durability ratings, and once a shield is broken, it must be replaced. The fact that shields can break is, admittedly, not cool. All your other gear lasts forever, though, so this annoyance is solely reserved for shields. There is no way to shield yourself from the frustration of losing a shield, but at least the rest of your armor will remain intact. Weapon and equipment options in Brain Lord are plentiful, which adds some nice customization to the proceedings.

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Besides using brute physical force to kill things, you can also use magic. Magic can be used an unlimited number of times in Brain Lord, as there is no MP or magic meter to deplete. There is, however, a charge meter that must be filled up before a spell can be cast. Spells can be equipped on the menu screen or switched on-the-fly by pressing the shoulder buttons. Once the desired spell is equipped, you hold down the attack button to charge it up, then release when the gauge is full to let loose with the magic. Think charging up the Mega Buster in a Mega Man game. The length of the charge meter is different for each spell, meaning some spells take much longer to charge up than others. A lot of the spells are simply projectile attacks that inflict a bit of damage, though there are a few that deviate from that basic concept. Magic tends to be more powerful than physical attacks, plus you get the added benefit of extra range. It might seem a little unbalanced to be able to cast spells without any restrictions like MP, but the charge time somewhat alleviates that. Honestly, being able to cast unlimited spells is quite fun, so it doesn't matter if it's unfair.

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Jade are gems that have magical fairies living deep within them. These fairies can become your allies in battle. You can hold plenty of Jade in your inventory, but only two can be activated at any given time. Jade can be obtained via treasure chests or purchased from a traveling salesman who appears in different towns. Upon obtaining a new Jade, you're given the option to name the fairy inside of it. That's cute. These magical fairy spirits will fly around your character and provide various beneficial effects. Many of them will simply shoot projectile attacks at your foes, kind of like the options in shooters like Gradius, but others will do different things. Some will heal you, some will boost your attack and defense power, and there's even one that revives you when you kick the bucket. While the protagonist himself is unable to level up, the fairies can. Every so often, enemies will drop blue objects that your fairy can collect to gain experience. After enough experience has been collected, they'll gain levels, which will enhance their effects and abilities. In the case of the fairy that revives you when you die, it'll sacrifice one of its levels to do so. Though you'll be doing most of the fighting yourself, these little guys can certainly come in handy. The Jade system isn't anything groundbreaking, but it's a pretty neat mechanic that adds some much needed depth to the game.

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Brain Lord is a short, fun game, but it's bland. Presentation wise, the graphics and music are rather lackluster, especially for an SNES game made in 1994. The game isn't too well optimized, either, as it lags pretty badly whenever there are too many objects on screen, a problem especially prevalent in puzzle rooms. Dungeons are too long and there aren't enough of them. There are also too few towns. The silver lining is that the game has a varied weapon system, a neat magic system, the spiffy Jade system, and decent puzzles. In particular, the Jade system helps give the game some of what it lacks in the depth department. Brain Lord could be worth checking out if you're a hardcore action RPG enthusiast, but only after you check out the better action RPGs out there.

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